Licensed Mental Health Counselor
I love Thanksgiving and this time of year because I love the idea of being grateful and living gratefully, moment by moment. Thanksgiving is a reminder to say thank you, to show appreciation, to have gratitude. When I was in college, I took a Kurt Vonnegut class and I remember the exact moment I read this quote because it radically shifted my perception of my world: “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” I think one important lesson I have learned in life is to be present for all that happens as I work toward achieving something. When I catch myself attached to a specific outcome, I try to take a step back and enjoy the moments and opportunities that will eventually lead me to where I want to go. And those moments that are really not that enjoyable, there is a lesson in them, too. So if we experience every moment gratefully and not take it for granted, we begin to slow down, pay attention, and develop some appreciation for that particular experience. It doesn’t always happen in perfect motion but we can always try – I am all about trying my best, whatever that may mean on a given day, or really, given moment.
There is a difference between feeling grateful and being grateful. We have thoughts about how things are and a story about how things must be, and we have feelings that are connected to how we have come to understand our world. I am not suggesting you feel grateful at all times, because who feels grateful for injustice, pain, violence, natural disasters, illness, loss…But I do believe that developing an attitude of gratitude can be especially helpful in getting us through tough times, a way to cope with the difficult trials and tribulations of life. An attitude of gratitude builds resiliency – it’s like we trip and fall and get up, trip and fall and get up, trip and fall and get up…And who knows, maybe one day we will trip and have a worse fall than usual, but we have built up resilience for being able to get back up all those times in the past. And so we do get up again.
In “Happier Human,” Amit Amin writes about the many benefits of having a regular practice of gratitude:
- Emotional and Physical Health.
- Increased happiness – noticing what we already have can actually make us feel more positive about our life.
- Increased mental wellbeing – studies have shown that showing gratitude reduces cortisol (stress hormone) levels. There is also a strong correlation between a gratitude practice and positive feelings about self.
- Reduced depressive symptoms – studies have shown than incorporating a gratitude practice to therapeutic treatment helped in reduction of symptoms of depression.
- Reduced blood pressure and improved sleep – studies have linked “counting blessings” at least once a week to decreased blood pressure and increased quality of sleep.
- Increased frequency of exercise – if you are able to move your body, having an attitude of gratitude for this ability just might get you out the door.
- Improved overall physical health
- Strengthened interpersonal relationships – think about a time someone showed appreciation for something you did, or genuinely thanked you for something. Chances are you felt seen and connected. If the roles were reversed, whomever you extended a kind word or gesture to will most likely want to engage with you again. Kind people are like magnets; you just want to be around them all the time!
- Increased optimism – showing gratitude not only makes others feel positive but helps us think more positively, too. The more we are grateful for, the more we find to be grateful for.
- Increased spiritualism – when we live gratefully moment to moment, faith and trust that things are unfolding as they should is strengthened.
- Decreased self-centeredness – when we think of what we have and are in appreciation of our abundance, chances are we want to share with others.
- Increased skills as managers, supervisors, mentors – research shows that skills involved with managing others are enhanced through a practice of gratitude, including the ability to lead and motivate others more effectively.
- Reduced impatience and improved decision-making – cultivating a practice of moment to moment living has shown less rash and stress-induced sudden decisions in the workplace.
- Increased fulfillment in work – gratitude is a factor that can help people find meaning and purpose in their work and career.
- Increased job satisfaction – research shows that when employees feel supported and appreciated, they are more likely to feel like they belong to a company and organization. Finding things to be grateful for at work helps mitigate the potential side effects of a job.
If you would like to explore ways to cultivate your own gratitude practice, see below for some ideas:
12 Powerful Gratitude Practices That Bring Joy: https://tinybuddha.com/blog/12-powerful-gratitude-practices-that-bring-joy/
10 Creative Ways to Express Gratitude: https://tinybuddha.com/blog/10-creative-ways-express-gratitude/
7 Ways to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-6948/7-Ways-to-Cultivate-an-Attitude-of-Gratitude.html
5 Best Books on Gratitude: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-books-oliver-sachs/
If you are having a difficult time staying present and enjoying the in-betweens of life, it might be helpful to talk it through with one of our skilled counselors at Life Skills Resource Group. Please call us at 407-355-7378 to schedule a free phone consultation.