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Thankfulness Doesn't Come Easily - So Cultivate Gratitude

Thankfulness journals, thankfulness exercises, and ways to improve our “attitude of gratitude” seem to be everywhere these days. With little doubt, it can be very helpful to “look on the bright” side and be mindful of appreciation for all that we have, but what if the feeling of gratefulness just cannot be found? What if all the methods that should lead to increases in happiness via gratitude just don't seem to be working? Does this mean we are doomed to remain unappreciative and live a life filled with envy for greener pastures? Does this mean we are a thank-fail?

Go Easy – Think Thankful-Lite

If changing our patterns of thinking was easy and creating a new outlook could happen overnight, the world would be full of mentally healthy folks with no problems, no issues, no addictions and no pains. Trying on a new attitude can take time. Finding a new focus is not necessarily different than trying to break a bad habit - we try, we fall, we get back up and we try again. If it doesn't work right now, this second, let yourself know, it is OK.

Comparison Is OK

In this case, seeing that we are not as bad off as we think can be good. Reading about or watching stories of people who are currently in situations where we can see, hear and feel that their needs are greater than our own can help us feel more blessed in our own situations. Volunteering time and energy to help others in need can also provide more perspective – seeing things from another person's place in this way can help us help them, and ourselves.

A Little Looking Back Is OK

Sometimes looking back at where we have been and what we have done can help. Perhaps we have forgotten our roots, our past struggles, or our past successes. Everything we have done and been contributes to where we are now, and that we are still “here” is a true testament to our survival and our success. Viewing our past through future lenses may help us feel thankful for everything that brought us forward in time. We just can't dwell in the past forever.... or we won't move forward in changing our thankfulness today!

Don't Give Up

So we see how readily our friends list and count their blessings, and we may feel less than thankful for the troubles we see.... but don't give up. Find new and different ways to think about what is here, what is in hand.... “Fake it 'til you make it”, and if we keep thinking about all that we have, and all that we can do, eventually we may make the leap to living a life full and full-filled with thankfulness and appreciation. Every day that we wake is a new opportunity to live in our happiness and blessings. We cannot be a “thank-fail” as long as we are, thankfully, able to keep trying!    

From Victim Advocacy with survivors of abuse and violence, case management with senior citizens and their families, counseling with at-risk youth and their families, to therapy with adults fighting addiction - bereavement, depression, relationship issues, parenting issues, divorce, blended families, disability, career changes, life changes, my professional experience has encountered it all (so to speak). Fitness, health, coping with chronic illness, aging parents, raising children, job loss, job stress,.... and the list goes on!

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