I heard someone say recently, “If you don’t teach gratitude you foster a sense of entitlement and resentment.” Those words really stuck with me. The idea of being grateful is something I believe we must all be mindful of. Recently I experienced several events in my life that left me feeling frustrated. I had a certain expectation and once it was not fulfilled I began to think negatively about my situation. To be grateful requires an understanding that life may not always meet our expectations and when that happens we need to take stock in what we have, instead of being worried or anxious about what we don’t. How do we do this? In a society in which we are taught to reach for the newest item, how can we stop and take a moment to enjoy what is already within our grasp? Let’s look at three important factors in practicing gratefulness:
- Keep a gratitude Journal. I often tell my patients to keep a journal recording their thoughts and feelings. This exercise can be very cathartic and can assist in putting experiences in perspective. A gratitude journal may serve as a daily record of the experiences and interactions you are thankful for.
- Notice the beauty around you. After a long winter you begin to eagerly anticipate the warmth of spring. May in Michigan brings a sense of gratitude for the warmth of the sun, the sound of birds singing, the smell of blooming flowers. As summer begins and the warm days become numerous we tend to take the warmth for granted. Gratitude creates a way for us to really appreciate what we sense around us. Whether it is the beauty of nature or the beauty of your loved ones, noticing the beauty around you creates great perspective.
- See growth opportunities in mistakes. I don’t know about you but I make mistakes from time to time. With each mistake I am presented with a choice. I can become angry, frustrated and live in regret or I can choose to learn from the experience. One choice can leave me stuck while the other allows for growth.
Avoiding a sense of entitlement and resentment identified in the quote previously referenced requires and understanding that sometimes the unexpected happens. There are moments that are out of our control. When these moments occur the one thing we can control is our reaction to them.
I wish you a grateful heart as you go along life’s journey.
Alicia Lurry MA CRC LPC