Strategies for Giving Thanks in the Face of Hardship

The holiday season is a time of joy and a time of stress. The pressure to be exuberant amidst winter’s darkness often leads to a feeling of disconnect for many. This year is especially difficult, as Hurricane Sandy came hurling to the Northeast region leaving the ravages of flooding, loss of power for millions, billions of dollars in damaged homes and businesses, and lost lives. How do we feel grateful in the face of loss?

girl with outstretched arms to sky
Gratitude

So many that have faced the devastation of Sandy have also been blessed by the loving kindness of others. The truth is our lives are composed of a constellation of complicated feelings and they come bubbling forth at a time like this, even if we are among the lucky to get through the “super-storm” relatively unscathed.

There are strategies for cultivating gratitude – whether it’s during an epic disaster like Sandy or a department store holiday sale. With practice, even under the most difficult circumstances, the ability to be appreciative will strengthen you.

How to Cultivate Gratitude During a Time of Crisis

·Focus on taking care of today, and notice small but potent pleasures — a helping hand, a warm cup of coffee, a cozy blanket, clean water. Be in the moment.

·Consider saying “thank you” to everyone who has helped you or added value to your life during this time of loss and transition — as well as during uneventful times. Notice what happens when you thank someone wholeheartedly.

·Keep a gratitude journal to systematically access those aspects of our lives for which we feel thankful. This is a great time to be doing just that. This practice “fires up” our brain to be more positive. Rather than focusing on the losses and setbacks that we invariably experience, we can train our minds to tease out the sweetness of our days and notice more about the good.

·Count your blessings. Just before going to sleep, think of 3-5 positive feelings or observations that occurred during the day for which you feel grateful.

·Begin to train your brain to recognize and take in the good by changing your negative thoughts to positive ones with the use of affirmations. These are simple, positive statements like, “I can do this!” Keep repeating these until the message starts to sink in. You will then be better positioned to savor the good things.

·If possible, help others in need. By giving your time and assistance to others in greater need than you, you will become more appreciative of your own blessings. Helping others is beneficial to the giver and receiver.

·Pray or thank your higher power if that is something that resonates with you.

What do you do to express gratitude during a challenging time?

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