Impact of Gratitude
Accepting loved ones for the good the bad
Caitlyn Andrews, MA, LMFT
The season of gathering, family and togetherness is rapidly approaching, but what if the idea of togetherness brings up feelings of anxiety instead of happiness? Perhaps it’s somewhere in-between. You’re not alone. Despite our desires for a picturesque holiday, the holidays can unearth previous family issues, bring up inevitable conversations about where to go and for how long to see loved ones especially with blended or separated families. Issues related to money and spending increase and the clashing of personality traits within a family system remain present even amidst our desires for a lovely and joyful holiday. The Rockwellian ideal isn’t always the reality.
In my practice, I often speak with families about concept of lightness and shadow. Both light and shadow exist in everyone. As adults, we all have traits that are more desired and realities that we wish didn’t exist or were less pronounced. The same exists for our children. But we have to s
top and think, when a child behaves badly, does this mean they are a bad child? Of course not, it simply means they made a bad choice. To take that a step further, the recognition that your family as a whole may have both challenges and joys is a mindful notion and gratitude practice that just might help you to stay sane and appreciate the positive throughout this holiday season.
Gratitude, like mindfulness is a being aware and noticing the things around you. Gratitude intentionally sets an emphasis on noting and appreciating the positive aspects of life in order to shape a more positive mindset. Research shows that daily gratitude practices can increase energy, optimism, mood and physiological, emotional and physical well-being. If the studies show it works, why couldn’t it be true for you?
I invite you to try recognizing what you’re grateful for a daily basis this month. If that’s too much for you- try bi-weekly or whenever you notice you may be feeling, stressed, burned out or have low energy. Contemplate your home, the food on your table, our children’s education- traditions, something challenging that you have come across that has strengthened you- spirituality, freedoms, your job, the ability to walk, childhood memories, alone time, friends, family. You can do this by noting it mentally, saying things out loud, journaling or dialoguing with loved ones. You might consider adding a gratitude practice to your family dinner nights and not just on thanksgiving. “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings” -William Arthur Ward. Notice the difference in yourself and track how it impacts your mood- you might be presently surprised!
Gratitude helps us to see what is there instead of what isn’t. Appreciating aspects of your life (if not all) is a key step towards a happier and more balanced mindset and health. Everyday might not be good, but there is good in every day.