The world of personal development always talks about how important feeling grateful is to your overall well-being. For so many of us, feeling grateful in the midst of the stress of everyday life, or worse, in the midst of an extraordinary stressor such as divorce, does not come naturally. Nonetheless, developing a daily practice of feeling grateful resets your perspective and gives you the courage to face whatever life is throwing at you.
I have a secret to tell you that I don’t share very often. When my son was first diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy back in 2008, I didn’t want to get out of bed for years. But I did. I had three small kids, two jobs, a house, and a husband who needed me. I couldn’t curl into a ball like I wanted to.
To give myself a daily pep talk, I read the obituaries every day. Why did I do this seemingly very dark thing? It was to remind myself that despite everything my family was facing, I still had time, when lots of other people didn’t. It was a very small (albeit weird) way of forcing myself to count my blessings and feel grateful for what I still had.
There are many ways to develop a practice of feeling grateful. Reading the obituaries might not be your thing. But whatever you do, it's important to feel it, not just say it. Try to enjoy the feeling of joy and peace that being truly grateful for something brings you.
I no longer read the obituaries, but I still have a gratitude practice that helps me face whatever life is throwing at me, and this definitely helped me get through my own divorce. First thing in the morning, before I get out of bed, I focus on how good the covers feel and enjoy the feeling of being grateful for my warm bed. Once I’m up, I try to purposely take a few seconds to watch the sunrise out my window. I try to soak in the privilege of witnessing that gorgeous scene every day. These two little things get my day started with a positive attitude, make me feel happy, and make me less likely to get irritated at life’s inconveniences.
Another thing to try to to have others participate in gratitude with you! On the nights my kids are home for dinner, we take turns talking about what we are grateful for that day. It makes the kids focus on something fun, gives us all something to talk about, and has us all feeling good about the day. I find that when we fall away from doing this (as of course we do), dinners become a battle to put phones down and to force the kids to be present.
So how in the world can you feel grateful if you’re in the midst of something like divorce? I’m not gonna lie, it takes deliberate action, but is so worth it. One of the most important ways to keep from being swallowed up by the toxicity of divorce is to maintain a focus on gratitude throughout the process.
Deliberately feel grateful that you have great kids
Feel grateful that you are brave enough to take steps to build a new life
Feel grateful that you are finally moving forward into a healthier version of you
You can even feel grateful for the challenge, because you will survive, this chapter, it will come to an end, and there’s no question that you will be stronger for it
You might be reading this thinking that I am totally crazy. Trust me! I know you can’t always see what you are supposed to be grateful for, but this is a skill that you can learn. In fact, it’s one of the focuses of the 21st Century Family Transition™ program and the eight week self-paced course. Focusing on gratitude helps take my clients go from a place of anxiety and fear, to one of calm and control.
By taking deliberate steps to learn empathy (for yourself and others), compassion (for yourself and others), and gratitude (even in the midst of challenge), you develop grit you didn’t think you had. I challenge you to think about how you can bring gratitude into your life every day, and really use it as a way to fortify yourself for the road ahead.