Given this year’s turmoil and extremely difficult circumstances, it might be easy to dwell on the negative, but it’s also crucial to balance that with gratitude. This is especially relevant in October, as Thanksgiving is a time when many people pause to contemplate the good things in their life and appreciate the people for whom they are thankful.
However, being thankful is extra challenging these days. You may have encountered difficult, unpleasant or even traumatic events, and you have every right to process these unfortunate events in a way that makes sense for you and offers the most comfort. But don’t forget about taking the time to focus on and demonstrate genuine gratitude as well.
Gratitude starts by putting your life into perspective. Everyone experiences disappointment or misfortune from time to time, and it can be painful and disheartening. We should remind ourselves that other people are suffering as well – often much worse than we are. It’s important to show empathy and be grateful for what we have.
The benefits of gratitude
In itself, showing gratitude is a worthwhile behaviour because it shines a spotlight on the positive aspects of life and conveys recognition and respect for all that enriches our lives in some way, big or small, tangible or intangible.
Additionally, if you adopt an “attitude of gratitude,” it may be beneficial for you as well. After all, showing gratitude helps provide needed balance in our lives. It puts the “bad things” into perspective and makes us realize that life is a constant mix of experiences and outcomes – sometimes the clouds dominate and other times the sun shines through. We learn to keep moving forward and take the good with the bad.
Being grateful also helps maintain your overall physical and emotional health by reducing stress and anxiety while lending support to your immune system. When you’re truly thankful and appreciative for your life, it may motivate you to stay healthier through regular exercise and sound dietary habits. It also keeps you feeling resilient and optimistic for the future, and keeps you closely connected to the people in your life for whom you are grateful.
So, what reasons might you have for showing gratitude? Obviously the answer is highly individual and personal, but some reasons may include good health and mental wellbeing, the love and support of family and friends, a satisfying job, a strong financial situation, uplifting hobbies and interests to pursue, and residing in a country where you can enjoy many freedoms and a decent standard of living.
How to start practicing gratitude
- Make a list (or keep a journal) of the most significant things and people that make you grateful, and the reasons for your gratitude. Refer to this list or journal whenever life’s challenges and painful circumstances start having a negative impact on your mental, emotional or physical wellbeing.
- Don’t be overcritical of others (i.e., what they say, how they act or don’t act). Learn to appreciate the inherent good qualities of people. Whenever possible, take the positives from difficult, problematic situations by seeing the “silver lining” and seizing the opportunity to learn valuable lessons and improve yourself.
- Volunteer for causes that are important to you. This will benefit others who need your help while also allowing you to gain clearer perspective on how fortunate you are and why you should be grateful.
- Reach out to the people for whom you have gratitude and let them know why you’re grateful. Also look for opportunities to reciprocate by doing or saying things that will make them happy and thankful for your relationship.
It doesn’t take much effort to maintain a feeling of gratitude in life, yet it can get you through the difficult times. You and your loved ones will greatly benefit from it, so give gratitude a try!