How do you Culivate Gratitude in Hard Times?

This is supposed to be the season of giving thanks, of Thanks-giving. We encourage our children to be grateful. But are we grateful? How can we be grateful after great loss or death or change that shakes our world?  What if you just lost your job or found out you have cancer? What if you depend on food stamps to feed your kids and the government just cut them in time for the holidays?

I can be mad about the injustice and sorrow of this world or I can decide to do my part to “Be the change I wish to see in the world” as Ghandi said.  I can choose to be kind when others are mean. I can remember “hurt people hurt people”.
I just watched a very moving video where people in Russia in the severe cold of winter still made time to help each other; little acts like helping someone’s car stuck in the snow or helping an old lady cross the street, etc. It’s on my Facebook page or you can look it up on YouTube, “Russian video that made the whole world cry” http://www.youtube.com

Act as if “, a wise old woman reminds me. Write 5 gratitudes before bed, even though you may not “feel” like it.  I tried it and I am amazed every time of the power of gratitude to shift my thinking.

Then there are those days when you & I lose perspective and can’t think of anything for which to be grateful.  That’s when doing the opposite works.  I think of all the things that I’m grateful did not happen today: The toilet didn’t overflow. We didn’t have an earthquake or a tsunami here in Los Angeles. I didn’t have car problems or an accident. I didn’t lose my home. None of my loved ones died.  I don’t have cancer or heart problems. The cat didn’t barf today….    This often gets me laughing and gratitude & perspective return once again. (You might try doing this with your kids, like a game to see how many things they can think of.)

Then there are those times where nothing seems to help and we need to just be where we are & feel what we are feeling. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do, to accept life as it is now and lean into the cold wind that bites our cheeks. Amazingly, when I stop resisting and fighting the pain of how things are, it hurts less.  This is true physically as well as emotionally. Breath. Relax. Just Be. Solitude is good for the soul.

Remember, we are social creatures. We need each other. Ask for help. Seek support. Don’t carry your burdens alone.  You’ll find out you’re not alone. We all have something we are struggling with.  Don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides.

Humor can be a great relief  from our sorrows and difficulties. Watch a comedy and take a break from it all. Laughter is great medicine. It releases natural endorphins that make us feel happy for awhile.
Try Tim Conway‘s “Speedo Airlines” from the old Carol Burnette Show. It’s hilarious.

If you have a hard time getting to sleep, try saying gratitudes for every letter of the alphabet.  For example, A for Apples, Apple pie, Air to breath; B for Beauty, a Bed, Books; C my Cat, my Car, my Children……….   Before you know it you’ll be asleep.

Have a grateful Thanksgiving.

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About Linda Marten, MSW

Linda Marten is a California Credentialed Parent Educator since 1998, a former LAUSD parent educator & teacher advisor for 14 years, and a Member of the California Teachers Association (CTA) . She holds a Masters degree in Social Work from University of Washington and has extensive experience teaching and training parents and teachers. Linda leads interactive, informative workshops for parents, youth, and teachers from diverse socio-economic, racial and cultural backgrounds focusing on numerous issues related to parenting as well as helping youth who want to stop being bullied. Ms. Marten is a "bully expert" and has had great success teaching youth the "Bullies to Buddies" method developed by Izzy Kalman, school psychologist. Linda provides private sessions by appointment. She is also the mother of two children.
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7 Responses to How do you Culivate Gratitude in Hard Times?

  1. Sheri Weitz says:

    This is wonderful, Linda!
    In Gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving. Sheri Weitz, RD, MT

  2. Sharma says:

    Great perspective Linda! Thank you for sharing :o)

  3. Victoria Lince says:

    How comforting, and soothing reading this is and good to have the reminders about gratitudes.
    I’m greatfull to have Linda Marten in my life. Happy, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! xo

  4. Marcy Weisshar says:

    You have such a great way of putting life inperspective
    Thanks,Marcy

    • Thanks Marci. Life has a lot of challenges and “opportunities for growth” that can throw off our perspective. Gratitude and being true to myself helps restore my perspective, over & over again.
      Life is like walking a balance beam. We often lose our balance & fall off the beam. The more we keep getting back up on the balance beam the faster we can regain our balance again. Best wishes for maintaining your balance this holiday season! Keep in touch. Linda

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