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Thanks Giving: Three Life-Changing Ways to Practice Gratitude

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ID-10032933You get up when it’s dark and get home when it’s dark. You haven’t got that promotion yet. The neighbor’s car is a whole lot nicer than yours. It seems your house never stops falling apart. Maybe you’re still not married, and you’re hitting yourself over the head with all the milestones and goals you just can’t seem to accomplish.

We all have difficulties in our lives. And we all also struggle, at times, with remembering to be grateful for what we do have.

The bad can sometimes seem to pile on — Stressors and disappointments can be very overwhelming. While it’s tempting to curl up and feel sorry for oneself or become overwhelmed with frustration and anger, it’s times like this where you need to be all the more grateful for what you do have.

We’ve included some exercises below to help you towards this end. These can be perfect this time of year to try on your own, or to share as discussions or activities with family and friends:

1) Serve others

Need a reminder of just how good you have it? Donate your time to a food bank, homeless shelter, clothing drive or an organization like Habitat for Humanity. The experience of personifying hope and kindness in someone else’s life, combined with reminders of how much harder your personal struggles could be, can be both sobering and uplifting.

We support Feed My Starving Children and are so rewarded, in return, for doing so. For more information on this, and to see our recent efforts, click here.

2) Gratitude Journal

Whether it’s jotting down ten things you’re grateful for each day or writing a short narrative about something wonderful that happened to you any given day, keeping a written reminder not only allows you to look back on how wonderful life is, but forces you to focus on the good things in life each day as you write. Feel like you don’t have time to do this? You do. Schedule time before bed, or make it the first thing you wake up to in the morning. Spend 15 minutes at lunch. Focusing yourself on the positive in this way is healing, meditative and you’ll find that it’s good for the soul.

3) Use Your Imagination

Many of you reading this article have not directly experienced the loss of a home, close family, your children and/or basic, simple everyday luxuries (your sight, hearing, your health, your morning cup of coffee, etc.). For those of you who have experienced the loss of one or more of these things, you know the devastation it causes.

Spend some time dwelling in the thought of losing everything. Imagine you wake up to a life of chronic pain, you have no one to call because your friends have all left you. You’re on the streets with no escape from the cold, you’ll never see your children or loved ones again, etc. I’m sure you get the gist. Take away all the comforts you have, one by one, in your mind.

Then imagine how, one at a time, it would feel to get these things back. To feel relief from terrible pain. To taste your favorite foods after not having them for years. To see the faces of your children after believing they were lost to you forever. The joy, the awe, the amazement.

Nothing in this life is guaranteed. Use this exercise to remind yourself that we are so lucky to have so much left, even if we’ve lost people or things dear to us. Focus on everything you have and let that feeling of gratitude dwell within you. Live so that you’re constantly seeking out more to be grateful for.

What now?
The holidays, especially around the gloomy Chicago area, can be tough, and you may find that these exercises just aren’t breaking through your bad mood.

If this is the case, don’t hesitate to reach out. We have an entire staff of qualified counselors ready to support you.