Finding gratitude even in challenging times
November is upon us. In other words, the next-to-last month of a year that has been unspeakably bad in so many ways. And, while there’s nothing to be gained from sugarcoating it, there is value in committing—or recommitting—to an attitude of mindfulness as the year winds down. Because, if ever there was a time when a little bit of calm could go a long way, this is it.
You may be thinking: “easier said than done.” How are you supposed to be mindful, or grateful, or any of those lofty-seeming things, when it may be all you can do to get yourself and your family through the day?
Here’s how you can begin—four simple things to try—even and especially if this all sounds too Pollyannaish for your present mood:
- Notice and appreciate good, life-affirming things
Here are a few things it can be easy to take for granted: food; shelter; physical safety; a comfortable place to lay your head at night (even if you have little ones who interrupt your sleep!). Everyone’s list is different, but start with the basics and remind yourself how fortunate you are to be able to take these for granted.
Then: try to appreciate simple joys of each day. Did you enjoy a good cup of coffee? Tea? Wine? Did you hear from an old friend? Did you kid make their bed without you asking? Did you see any colorful fall leaves? Beautiful birds? These are all small things, but when you take a moment to notice them, it can shift your mindset.
- Cultivate and acknowledge a sense of thankfulness
Some people find it helpful to keep a mindfulness journal—a place to jot down the things you’re thankful for. This is not for everyone. But, there are other ways you can reinforce and acknowledge the power of the positive in your life.
What if you designated a “good things jar” somewhere in your home? When you think of something you’re especially thankful for, write in on a piece of paper and toss it into the jar (you can even invite your spouse or kids to participate). On a tough day, pull something out of the jar to remind you of your and your family’s blessings.
Or, try to create a habit of thankfulness. It can take the form of a moment of thanks before eating a meal, a quick mental note of thanks before bed, or whatever works for you.
- Express your gratitude to someone else
Many of us are feeling isolated these days. It’s hard to see friends or family face-to-face, and scheduling a phone or video chat is not always easy. But, acknowledging the role other people play in our lives is good for both them and us. Is your child’s teacher working extra hard this fall? Probably so! Drop them a quick line to say how much you appreciate it. Did a friend take an extra moment to listen to you when you were having a tough day? Tell them it made a difference. Text, email, make a phone call, send a letter, whatever you like.
- Be kind to yourself and others
You know, “pay it forward.” Give yourself an extra measure of grace each day—and do the same for the people you interact with. Enough said.
A practice of gratitude sharpens our attention for the positive aspects in our lives. No, it doesn’t eliminate negative events from our lives but helps us appreciate good things we may sometimes lose sight of. It’s worth celebrating the small victories, unexpected kindnesses, and fact that the sun comes up each day. So, take a moment to see whatever beauty and good happened in your world this year.
Mindful.org has a great Introduction to Mindful Gratitude including tips to inspire feelings of gratitude during difficult parenting moments.
Thanks, loyal Finn + Emma blog-readers; we appreciate you!