5 Ways To Maintain An Attitude Of Gratitude — Even If Everything Is Falling Apart

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Self

The themes of Thanksgiving and having an attitude of gratitude have long been associated with the fall season.

It’s when people all over the world celebrate the harvest — at least, in the Northern Hemisphere.

From the American and Canadian Thanksgiving, Germany’s Erntedankfest or "harvest of thanks," and China’s mid-autumn Moon Festival, humans innately know the importance of expressing gratitude for the bounty of the Earth.

But what about expanding that attitude of gratitude to all the other areas of our lives, especially when everything has been so out of whack, like it has for most of 2020?

RELATED: 10 Easy Ways To Practice Gratitude Daily

Fortunately, the idea of maintaining an ongoing consciousness of gratefulness has been gaining traction for a while as a viable way to make us happy.

There are now academic studies that suggest that feelings of thankfulness help people achieve a positive sense of the self and cope with daily problems and stress, more effectively.

Specifically, even when researchers factor out variables such as age, health, or income, they’ve found that people who describe themselves as feeling grateful to others, to God, or to creation in general tend to have higher vitality and more optimism.

They suffer less stress and experience fewer episodes of clinical depression than the population as a whole.

And in recent brain-scanning studies, neuroscientists have found that maintaining a practice of gratitude may actually re-wire the brain in more permanent ways.

Among other things, they’ve identified gratitude as a higher brain state that releases a self-rewarding, feel-good neurotransmitter.

That’s enough to get me to adopt an ongoing attitude of gratitude. How about you?

Here are 5 ways to maintain an attitude of gratitude, even if everything is falling apart.

1. Start or re-activate a gratitude journal.

By now, everyone’s probably heard of gratitude journals.

I’ve had a few versions of them. I spend five to 10 minutes each morning listing all the things I’m thankful for or recording one biggie before going to bed.

For many years, my sister-in-law simply kept a piece of yellow lined notebook paper on their fridge, adding her little "grateful-for’s" whenever the spirit moved her.

It worked for her and even made me feel good when I got a chance to read them!

2. Express appreciation to others.

Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar lectures all over the world on positive psychology and takes the idea of gratitude journals one step further.

He believes we should regularly express appreciation directly to the people in our lives, as well. He and his wife have a little weekly ritual of doing just that.

It only takes a few minutes and you can just imagine the impact on their relationship, especially at the end of a tough week.

RELATED: Why Practicing Gratitude Improves Your Mental Health, Relationships & Happiness (Plus, 5 Simple Steps To Get Started)

3. Practice self-appreciation.

Spiritual teacher Rev. Jennifer Hadley recommends writing down one thing you love and appreciate about yourself every day.

I’ve actually made that part of my morning practice for the past 15 years, and it feels like such a sweet gift to myself and a lovely way to start the day.

4. Create a mealtime gratitude ritual.

The dinnertime gratitude-sharing is a favorite one for many families on holidays, but there’s no reason not to incorporate it every day, especially since you’re probably eating more meals at home with your family during this pandemic.

If you want to jazz it up occasionally, you might pass a bowl of rose-scented water around the table and invite everyone to drop a smooth glass stone or marble into it as they offer what they’re grateful for.

The water stays nearby during the meal to be infused with all of the happy (hopefully) family mealtime vibes. Then, use it to water some of your favorite plants and watch them thrive!

5. Adopt a mini-yoga practice of Sun Salutations.

As we move into the darkest months of the year, make a point to do some special "sun appreciation" whenever you can.

You could simply face east and perform a few Sun Salutations in the morning. Or if you’re stuck inside, be sure to go out sometime during the daylight hours, even just for a few minutes.

Face the sun and take a few minutes to simply stand still and feel its warmth. Envision it flowing into your mind, heart, and body, and send back a little "thank you" for its light.

Practicing an attitude of gratitude can be difficult in such chaotic times — but it's worth it.

It may feel difficult sometimes to notice and celebrate all of the countless things you have to be grateful for, particularly when life feels chaotic, uncertain, or downright scary.

Maybe it’s a nurturing relationship, a special tree in the park, a grounding spiritual community, or just a phone call with an old friend.

Then, in the spirit of Thanksgiving which accompanies this autumn harvest season, express your gratitude often and out loud.

See if you don't feel an inner shift — maybe a re-anchoring — that can carry you through the upcoming holidays and into the new year.

RELATED: People With These 5 Personality Traits Know The True Meaning Of Gratitude

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Deborah Roth is a Life & Career Transition Coach and Interfaith Minister who founded Spirited Living™ to help guide spirited women and men through life’s big changes with joy and ease. Call Deborah today at 212-665-9660 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation, or email her at Deborah@SpiritedLiving.com