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  • Melissa Ballard LCSW

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude the Realistic Way

Have an attitude of gratitude! That sentence used to annoy me. Why? It seemed trite and silly. There was/is/will be so MUCH going on in the world. Have you read the news?! Be grateful for what, pray tell? Then, one day it finally made sense. I couldn’t tell you why it made sense suddenly, but it did.

The point is not to focus on the misgivings, abject hatred or peculiarities of my fellow people…but to focus on the beauty that exists. Sometimes, that beauty exists even within the monster.

Think about it. We focus so much on getting rid of what we perceive as bad, but then upon further examination we learn that while the thing, whatever it is, may be a nuisance…it may not be bad.

Dandelions. The bane of every gardener’s existence. They pop up everywhere and seemingly reduce the beauty of a well-kept garden. You're constantly plucking and pulling, spraying and tending. Step away from the garden for one week and you’ll have as many dandelions as days!

But are they truly bad? They are a favorite of our besties, the honeybee. If we choose to consume the flowers ourselves, they can help reduce blood pressure and bloating. If we choose to consume the leaves, they can help our livers. There are many medicinal remedies to be found in what we consider a nuisance.

So, what of other things in our lives that many of us can agree are a nuisance. Traffic. Loud neighbors. Horrendous supervisors. Low pay or failing technology. Is there something to be grateful for even in these bad situations? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But even outside of these situations, there are reasons to be grateful.

I had a supervisor that treated me very poorly. Nothing I did could satisfy them. I worked diligently, stayed late, and did my best for the individuals I served. But for the supervisor, it was never enough. I could leave the story there, but it wouldn’t be complete. While those things are true…I also had friends that listened to me. I had access to the gym and acupuncture and I took FULL advantage of both. I was housed in a safe location and had all the lil oatmeal my heart desired (I do not cook). And, while I may have endured scorching heat in the summer, my winters were warm and content with books and hot chocolate.

There's no toxic positivity stance here from me. Both good and bad existed and are true. I had a deplorable supervisor that cost me hours of sleep AND I was safe and warm in my own home with hot chocolate and oatmeal.

So, what do you do to develop this attitude of gratitude? Well, there are a few methods. My favorite is taking account of the entire situation through checking any Automatic Negative Thoughts. Horrible boss, but my friends stepped up to support me when I needed it most. There is also the GLAD Method. It’s an invitation to take a beat and reflect on things for which you are Grateful (anything that brings a smile or sparks joy), something you Learned (new insight? Something from history?), an Accomplishment (self-care totally fits here) and something that brought you Delight (a good book? Children laughing?).

You must be deliberate in your intention to find something to be grateful for. It will NOT always be easy. Sometimes, it will be an absolute struggle, but that is okay. Don’t hold back on things for which you are grateful. Express them freely to those who are likeminded. It may not go as well with those who are intentional in not holding this mindset. Some will be dismissive. Some may be judgmental. But are their beliefs and words helping or hindering you? Question the source, always.

You can choose to have written reminders around your home or work. You could choose to have pictures of family, friends, places, things that cause beautiful reflection. Or you could choose to include it in your journaling practice at the beginning of your day or just before you take your rest at the end of the day. There are those who will debate which is better. You’ll not find that here. Do the one that is authentic and sustainable for your life and schedule as it stands…no judgements.

So. What are you grateful for?


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