gratitude

A gratitude practice is proven to help you be happier. Learn more about practicing gratitude.

June 2017

Yay-Boo How Lifes Gives Us Different Perspective

2017-07-18T17:34:52+00:00June 2nd, 2017|gratitude, grief, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

Yay-Boo How Lifes Gives Us Different Perspective

Recently I went to see a show Ann Randolph’s Inappropriate in All the Right Ways.  At the end of the show, this introvert was tricked into audience participation. Ugh. Ann had talked about Yay-Boo. She explained that life is a series of Yays followed by Boos. So I went to college-Yay. Then I failed out-Boo. Then I started a wonderful career-Yay. Then the recession hit-Boo. And so on. She wanted audiences members to write a series like that on their own. What I noticed was that the Yay-Boos that I focused on were in the last few years. When I tried to go back earlier I came up with Yays but wasn’t finding the Boos. I remarked on this to my friend and she wisely said that those Boos didn’t seem like much anymore since I had faced far more challenging stuff in my life in recent years. So my perspective had shifted. Things that I know I both struggled with and ruminated about in my younger years no longer seemed like a big deal now. As I have become middle aged the struggles are very different, losses in particular. I had never had a real loss prior to recent years.

My insecurity of my 20’s and perhaps even 30’s seems so meaningless now as I both experience loss and watch others experience the same. To me, life has become precious in a way that I could not understand when I was younger. When you are younger mortality seems so vague. When you get older it becomes very present.

And even now I know that there are losses in my life that will come eventually that may be even harder. That’s not to be negative it is instead to say that I am recognizing even now my struggles may seem silly in the future. Which is okay. I have also learned over time that I can face life’s struggles in a way that allows me my feelings but also allows me to push through the tougher times and find more enjoyment in the easier times. That to me is a Yay-Yay.

 

 

 

Photo Credit Copyright: irinavk / 123RF Stock Photo

May 2016

One Foot in Front of the Other

2017-03-25T23:08:00+00:00May 6th, 2016|gratitude, positive thinking, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

One Foot in Front of the Other

I will confess I love Christmas. Why am I confessing that in June? It is because recently I have had one of those periods in life that have felt a bit overwhelming. And the other day the song “one foot in front of the other” kept running through my head. I didn’t recognize where it came from until I sat down to write this post and googled it. It is from one of the classic Christmas shows from the 60’s and 70’s that any person growing up in that time period would recognize. For those interested in the video I will embed it at the bottom of this post.

I watched it today as I contemplated writing this post about the need sometimes to do just that put one foot in front of the other in order to get past the challenging times. But as I watched the video the theme was about doing something kind for someone and having it change their perspective. And that is what I would rather focus on. Because even within a challenging time so many people have done kind things for me, some little, some big. Some of them were asked for and some of them were just given freely. Some were rather random like a strange woman stopping me and starting a conversation that ended with her saying “keep wearing paisley” that left me smiling. Some of the experiences I don’t even think the other person knew were helpful to me at the time. One woman was talking to me in a moment where I was very upset and she distracted me and made me feel better. My guess is that she doesn’t even remember meeting me.

It shows me how important it is to always be kind. You just never know what someone is going through in any given moment and how much it can mean to someone that you were kind to him or her. Right now it feels like the world is a complicated place and so many people are angry and feeling unheard. To me the solution is simple, be kind, always. That isn’t to say you can’t stand up for yourself when it is necessary but you never should be mean doing it. It is important to recognize that our actions and words affect others always and to be mindful of that. You never know when someone is just putting one foot in front of the other and needs a boost.

 

January 2016

How To Find Gratitude When Everything Sucks

2021-07-27T22:21:49+00:00January 21st, 2016|gratitude, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

How To Find Gratitude When Everything Sucks

I write a lot about gratitude. I believe, and research shows it is an important piece of finding happiness. I talk to every person I work with about mindfulness and encourage them to develop a practice that works for them. I try to practice my own recommendations. I meditate for 20 minutes most days. I firmly feel like it has improved my overall well-being. It took me a long time to get to a regular practice. Like many people I found it hard to make that time commitment to myself.

