Being thankful in the face of adversity

Thank you.  I appreciate it.  I appreciate you.  Gracia.  Many thanks.  That meant a lot to me.  You helped me more than you know.  You rock!

These are all ways to express gratitude for the gifts large and small that come upon us in our lives.  Thanksgiving is a good day to celebrate your life and revel in the blessings that you are surrounded with each day.  It may be difficult to find something to be thankful for sometimes, especially for those that may be managing a tragedy such as a job loss, financial troubles, mental health concerns, illness, the death of a loved one, or other misfortunes that come around in life.  Even in these most difficult times, finding the things that make you smile, that offer you even moments of joy in your life may build the momentum to bring you out of the life situation you may be in.  There is a saying, “Choose your attitude”  and, “live your  life with intention.”

Interestingly, I was told by a loved one that she notices that I am “always happy.”  It isn’t that I am “always happy,” there are many times that I get cranky, irritated, sad, mad, and the rainbow of emotions.  The thing is, I work to choose a different mood or attitude.  To intentionally take actions to change my mood.  I notice when I get in a funk, when I muddle in it, when I allow myself to be immersed in the yuck, I feel worse, so I use some strategies to get back to a better state of mind.  One thing I do is take a few deep breaths, and I use the word STOP to evaluate the situation.  S – Stop, T – Think about your behavior, O – Observe myself in the moment, and P – be present – what is really going on with me?  What is it about the situation that is creating these negative feelings?  When I take the time to do that, I get perspective and begin to understand the root of the problem.  One thing my husband does to help me get out of my funk (thankfully) – and to help me laugh at myself when I am cranky – is to repeat my absurd wallowing in a witty and sarcastic way.  Then he laughs, I laugh, and instantly I make the decision to change my outlook and attitude.  It is nice to have support in choosing your attitude.  You ever notice how some folks can suck all the energy out of the room?  Well there are also folks that can add energy to the room, try to surround yourself with the energy boosters especially when you are having a tough day.

I will share a funny story.  I was on my way home from work one night and I was recording myself as I fleshed out some ideas about a client I was working with.  Someone pulled out in front of me and I almost hit them.  Like any normal driver, I got flustered, I got the mean pointy eyebrows scowl and I said in an incredibly irritated – on the verge of road rage voice “are you freaking serious?”  – to the driver – as though they could hear me.  HA!  Then I used STOP.  I paused (S), thought about the situation (T), took a moment to observe what happened (O) and became present (P).  Then I laughed at myself, and said, “Missy, I am sure they did not mean to pull out in front of you, you are okay, they just scared you.”    When I listened to the recording a few days later I had to laugh because after I said that sentence, I relaxed, my tone calmed and I kept on moving through my conceptualization of my client’s situation.

Another way to remind yourself of the good stuff life offers is to create a gratitude list.  You can keep a notebook by your bed, you can blog it or journal in your diary, you could even use an app like Out of Milk or your Memo app on your phone to create a list of things you are thankful for.  Some folks my find it hard to list even one thing you are thankful for, but start with 5 items each day.  It could be, I am thankful I woke up today, that I am breathing, that I can walk around, that I have clothes to wear, and breakfast to eat.  Some folks do not have these luxuries.  Some days your list may be shorter, some days you may overflow in your appreciation.   When you create these lists, find a way to share it with someone you care about.  Saying your gratitudes out loud to an audience makes them more significant.  Telling those you love how you appreciate them without requiring the need for reciprocation can also yield amazing results.  Think about it, have you ever had a friend or loved one say, I really appreciate you for ……?  How did that display of appreciation feel?  I know when I have offered my appreciation to my loved ones – just because, it has created these special moments that deepen the relationship.  The moment was meant only to release my gratitude, expecting nothing in return, but I walked away with a smile, feeling good, and a closer relationship.

Strategies like these help you get to a place where even in extreme situations you are better able to find something to appreciate.  For instance in the almost car accident scenario I could say, well, at least I did not get into a crash.  If you are single and looking for love, perhaps you can find appreciation in taking time to get to know yourself better, so that when a prospective mate comes along you will be genuine to your core self and better equipped to be in a loving, successful relationship.  Perhaps if there is a diagnosed illness, you can be thankful for the time to spend being with the ones you love, time to share how much you love them, and to say goodbye.  If there is a sudden death in the family, gratitude may come in the form of relief that your loved one did not have to suffer.  If you did not get the job you wanted, perhaps you can be thankful for the learning opportunity in the interview process, or the opportunity to meet new people to build your network, or that you did not settle for good when you could have had great!  It isn’t about positive or rose-colored glasses thinking, it is about finding ways to appreciate all the things that come our way, even if we think it isn’t what we want.  Find your unique way to express gratitude that works for you.

Finding gratitude in a rejection can be one of the most difficult tasks in life.  A couple of years ago, I applied for a Counseling job that I thought I REALLY wanted.  I did not get it, and did not get feedback as to why, but my impression was that there was a more experienced Counselor who was hired.  It did not sting any less.  So, after I vented my frustration and disappointment to my girlfriends and my hubby – admittedly it took longer than I am proud to admit, I resolved to be grateful for the next chapter and opportunity that came my way.  Seven months later we moved to Washington DC, because my husband was promoted to an amazing opportunity, and a few months later I got that job I wanted in our new city.  Would we have been able to get where we are now if I had gotten the job back then?  Would I have appreciated it as much?  I do not know.  What I do know is that every experience we encounter offers us a new way of understanding our current reality.  I am grateful for the chance to learn and work to make self improvements each day.  I am appreciative of my husband, my family, friends, faith, for the roof over my head and food in my belly.  I am proud and thankful for a career that I enjoy that affords me a comfortable life and a way to help people.  I am thankful for my health, mental and physical, and the opportunity to communicate and use my talents.

This Thanksgiving take a moment to share your appreciation and enjoy these special moments.

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