Finding gratitude during hard times

- When you were growing up, your parents may have reminded you of all the things you have to be grateful for – a roof over your head, a warm bed at night, and dinner at the table with your family. When Harvey came to Houston, many of the basics most of us never thought about losing were swept away with the water, leaving a mess of debris we once called home. The shock of losing everything and feeling helpless has left many struggling to feel grateful during the holidays.

Gratitude is easy when life is going well. Celebrating together and counting your blessings comes naturally when your happy. But what about when life is going badly? Should you try to be grateful when your circumstances seem chaotic and difficult? Is it even possible? The simple answer is “yes.” In fact, gratitude is the single most important way to heal during a crisis. Gratitude changes your brain, energizing you when you feel as though hope is gone.

It’s important to remember that feeling grateful is different than being grateful. No one feels grateful when their home is swept away or their child is ill, but being grateful is a choice that you can and should practice. Choosing to be grateful shouldn’t happen just at Thanksgiving but on every day of your life. It’s an attitude that will help you cope with the good and bad throughout your life.

If you’re feeling ungrateful this year, don’t beat yourself up. Here are suggestions that will help change your perspective and count your blessings:

  1. Begin noticing and writing down your blessings. Writing 3 to 5 things you’re grateful has an incredible impact on your perspective and mood.
  2. Sharing gratitude helps cultivate gratitude. You may not be able to afford or create the Thanksgiving dinner you had last year, but you can get together with family and friends to share your life. Your friends and family are reminders you’re not alone and that life has meaning.
  3. Keep a list of everything anyone does to show kindness to you. It doesn’t have to be a big thing; in fact, small things are often more meaningful. Report after report of storm survivors said what they appreciated most after the storm were the small acts of kindness shown to them.  The more you look for these instances, the more grateful you’ll feel.
  4. Make it a priority to send someone a thank you email, tweet, text or phone call. Gratitude is contagious. When you surround yourself with giving gratitude, you receive it as well.
  5. Include gratitude in your family language. When you tuck your children in at night, ask them what they are most grateful for that day. As a parent, you mentor gratefulness to your children; begin showing gratitude the minute your baby is born.

When you share your Thanksgiving feast this year, worry less about what you serve to eat, and focus on how your family survived the difficult times. Families that incorporate gratefulness have lower hostility scores, fight fairer, and are more community-minded. A healthy society where families feel connected and supported begins at home.

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