The ongoing challenge is how to keep up the practice when things get hard. I have seen many people that had such a challenging 2015. Losses and pain and grief. How do you find gratitude and presence in the midst of those things? Sadly I can’t write the 5 ways to find gratitude when everything sucks. What I can share are a few suggestions that may be helpful.

  1. Work hard to practice some type of mindfulness. The 20 minute meditation may be out of the question but sit for 5 minutes and breathe. When we are in crisis mode we move and we forget to stop. It is important to take breaks and just sit and be even if it is just for a few minutes.
  2. Ask for help and accept it. I have seen people struggling so hard yet not allowing others to help them. The people that ask to help genuinely want to help let them. One problem is often people know they need help but aren’t exactly sure what it is that they need. Most of us have that friend, the organizer, and the one that loves a spread sheet. Ask them to help organize the help. Sometimes you may just need to be told what you need.
  3. There is a famous quote from Mr. Rogers “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” I think the same can be true in hard times. Look for the good moment. Even in our worst moments there is often a moment of lightness and laughter. Look for it. And let yourself have it once you find it.
  4. Be around positive people and not the negative ones. That is not to say you want people that are telling you things will be okay when they aren’t but some people have a way of wallowing in negativity while others can find the positive in anything.

When our life is hard making a commitment to take care of ourselves can feel overwhelming, but whatever you can do to allow yourself to be supported is important.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Photo Copyright: alexandralexey / 123RF Stock Photo

June 2014

Lean Into Joy

2021-07-27T22:28:12+00:00June 13th, 2014|gratitude, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

I am on a Brene Brown kick. I am listening to The Power of Vulnerability which is Brene giving one of her workshops. She is a great speaker with lots of good things to say. One of the things she talks about in this recording is leaning into joy. She talks about a scenario that goes something like this: Imagine it’s Christmas Eve and a family is in the car. The radio is playing Christmas carols and everyone is singing along. What happens next? Number one audience answer is-  Car crash. She talks about how we have become programmed to expect these dramatic and negative scenarios. How we don’t allow ourselves to “lean into joy”.

I found myself doing that this week. We are buying a new car. An exciting event and one that happens infrequently. The car is on order and we are waiting to pick it up. Have I spent the week thinking about all the exciting new features that are in my new care? No. What I have been thinking most about is how I am scared to drive my current car because we are trading it in. We got an estimate based on its condition last week. Which means I have to keep it in the same condition to get that money. So what I have found myself thinking about this week is how I could have an accident and not be able to trade the car in.

Now while that would be a cruddy thing to happen, focusing on my energy on thinking about a potential car accident is probably not the best use of my time. I could instead be imaging how I will be able to connect the music on my phone to play in my new car. How I will then be able to always be able to drive listening to my own funky mix of music. Or how this car will warn me if I leave my lane or how my gas mileage will almost double. I should be leaning into the happiness of getting a new car.

Brene talks about how when people suffer loss it isn’t the big things they miss the most. It is the everyday things. The grocery shopping together or watching that new series on Netflix. I am working on letting myself lean more into joy and to embrace the ordinary.

 

 

November 2013

Appreciation

2017-03-25T23:08:01+00:00November 9th, 2013|gratitude|

This hasn’t been my best week. I have been a bit grumpy overall. I tried to do what I encourage others to do and allow myself my mood without having a judgment about it. Easier said than done of course, but I was doing okay with it. Then I got a phone call. A call that was both unexpected and very positive. Someone called to thank me for some help I had given them. They told me how that help had paid off for them and they were very excited. I learned both that it is very hard to be grumpy when you are around others that are happy and excited and it is also hard to stay grumpy when you have been given a compliment. My mood totally shifted. I had to get in the car to go somewhere and I sang along to the radio the entire trip there.

I write a lot about gratitude and being thankful for what you have. But I realize in those posts I have never written about the importance of sharing gratitude. It is very easy to receive help from someone and not take the time to say thank you. And easier still to not to take the time to explain why you are thankful for whatever they helped you with. It is also really easy to underestimate the value of words to others. I am not sure what the other person expected from her call to me but I bet she didn’t realize how it would affect me.

