The Attitude of Gratitude

Do you practice being grateful for the good things in your life? In today’s column, I will explain what gratitude is and why it’s important for good mental health. I will also share two techniques that can help to hold you accountable and increase your ability to employ the “attitude of gratitude”.

Life is a choice. You may not be able to change life’s circumstances, but you can choose how you view a situation. Some people tend to view life as a series of events that work against them, while others look at the same events and pull out the positives. Unequivocally, the more you glean from a situation the more empowered you are.

I recently ran into a cousin who kept referring to the many “blessings” in his life. This man has had a lot of financial struggles with his business and he is anguished about keeping it alive. He continues, though, to focus on what he has learned and what he has been given, as opposed to focusing on his heartaches. He clearly possesses an “attitude of gratitude”. He perceives his life to be full of blessings and rejoices in the gifts. He possesses a faith that he and his family will endure the obstacles and grow stronger. He uses the obstacles and turns them to blessings, as they have taught him something—typically, the appreciation of life.

Gratitude is about recognizing all the good in our lives, even when others might see adversity. Gratitude involves giving thanks. It is a life skill that is used when you practice looking at a situation positively. It is the conscious practice of noticing the positives in life and being grateful.

How do you develop gratitude? Look at the following scenarios:
• In a marriage, you should focus on the assets of your partner.
• As a single person, you might appreciate the freedoms it affords you.
• As a parent, you can focus on what a child teaches you about you.
• As a business owner, you can notice and appreciate all of the people who have helped you along the way.
• As a recovering addict, you should recognize what is working in your life and how recovery has put you in control.
• If you have a small income, you may want to look at all the other riches you have in your life.

For some readers, this column will remind you to notice the many blessings. For others, it may require telling someone that you are going to work on this and asking them to remind you when they see you falter. Friends holding each other accountable helps break old patterns. It is easier to change when we have supports.

In my marital work I frequently hear from one spouse that their partner is negative. The negative spouse knows this, but is entrenched in old behaviors. Gratitude is difficult to practice if you have had years of only seeing the negative things in life. In those situations, I typically ask the spouse who is helping with accountability to request a kiss every time his/her partner forgets to use gratitude. The couples with whom I work love this exercise because it is a win-win for both of them. They either experience more gratitude or more kissing. On occasion, I will run into a spouse who doesn’t like to kiss. This exercise works for them because it’s a double incentive to work on developing the “attitude of gratitude”. The spouse who doesn’t like to kiss learns “real fast” to be grateful.

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