Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more you will have even more to express gratitude for.
Thanksgiving is the holiday when we are specifically invited to focus our hearts and minds on gratitude. However, when something difficult is going on in life, it can sometimes feel challenging to access gratitude. In my personal world, I lost two people who were very dear to me right before Thanksgiving, my aunt last year and my father-in-law five years ago and I know how easy it was to become so absorbed in my own experience that it feels hard to do anything else. For anyone navigating divorce, separation or any other kind of transition, feelings of loss, sadness, anger or hurt can be so strong that they can seem like a barrier to gratitude. In fact, we may even wonder if we should focus on gratitude when there is so much loss and pain.
The truth is that based upon gratitude research, this is precisely when we can benefit most from stretching towards gratitude. The holiday of Thanksgiving was originally celebrated after nearly half of all the Pilgrims died from a difficult winter. It officially became a holiday during the Civil War and was moved to its current date in the 1930’s following the depression. It is when times are most difficult that gratitude can help us to gain a perspective on the expansive nature of life and relationships so that we do not become consumed or overwhelmed by our own circumstances.
Gratitude is not only a healthy perspective perspective, but it also has great benefit in helping us to cope with crisis as well. According to gratitude research expert, Robert Emmons, “Consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude builds up a sort of psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall. There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals.” Rather than trying to pretend as though the difficult situation does not exist or isn’t happening, gratitude gives us the capacity to acknowledge where we are and then notice how far we have come, those who are helping and supporting us, what unexpected connections are being created, what we are learning, and how we are growing. This acknowledgement actively builds our personal strength and resilience.
So this Thanksgiving, I invite you to stretch even further into gratitude. Here are some ideas to support you in this practice. And as I prepare for my own Thanksgiving holiday, I truly want to thank you for being on this journey we call life with me. We all become stronger and happier through the connections we make and I am gratitude to have you as part of my community.
How to reach for gratitude during difficult times:
- Begin to keep a gratitude journal (or dust off the one that you began before). Make time over the next 5 days to write for 10 minutes per day in your journal. According to the research, one of the most effective ways to journal about gratitude (and some of this is new for me) is to take a few things you are grateful for and write five sentences about each. For example, if you are grateful for your job, then write five reasons why you are grateful for your job. In the detail, you will feel how deep this gratitude actually is.
- Choose three people in your life for whom you are particularly grateful and write them a note – handwritten, text or e-mail – letting them know. Be sure to include those 3-5 details (mentioned above) about why you are grateful to have them in your life.
- Take on a practice for the next 4-5 days of stopping three times each day to say what you feel grateful for in the moment. Say it out loud and pause after each one to experience how the gratitude feels in your body.
- If you are hosting people for Thanksgiving, create a stack of gratitude notes that you place around the house that people can run into and experience all weekend long.
- Whether you have kids or want to connect with your inner child, make a gratitude collage. Put together pictures and images of people and things you feel grateful for and add quotes about gratitude. Frame it and hang it somewhere o serve as a daily reminder of the power of gratitude.
Finally, let’s begin a list here. What are you grateful for? Please add your comment below.
Warmest wishes for a holiday filled with grace and connection.
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every moment with love, grace, and gratitude.
Adina Laver is the author of the Divorce Companion™ and founder of Divorce Essentials™, a specialized divorce coaching and support service for those who are considering, in the midst of, or post-divorce and are committed to a healthy path for reclaiming their lives.
If you are contemplating a divorce but are stuck or if you are in the throes of making key decisions for your future but need guidance, reach out to Adina. Whether you coach together for one Ala Carte Session or coach for a full Personal Empowerment Breakthrough, Adina is ready to help you navigate through uncertainty so you can create a happier and healthier future!