I try to be grateful. I work hard to say thank you a lot. However I recognize I am better at doing it in some areas of my life than others. I also can forget how powerful words can be. So I am going to work harder to be aware of how I need to share my appreciation more. The bonus is that I know it won’t just make the other person feel good it will make me feel good too.

September 2013

Putting it into Perspective

2017-03-25T23:08:01+00:00September 24th, 2013|gratitude, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

A few weeks back I was heading off to work. It was a beautiful morning and I had plenty of time so I decided to treat myself to some coffee and a pastry. That’s me the person who knows how to live large. I left the coffee shop feeling positive and relaxed.  I drove towards the freeway entrance and looked into my rearview mirror to see a policeman on a motorcycle with his lights on. He waved me over to the gas station. I of course, first did the universal gesture for -“you want me to pull over?”  Yes-he wanted me. Crud. I pulled into the gas station and he said almost apologetically “38 in a 25 zone”. I sighed and pulled out all the necessary documents and he went to write me my ticket.

I took my ticket and drove on to work. Then I do what people do when faced with such unfairness, I posted about it on Facebook. Of course, I then heard the place I got pulled over was a known speed trap and other friends had gotten caught there. There is something reassuring about knowing you aren’t the only one to do something like this. I looked at my ticket to see what my financial consequences would be and saw that apparently they copy everything from your driver’s license onto a ticket, so to add insult to injury there was my weight written on the ticket. This spawned a new set of Facebook posts and responses.

I finished my work at job location one and headed out to job location two returning via the same street where I had the morning mishap. I drove 25 the entire way.  I was passed by four cars. Yup a speed trap. It would have been easy for me to get caught up in the injustice of being caught in a speed trap. It is going to cost me several hundred dollars when I pay the ticket and do traffic school. And I am bummed about that. But what I have been working on in the last year is keeping perspective. The money isn’t going to cause me to not have food on the table or pay my utility bill. An oversimplification perhaps, but it is only money. As I hit middle age I have seen more and more people experience losses that are breathtakingly difficult it has helped me to put my own life in perspective. At the end of the day what really matters are the people you love.

It may all seem a little clichéd but the lesson here is to try and take the cards you are dealt as gracefully as possible because many people would rather have your problem rather than the one they are facing.  And you should always be aware of the posted speed limit.

May 2012

Live a life true to your priorities

2017-03-25T23:08:03+00:00May 8th, 2012|gratitude, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

As I drove to work the other day I saw the person in the car next to me talking on the phone and reading a document while he was driving. It seemed to me that the man had decided his work was more important than his safety and the safety of others on the road. I suspect he prioritized his work in a passive way by not really thinking about the consequences of his actions. If you asked him I suspect he would say that safety was a higher priority than work.

So why is it that we act in ways that are not congruent with what we say our priorities are? Why do we say our family is our priority and then not spend enough time with them? Why do we say we want to be healthy but not behave in ways that would make us so? Part of it is that we assume that things will be as they always are. Our kids will always be young, our spouses there for us, and our health good.

Perhaps it is part of the human condition to take things for granted. It is easy to spend very little time being present each day. How often do you take a moment during your day to be thankful for your health, your home, your spouse or any other aspect of your life?

I have written before about how people that feel gratitude have better health outcomes than people that do not. A Harvard Mental Health Letter states “Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”

I believe that gratitude is a function of being present each day. I challenge each of you to take a moment each day to pay attention to how you are moving through the world. Give yourself a chance to think about the consequences of your actions and what they say about you and your priorities. Allowing yourself to act in ways that reflect what is important to you will lead to you having a happier and more fulfilling life.

December 2011

Some thoughts on gratitude

2017-03-25T23:08:07+00:00December 29th, 2011|gratitude, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

