The Importance of Gratitude

The Importance of Gratitude

Daniel Garner-Quintero, MA Licensed Mental Health Counselor

My last post focused on practicing gratitude instead of constantly apologizing for being a human being with needs. I am still convinced this is an important skill to help all of us recognize our value and to build stronger relationships, but I think gratitude can be widened even further. When I learn to start practicing gratitude daily – even for things which are unpleasant – I am able to foster hope and appreciation for life’s lessons. 
Bishop Desmond Tutu says, “hope is being able to see light despite all of the darkness.” 
This is what gratitude helps us find – the light. It isn’t about dispelling the darkness, pretending the darkness isn’t there, or running away from the darkness. It is about fostering enough light to explore the darkness without being consumed by it. Gratitude serves as an anchor, grounding us when we feel like we are drowning. 

Here are a couple of ways that you can begin incorporating this in your own life and family:
1) Start a gratitude jar/box:
This can be a helpful way to deal with waves of depression! Find a jar or a box and each day write down one or two things you are grateful for (even if they are small; hell, especially if they are small) and put them inside the jar/box. Then when you find yourself having a particularly difficult day – overwhelmed by stress, facing a depressive episode, or just feeling burned out – open the jar and read the things that you wrote down. This is a simple way of revisiting these memories and revitalizing ourselves by pooling these little lights to help us in dark times. 
2) Close your journal with gratitude:
I am pretty sure that in a past life I was a paper salesman as I am constantly encouraging my clients to get into the practice of journaling. Occasionally, they will come back to me with concerns that journaling has them festering in painful or difficult emotions. They feel like they’ve done it wrong, because they feel worse than before they started journaling. First, this is normal. When we start looking at things we’ve been avoiding it often feels worse before it starts to get better so, trust the process. Second, try closing your journal with three things you were grateful for that day. Maybe someone surprised you with a cup of coffee, or you came across this patch of wild flowers that hadn’t been mowed over yet, or maybe you just learned a new word. Whatever it is, this helps reorient us to the positive things instead of leaving us sitting with difficult emotions that are, currently, lacking resolution.
3) Express gratitude for your relationships:
Gratitude is something we can teach and foster in ourselves and in our loved ones. Try telling those you care about what makes you grateful for them! It could be something they’ve done or something about them. This builds strong relationships with loved ones and with little ones it helps to teach resiliency, important life skills, and helps wire little minds towards the practice of gratitude. 
So, what are the things you are grateful for today? Me? I am grateful that you stopped by and took a moment to read this post. Please feel free to reach out to our team if you would like to discuss other concerns or if you need help in finding the gratitude in your own life!

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Daniel Garner-Quintero, LMHCLicensed Mental Health Counselor