I’ve been thinking about the idea of “gratitude” a lot lately. No matter what I read from the world of personal development, it ALL talks about how important feeling grateful is to your overall well-being. I also know that, for so many of us, feeling grateful in the midst of the stress of everyday life, or worse, in the midst of an extraordinary stress such as divorce or illness, does NOT come naturally.
Nonetheless, both my personal experience, and that of my clients, has taught me that developing a daily practice of feeling grateful resets your perspective and gives you the courage to face whatever life is throwing at you that day.
There are many ways to develop a practice of feeling grateful. And it’s important to FEEL it-- not just say it. Really enjoy the feeling of joy and peace that being truly grateful for something brings you. I like to start first thing in the morning, before I even get out of bed. It takes just a second after your alarm goes off, to focus on how good the covers feel and enjoy the feeling of being grateful for your warm bed. Then, once I’m up, I try to purposely take a few seconds to just watch the sunrise out my back 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, makes me feel happy, and makes me less likely to get irritated at life’s inconveniences.
I also try to make a practice of gratitude a conversation starter for family dinners. On the nights my kids are home for dinner, we take turns writing down what we are grateful for that day. It makes the kids focus on something fun or funny, 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. For so many families though, just getting to be together for dinner is something to be grateful for! It’s so nice to have a night to sit and enjoy each other rather than running from practice to practice all over town.
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. However, it is SOO 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're 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 WILL come to an end, and there’s no question that you WILL be stronger when it’s over.
You might be reading this and be thinking that I am totally crazy. But trust me-- I know you can’t always see what you are supposed to be grateful for, but as time passes, you will have perspective and you will be able to feel gratitude for the lessons learned on your journey. In the meantime, start small-- maybe just feel grateful that the sun came up today :).