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  • Gratitude Changes Everything

    Are you feeling anxious or sad? Try gratitude!

    Gratitude changes our emotional health. It is harder to feel anxious or depressed when grateful. When I am grateful, I am a happier person.

    Almost 5 years ago, I was lying in the hospital after two separate days spent in the emergency room due to very high blood pressure that was rising daily. Lying there waiting to get a kidney biopsy, two doctors came to see me. I don’t remember their faces, but I do remember 3 words they spoke to me: cancer, dialysis and transplant. Those words sent me into panic mode. The next several months were very difficult for me and I wasn’t able to do a whole lot due to the side effects from my treatment.

    What kept me encouraged and hopeful was an emphasis on gratitude. I kept a journal that I added to daily. At the time, I was working as a middle school counselor and wrote emails to every staff member expressing very specific gratitude for what made them great educators and people.

    I heard a lot of encouraging feedback regarding what it meant to them, and I am glad for that. Most of all, I needed to get my mind off myself and think about and express my gratitude for others. For me, it was life changing.

    Do your family or friends seem anxious or sad? Try Gratitude!

    Many people feel invisible to other people. They feel like nothing they do matters in the greater scheme of things and that their life counts for very little. They wonder if anyone would miss them if they quit their job or moved away. Gratitude helps people feel relevant. It’s like saying to them, “I see you. I see what you do. You matter.” Every person should feel visible to someone else—hopefully many someones. Our gratitude can change people from invisible to visible.

    Most people feel under appreciated. For some, it fills a deep need to have efforts acknowledged and appreciated. For others it is just nice to know they are appreciated and that what they do matters. When I wrote my gratitude emails to the staff where I worked as a counselor, I received many responses from people who said they cried when they read my email. Some said they read the email over and over. Others said no one had ever showed such gratitude for their efforts at school. When people feel unappreciated, they often feel sad and lonely. Our expressions of gratitude can change tears of sadness to tears of warmth and acceptance. Our gratitude is powerful.

    Why is it so hard to be grateful?

    With COVID 19, we are currently dealing with circumstances, that for many have been very difficult. When life is tough, it can make it challenging to remain grateful, but our circumstances don’t determine our gratitude. Some people have a great deal of privilege and are very ungrateful, while some who seem to have very little are very grateful. Who is more at peace? Who is happier?

    But why is it so difficult to be grateful? Mostly, it is hard to be grateful, because we don’t pay attention to what is going on around us. We are so busy with our lives, jobs and getting things done, we are not present enough to appreciate all we have and all that is going on around us. No time is better than now to work on our gratitude.

    As I write this article, I am thinking about some of what I have to be grateful for right now. My grandchildren live in my neighborhood so we get to visit each other’s yards and hang out together. I get to be a part of their lives. We still have family night, but we do it via Zoom. Also, I enjoy sunny days when I can take a walk.

    We all have awesome moments in our lives, but we often skip right past them rather than soaking in the good stuff that life has presented us.

    Also, it is hard to be grateful because we can be glass-half- empty people focusing only on what doesn’t go our way. Everyday has its challenges. I get that. Life can be very difficult. We can’t ignore the hard stuff, but focusing on the good can change our view toward life and improve our relationships with other people.

    What are some tips to change our gratitude?

    1. Relax. Be present. Notice what is going on around you and soak in the good stuff.

    2. Pay closer attention to the positive and give less emotional energy to the negative.

    3. Make an ongoing list of what you appreciate about your friends, family, job, etc.

    4. Choose some people you are grateful for. Tell them, email them, write a card, etc.