Thanksgiving is approaching, and with it comes the entreaties to express gratitude and “be thankful” in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. I think we’d all admit that some days it’s easier than others to be thankful. If you’re looking at the checkbook’s dwindling balance, facing a tough medical diagnosis, dealing with difficult family relationships, experiencing grief and loss, enduring divorce proceedings— it can certainly be almost impossible to consider expressing gratitude for those bumps in the road while you’re still bumping along on them!
But listen, here’s a word of hope. Some tiny glimmer of good exists in every bit of bad we experience in life. Sometimes we simply have to look a lot harder to find it. It’s not often that it waltzes into the room carrying a flashing sign that reads “silver lining right here!” Typically, it takes patience and self-awareness on our part to be able to see that silver lining.
Here are some tips to try if you’re finding it difficult to express gratitude:
~Get back to basics. Is it a sunny day? Warm? Friday even? Sometimes just thinking “wow, I’m glad I didn’t have to do the grocery shopping in the rain” is all we need to feel a little better about how our day is going.
~Practice self-care. Make yourself a cup of tea/coffee and enjoy it for a few minutes. Run a bubble bath. Read a chapter or two in a good book. Take a walk. Phone a friend. All these activities re-set our perspective on life and give us a chance to see things from a different angle.
~Adjust expectations. If you’re having a bear of a day and it seems like your family/friends/co-workers are doing everything in their power to make it even worse, it might help to change your expectations for what you want to happen. So perhaps your child’s bedroom is still a disaster zone, but they managed to clean up the bathroom after their shower.
~Focus on the positives. Maybe your co-worker didn’t finish her portion of the project by end of business today, but at least you have another week until the hard deadline– and she did make some progress. Maybe your husband didn’t clean up the kitchen after dinner, but he did empty the dishwasher so now loading up the dirty dishes is easier than it would have been.
So what if that doesn’t work?
Now, certainly, there will be times in life when we encounter situations much more difficult than dirty dishes and rainy days. During those times, it’s perfectly ok to feel discouraged and emotional and ungrateful. It’s perfectly ok to make an appointment with a therapist to discuss those feelings, too. (And I’m not just saying that as a mental health professional!) These tips are meant for those times when we find ourselves saying “he didn’t do this” or “that didn’t go my way” or “nothing is working out like I planned,” and we’re feeling irritated and grumpy about all of it. Sometimes injecting a little gratitude goes a long way in improving our outlook on life!
If you’re curious about how music therapy and GIM might help, contact me anytime. I’m always happy to answer questions!