Wikipedia defines gratitude as “a feeling, emotion, or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive.”
If we are able to live a life with gratitude it means we will live a life with less depression, better relationships, and increased overall happiness.
[1]  The law of attraction says that you attract into your life what you are thinking about.  While this may not always be true it does seem that if we think about things with a positive framework it contributes to our well being.  We have all met people that speak of everything negatively and usually they are really unhappy people.  People that are able to be thankful for what they have are more able to deal with negative experiences as an exception, rather than the rule.  Bad things happen to all of us but if we look at these things as obstacles rather than a personal attack we will move through the negative experience faster. 
How can we practice gratitude?  I suggest saying thank you as a first step.  Say thank you whenever anyone does anything nice for you.  You will be surprised how often you are saying it.  Another thing to try is spending some time each day thinking about gratitude whether you write in a journal or just spend a few minutes at the beginning or end of the day focusing on what you are thankful for. 
Often we become complacent and don’t pay attention to the things that are important to us until we risk losing them.  It is important that we not take our relationships for granted. 
Another way to express gratitude is to do something nice for someone.  Pay the toll for the person behind you in traffic, take the time to listen to someone who doesn’t normally get listened to, and/or donate your time or money to a worthy cause.  These things both make us feel better and make others feel good too. 
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” –William Arthur Ward
Why not make an effort through the next week to express more gratitude and see whether or not you feel differently.  
I’d love to hear your comments on this. 

[1] · Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., & Maltby, J. (2008). PersonalPages.Manchester.ac.uk, Gratitude uniquely predicts satisfaction with life: Incremental validity above the domains and facets of the Five Factor Model. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 49-54.



November 2011

Are most Americans unhappy?

2017-03-25T23:08:08+00:00November 25th, 2011|gratitude, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

So today on twitter I saw a post that quoted a study showing that most Americans were unhappy. I wonder if people are unhappy, are depressed, or do they just have unrealistic expectations for their lives? I would venture to say all of those things are probably true. Right now we live in a fear based culture. The news focuses on the worst case scenarios. In this bad economy many people are teetering on the edge, seeing all the negativity can make people become more fearful of losing what they have. It leads to resentment of both those who have more, and those who have less. Our culture spends a lot of time showing us what we don’t have without encouraging us to look at what we do have.

I also think sometimes we need to realign our perspective. Bad things will happen to each of us, it is inevitable. It is how we deal with those situations that makes us unhappy or not. I have worked with many people that feel like every bad thing that happens to them is an intentional attack on them. Trauma can make people think that way, so I get it. But if we put ourselves in the position of having no power than nothing ever changes. Life situations matter, poverty, oppression, and trauma all matter as to how we experience life. Even in the most difficult circumstances we have all seen examples of people that claim their grief and go on. Elizabeth Edwards comes to my mind. She lost a child and then got terminal cancer. She disclose she was depressed for a period of time after the loss of her son, but she didn’t let that event define her. She got up and kept going.

Studies have shown that grateful people are happier people. I would speculate that is because grateful people are focusing on what is positive in their lives, not just the negatives.

September 2011

Resilency and Grief

2017-03-25T23:08:08+00:00September 16th, 2011|gratitude, grief, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

I write this on the 10th anniversary of September 11th.  There is immense media coverage today bringing us back to that day and the tremendous loss that we all felt.  Everyone in country this suffered a loss that day.  Many people suffered the deep and personal loss of their family members.  The rest of us lost some illusion of safety, the notion of fairness, and the expectation of how life works.  I think we can all agree that this country is different today than it was before September 11th, in both good and bad ways.

As I have watched the survivors’ families talk about their grief and their lives moving forward, I have been amazed at their resilience.  It is only when tragedy strikes do we really know how resilient we shall be.  Many of the families that have lost loved ones on September 11th have worked very hard to do something positive to honor their family member’s memory.  I have seen books, camps, groups, and foundations all formed in the memory of a person lost. Those families that turned their loss into something positive were able to move forward in their lives without their grief, crippling them forever. It is a testament to them and their family members.

When I remember September 11th, what I want to remember are the positive things that came after.  I think we can all remember the days after when people were just more caring and giving than the day before.  I want to remember the ordinary people that did extraordinary things to help others.  I want to remember the sense of community that seemed to draw us together as Americans.

I feel sad a lot of that has been lost.  I see the country in a time where people’s fears make it easy to blame others for their misfortunes.  I hope we can move forward in our lives with gratitude for what we have.  I hope that we are letting those we love know how grateful we are for them.  And I hope that as we look back we can remember what was possible and all try to make ourselves a little more caring, patient, and giving to others.

 
 Copyright: robelf / 123RF Stock Photo
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