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Thankfulness & gratitude

December 11, 2019 | Written by Susan
Thankfulness and Gratitude

Thankfulness and gratitude are easy to feel and express when life is going well. However, when going through tough periods, we can find ourselves on the opposite end of the spectrum. Before we know it, we are asking, “Why me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” “How can I possibly cope with this or be thankful?” Some of us feel justified in how we think and feel especially when life presents us with a reminder of how unfair it is. With such thoughts, feelings of self-pity and self-misery find their way into our hearts and permeate our minds. Yet, none of these choices provide us with the relief and peace we are looking for.

Thankfulness and gratitude are presented together because they often go hand-in-hand. Gratitude is defined as the “feeling one has for something done or received.” Gratitude is often associated with spirituality and love and is a state that helps us recognize the awesome and wondrous things taking place within our lives and the world around us. Furthermore, when we feel grateful, we tend to express and show our appreciation. Similarly, thankfulness is about feeling pleased and relieved and is often described as being grateful. Thankfulness can also be associated with happiness, joyfulness, and satisfaction and is expressed through our actions.

Gratitude has several benefits. Our practice of gratitude increases positive emotions, optimism, resilience, and self-esteem. Gratitude can also deepen personal relationships, increase productivity, help us set and attain goals, be less self-centered, reduce stress, and enhance the way we handle difficult life events. For more information about the benefits of gratitude and how it can help us, please review The Happier Human and its article on the 31 Benefits of Gratitude https://www.happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/. Skip Prichard adds to our understanding of the benefits associated with gratitude and thankfulness by discussing 17 benefits of thankfulness and gratitude – https://www.skipprichard.com/17-benefits-of-thankfulness-and-gratitude/. Both sites provide helpful information about the ways thankfulness and gratitude can help us and enhance our quality of life.

Despite the benefits bestowed upon us, gratitude and being thankful do not always occur naturally. After all, many parts of life are hard, and some situations are perceived as negative or unwanted. When this happens, we are prone to feel disappointment, anger, resentment, fear, loneliness, anxiety, and we can feel genuinely, doubtful that there is anything to feel thankful for.Furthermore, living with a disability is a challenging life experience for many of us and can represent a situation where some find it difficult to be thankful or grateful. And, yes, while it is true that several aspects of living with a disability are not easy, living with a disability can also become a positive experience; one where we learn first-hand the meaning and importance of thankfulness and gratitude. More specifically living with a disability can bring several points into focus and can include:

    1. Increasing self-insight and understanding which can be used for enlightenment and personal improvement.
    2. Learning to appreciate our abilities and the gifts we have been given despite the disability.
    3. Being thankful for the opportunity to help others in need or who might be struggling. After all, living with a disability teaches us a lot about compassion, strength, perseverance, and the value of helping others in a way many cannot.
    4. Broadening our interests and cultivating new skills. Living with a disability is a situation that can help us grow and develop in ways we might not have otherwise.
    5. Acquiring wisdom in the most unforeseen ways (i.e., Using one’s disability or situation to help others grow, adjust, and thrive).
    6. Feeling more connected to God or developing the spiritual side of ourselves. Living with a disability can be a “spiritual” experience, in a good way, when we allow it to be.
    7. Identifying the role of gratitude in our lives and reframing our disability in a more positive, constructive way. When we learn to do this, we begin to see the positive side of living with a disability, and we become aware that our situation is not only about what we might not be able to do or may do a different way than before the disability.

 

Living with a physical, visible disability taught me more about the importance of thankfulness and gratitude. The journey, I traveled, was one where I learned that I can strive for gratitude and practice thankfulness despite some of the hurdles or barriers I encountered. For example, soon after I sustained a spinal cord injury, I learned to be thankful for the ability to navigate my external environment, to walk with below-the-knee-ankle-foot-orthotics and assistive devices, and to go back to work and resume school on a part-time basis. I was thankful to God for giving me another chance to make the most of my life and abilities. I was appreciative of family and for the close friends I had as well as the ones I developed later in life. From there, I learned that when life did not go as planned to be mindful and aware of the positive side of situations, even when I could not initially see them. In short, living with a disability has taught me a tremendous amount about myself, my views, my abilities, my relationship with God, and the people around me. Because of these experiences and life lessons, I believe we have a choice in how we will respond to life’s difficulties. Living with a disability has taught me I can choose thankfulness and gratitude, or I can choose a more negative approach (i.e., self-pity, depressed about something not being how I wanted it to be).

Those of us who want to enhance or develop a sense of gratitude and a heart of thankfulness can access them by utilizing six easy practices. More specifically, gratitude and thankfulness can be found when we:

  • Count our blessings – Each of us have something to be thankful for in life. Counting our blessings is about recognizing the good things in life. A common practice recommended by Positive Psychology experts is to find three things, each day, that we are grateful for. When we identify three things, each day, we are thankful for, the practice of recognizing the blessings in our life becomes natural. Pretty soon, we find ourselves noticing that we have more blessings than we realized.
  • Keep a gratitude journal – Journaling is an excellent way to help us pause, reflect, and remember the good things that happen throughout our day and week. We can “spot” journal and write each thing as they happen, or we can write at the end of the day. Some may elect to journal once a week. Regardless, journaling is freeing and helps us see the good things in life that we might have missed.
  • Pause and reflect on how our life has turned out because of certain events or situations – Too many times, we are in a hurry and we pay no heed to the people put in our lives or the experiences we have had that lead to the life we have today. However, if we learn to pause and reflect on these people and experiences, we may realize that our life has been improved or enhanced and as a result, we become thankful for them and the role they had in our lives.
  • Identify the positive – Life is filled with ups and downs, positives and negatives. When we learn to identify the positive events in our lives, we can see that several parts are going well, even if some other aspect is not. Additionally, when we learn to recognize the positive, we train our minds to look for what is going well and to be thankful for that rather than only seeing what is not.
  • Are present to experience and savor our surroundings – When we are present, we are in the moment, and when we are in the moment, we are in the perfect state of awareness to savor that which we experience. Savoring allows us to take in the beauty, sights, sounds, and smells of all that is around is and to enjoy all that life has to offer.
  • Share our thankfulness with others – Sharing our thankfulness is about expression and giving to others. When we give love, compassion, and thankfulness to others we are “being there” for someone the same as another was once there for us. Giving back is not about keeping score; rather, it is about love and compassion and learning to pay forward random acts of kindness.

References

Happier Human – What About Happiness? (August 2019). 31 Benefits of Gratitude: The Ultimate Science-Backed Guide. Retrieved on December 1, 2019, from https://www.happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/

Prichard, S. (November 2017). 17 Benefits and Thankfulness and Gratitude. Retrieved on December 1, 2019, from https://www.skipprichard.com/17-benefits-of-thankfulness-and-gratitude/

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