Ahhh, the wonderful time of year where everyone goes around the table and talks about what they are thankful for. Personally, I love winter holidays but, the idea of expressing what we are thankful for is something I strive for daily. Yep. You read that right. Every single day. This can be difficult when everything starts to pile up on your plate. One day your car breaks down, you don’t have a place to sleep, you find your counselor isn’t a good fit but you’re stuck, you break up with your partner, or you are struggling at work or school. The list goes on and on with what could go wrong. We know this can be really tough.
How About What Goes Right?
When we focus on what is going right in our life, we tend to realize that we have a lot to be thankful for. We are ready to show appreciation for others and things in our life. Practicing daily gratitude can lower depression and make you happier. Not only can it help you as an individual, but for couples, it can improve your relationship. We are often quick to criticize and not provide positive affirmation to our partner.
“Well, I say thank you.”
That’s great! Saying thank you to people is not only polite, but shares that you are thankful. This is where gratitude can grow. Gratitude is deep. It’s the moment when someone gets a popped tire with three kids in the car and is stranded on the road. Then, someone stops to help out of the kindness of their heart. The parent is grateful, and might even feel they owe something to the individual who helped them out. It’s the idea that someone was extremely extremely grateful for something. A half “thanks for doing that” is totally different from, “thank you so much for helping my family out”. Next time you go to say thank you, see if you are saying it slightly out of polite habit, or because you recognize and are grateful for the fact someone went out of their way for you.
Gratitude has two components to it. The first would be affirmation of goodness, such as affirming the fact that there are good things in the world (gifts and benefits we receive). The second would be recognizing the sources of happiness are outside of ourselves (in this case). We totally get you can have happiness within yourself (and we hope you do!) but in order for there to be gratitude, someone has to be providing something. The “something” does not have to be an item though. People can be grateful for company, time, and much more. The idea is that you feel a strong compassion.
How do I do this?
Practicing daily gratitude takes time and, you got it…practice. Just like any other change in your life, it does not typically happen over night. We want to provide you with some basic ways to start changing your mindset. Some of these won’t be for everyone, but making the small changes provides the opportunity to make big changes! Start a little outside of your comfort zone and push yourself just a bit!
Don’t Be a Picky Person.
More often than not, we tend to focus on the big things we are grateful for whether it be finally conceiving a child, getting a promotion, or getting married. These are all big steps in your life and absolutely worth being grateful for. However, did you wake up grateful that your nostrils were clear and you don’t have allergies? How about that you were able to have internet to be reading this (amongst other things)? Were you grateful that your favorite shirt was clean? How about the fact that the weather changes and you got to experience leaves falling one day and snow the next? All of these are small things that happen in our life that we can appreciate and find value in. Don’t focus on only the big stuff. True gratitude comes form valuing the small things.
It Is Not All Positive.
I really like this one. Sometimes, when we go through a crummy situation like depression, grief, or loss of a job; we should be grateful then as well. I am not saying everything is full rainbows and sunshine. It’s okay to still feel upset. This should not be the focus when practicing gratitude. Without sadness, we do not know what happiness is. We explore what makes us happy or sad. With grief, we realize that we have had the opportunity to love and care for something so deeply that we grieve at its loss. This loss can even leave openings for new opportunities. A typical example of this would be when you lose your family pet. This loss opens the door for a “replacement” pet (because let’s be honest, each pet is individual and never replaceable). Look into some experiences you have considered negative and take a look at how they have created who you are as an individual.
Write About It.
I have recently began implementing this one myself. Writing is not for everyone. It takes time. I recently picked up Count Your Rainbows as my daily gratitude journal. On one page, it asks me to write a couple of things I valued about the weather. I had to think back and realized I hadn’t paid any attention to the weather that day because I had not been outside. Now, I focus on the weather and appreciate aspects of it. These small changes can create positivity in your life. Writing does not have to be a novel, although it totally can be! The point is to find something that works for you. For you, this might not be writing, and that is a-okay, my friend.
Give Your Time to Someone Else
With the holiday season right around the corner, volunteering can be an optimal way to practice gratitude. Nothing is more humbling than realizing all that you have that someone else does not. Giving back to others in your local community not only helps them, but studies have shown that volunteering in order to benefit others can increase our own well-being. How could we not want to help ourselves sand improve someone else’s life?
I know I mentioned above saying “thank you” is not enough. I am not saying we don’t need to say thanks. We surely do. Think of a time when you have told someone thank you. Handing me a tissue comes to mind for me. I could have reached them on my own, but they were nice enough to do so for me. I said, “thanks.” Now, imagine if I had snot running out of my nose, I saw no tissues in sight, and they whipped one right out of their bag. Then I would have been more likely to say, “Wow! Thank you soooo much.” I truly would have been grateful while the first was more, “That was kind.” See the difference? I get it’s a bit of a silly example, but being handed a tissue is something we might take for granted. Now, every “thank you” should be more like the second. If you already do this, awesome! Expressing gratitude in more ways than just “thank you” is important as well.
Why Should We Do This?
As we continue practicing gratitude, our mindset will shift. One can begin to focus on what is important and what they already have versus what they do not have. This can change our attitude when presented with different situations. The great news is that this change in your life can decrease anxiety, provide clarity on who you are, and make everyday happier! Who doesn’t want that?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Machaela Rausch- Client Liaison
Machaela is currently in her second year of the Master of Science in Clinical Counseling program at Central Methodist University (CMU). She is the client liaison for The Counseling Hub where she assists with getting individuals set up with a counselor. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Sociology and a minor in Multicultural Studies from the University of Missouri.
Machaela is currently receiving experience in the Counseling Center at MACC’s Columbia Campus, providing counseling services for students around the topics of identitiy crisis, school-related stressors, depression issues, coping with anxiety, and body image issues. Machaela has attended conferences regarding LGBTQ+ community and currently works for a non profit organization where she provides Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Implementing to individuals with developmental delays. Machaela has worked here for three years. Machaela is an active member of the American Counseling Association (ACA).
Machaela enjoys working with diverse populations and aims to always be open to new learning experiences. Machaela seeks to be a comforting and kind individual for the first contact with The Counseling Hub. Machaela understands the process of getting into therapy can be difficult and aims to provide people with a smooth process.