Gratitude

by | Dec 24, 2015 | Mental Health, Resources

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grat·i·tude
noun: gratitude
the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

With the Santa Monica Mountains in the background, I gaze out my bay window, in the early morning hours. The sun is breaking through the clouds and the sky is lit up like a water color painting with blue, orange and pink hues. Like many of us this time of year, when I ask myself what am I grateful for, thankfully, I don’t have to look too far.

Not only do I have a spectacular view, but I have two boys and four grandchildren and for the moment they all seem to be doing great. I love what I do at Polaris Teen Center, I have amazing friends and although I might walk little slower I still can hike in the nearby hills.

Believe me I haven’t always been this grateful. In fact, when I was younger and fluent in Victimese, I would constantly blame others for what was wrong with my life. When things didn’t work out the way I planned, it was my parent’s fault or the nuns and later it was my husband who was to blame.

Over time my brain became a finely tuned torture device and took whatever came down the pike giving it a negative spin. What I didn’t know back then, is “where attention goes, energy will flow.” In other words, the more I focused on what was wrong with my life, the more I seemed to attract.

One day, I had an epiphany, when I realized I was my own worst enemy, not everyone else. So I decided to try shifting my perception and prayed, please let me recognize the good today, saying it before I left the house.

At first it was difficult because my negative thinking had been so deeply grooved it was like a mental loop. But with applied effort and mindfulness I started to make progress. I would say “thank you” to myself if I happened to get a short line at the super market. I would say “thank you” when my son did his homework without giving me too much lip. I would smile at someone and if they smiled back it was surprising to me just how good it made me feel.

It wasn’t long before I started to see that gratitude helped me connect not only to others but my own humanity as well. Could it be that simple, I wondered? When I feel connected to the human race, I don’t feel so alone.

I’ll be the first to admit, at first, it was hard to stop the negativity, but with grace and a sincere effort on my part, on most days now, I feel extremely blessed.

Tools to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

Write a gratitude list. Make a list of 10 things you’re grateful for every day. If you have friends you can share it with start an email chain asking them to do the same.

Journal. Get a journal and track your gratitude, trying to take honest stock of how your perception changes over time.

Write a thank you letter. Is there someone out there that you would like to acknowledge for his or her support? Write down the specific things and why you appreciate them in your life. There is nothing better than receiving a thank you card in the mail. Later, you can even write one to yourself.

Nature. Sometimes life stresses me out and as a result I get into my head. That’s when it’s time for me to go for a hike. For some reason when I’m in nature I’m able to take in the smell of the dirt, the chirp of birds and connect to something greater than myself and it helps me to unwind.

Pray. Whether you pray to the cosmic forces, nature or a higher power, your thoughts are energy so don’t be afraid to ask for help. It really works.

Meditation. Focusing on the breath helps me to plug into the present moment. When I realize, that right here and right now, everything is okay and all my needs are met it is easier for me to maintain gratitude and easier to experience peace.

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Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).