It is no coincidence that gratitude and attitude rhyme. They are meant to be a beautiful pairing much like peas and carrots … salt and pepper … turkey and dressing. Can you tell the countdown is on for Thanksgiving, and we can’t wait to enjoy … ahem, be grateful for … that stuffed feeling we get after delving into a holiday that is centered around thankfulness? The month of November brings with it a new crispness in the air, the beautiful changing of leaves, and a reminder that gratitude isn’t something we have, it’s something we get to choose. Daily.
Have you made the choice to choose gratitude?
When life’s path feels easy, paved with smooth gravel and appears focused, choosing an attitude of gratitude may be a simple choice. Your career is soaring. Your exams were a piece of cake. Your family is all healthy and happy. You feel content. You have tangible reasons to be thankful.
But it doesn’t seem like life prefers straight paths. Many times, they are rocky and full of twists and turns … hills and valleys … unexpected forks and narrow ways. Just when you get comfortable, you are thwarted into uncomfortable territory. An unexpected diagnosis. A lost relationship. A rocky career. A sea of confusion. Being grateful for these moments is downright challenging, and to do so requires diligence, focus, and a change of attitude.
Even when it’s tough, choose your attitude and choose gratitude.
It’s not just a catchy phrase. There is science to back the importance of always choosing gratitude. A recent article on Harvard Health Publishing highlights the scientific benefits of embracing gratitude as an integral part of your life. According to the article and research referenced, a study by two psychologists (one from the University of California, Davis and the other from the University of Miami) on the impact of gratitude found that individuals who prioritize gratitude are “more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians.”Another study referenced in the article highlights a psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania who found that people who “wrote and personally delivered a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores.”
Finding parts of your life to be thankful for, even in the most challenging of times, can help you see life through a lens of optimism. It can help decrease your worry, your stress, and likely associated ailments found with each. And, when you take the time to express your gratitude with others, oddly enough, you become happiness as an added bonus.
So, how can you find gratitude during difficult times?
When you feel like your world is a bit out of control and finding ways to be thankful doesn’t feel like it’s within grasp, here are three ways to shift how you see gratitude and find it in even the toughest of moments.
Seek gratitude in the journey.
Have you ever read the poem, The Dash, by Linda Ellis? The poem recounts the importance not of our birth date or the date we take our last breath here on earth. Instead, what will matter most is our dash … the time in between those dates and how we use that time for the better.
The dash is your journey. You were given a start and one day you will reach your destination, but the journey is this thing we like to call life. As you know, journeys can be quite adventurous, but finding joy in the journey, even in the most challenging parts, helps you live out your dash with purpose.
As long as you are moving forward, you are making movement. When you find yourself feeling a bit underwater, remember Dori in Pixar’s Finding Nemo. Her motto in life is one that you can adopt too: Just keep swimming. When you do — when you keep swimming — you build endurance. You build strength. You learn where the currents are, and you can start to predict the tides. You learn in the thick of your journey, so find moments to be grateful for them, even if, at times, you feel lost on yours.
Embrace gratitude for your growth.
Each spring provides a reminder of how something beautiful can come from a small seed. Whether you are a lover of flowers or vegetables, gardeners around the country wait patiently for a small seed of possibility to spring to life and take root. Spring feels full of potential, but the fall can feel like you are on the verge of hibernation. Maybe it’s because you are! But what gardeners know as truth is that growth happens all times of the year, even now.
During times of immense change (much like how plants prepare for the forthcoming winter), it’s common for people to go inward, pulling ourselves from others around us. You are, much like your fellow trees, opting to hold tight our limited energy, unwilling to gift it to others easily. You may find yourself clamming up, becoming a bit reclusive, or even opting for alone time even during times when connectedness is what you need most.
That’s okay. As long as you realize that growth begins from within. Finding time to pull inward can give you the opportunity to feed your inner soul with the reflection needed in your current life season. Reflection leads to growth. And growth leads to impact. When you focus on your growth, you have the power to shift into a new season of life … one where you can sprout new vines, strengths your branches, deepen your roots and bear fruit to gift to others. Be grateful for your season of growth.
Gratitude for the moment.
When you can’t see farther ahead than this very moment, take comfort in knowing that the moment presents an opportunity for gratitude as well. This moment, right now, is full of so much potential and so much beauty. Let’s dig into it.
Right this very moment, you are gifted with a body that knows how to take a deep breath and use that breath to rejuvenate yourself from within. Your body knows how to blink, how to digest food, how to move … all without you needing to tell it to. That’s something to be thankful for.
Right this very moment, the trees around you are creating oxygen from the carbon dioxide that you exhale. Without any work from us, this world has a way of taking our waste and making it useable. It’s proof of how interconnected we all are, always. That’s something to be thankful for.
Right this very moment, you can close your eyes and feel the warmth around you. You can taste a meal you just had. You can smell the spiced essential oils from your diffuser. You can feel the fluffy rung under your toes and the cat that is persistently nudging your hand. You can hear the wind rustling the grass blades and the cars whistling by as they take people to their locations at the same moment. That’s something to be thankful for.
Gratitude can change your life, for the better.
When you feel like gratitude is a farfetched idea, make the conscious decision to bring it to where you are. Invite gratitude into the messy chaos of your journey … into the hibernating feelings of your personal growth … and into the quiet collection of moments throughout your day. For when you do, it has a crazy effect on your life and on your attitude, changing it for the better and gifting you with the opportunity to see life with a bit more optimism!