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Giving Thanks in Tough Times

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An attitude of thankfulness, I believe, is one of the most difficult attitudes for humans to have much less maintain. Think about it. When things are going well, we’re too wrapped up to say thank you. If things are going poorly, we’re too focused on our misery to be thankful for the good times we had.

Being thankful during the hard times can be especially difficult. Whether you’re a religious person or a non-religious person, finding thankfulness and ways to be express how thankful you are, can literally change your life.

Giving Thanks for Mental Health

Finding ways to practice active thankfulness can change your mental health for the better. Counting your blessings has shown, in studies, to improve mood and decrease depression. And why wouldn’t it? By practicing thankfulness, you’re turning your focus away from the negative things going on in your life and focusing on the positive things. In families, or on your own, practicing active gratitude helps individuals:

  • Feel more positivity
  • Enjoy more depth to their good experiences
  • Improve all aspects of health
  • Improve moood
  • Tackle challenges and adversity more succesfully
  • Build stronger relationships

Getting your family involved in active gratitude can show a marked improvement in relationships between parents and children, and between siblings. And it doesn’t have to be difficult either – simply thanking someone in a specific fashion when they do something can get you started!

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Choosing Active Thanks

When times are tough and you’re struggling to be thankful, choose active thanks. Choose giving thanks. Active thanks is a choice – it’s the decision to stop and think of something, then be thankful for it. Somedays you may struggle to practice active thankfulness. On those days, we have found it’s always best to take a few minutes to focus on the blessings we have and to say thanks for them.

Husbando and I both suffer from depression. Sometimes our life is absolutely insane with family medical issues, or our finances are just not where we need them to be. Negativity can easily drown someone who already has a chemical imbalance that pushes them underwater. When times are tough like that, and we can’t even take a minute to stop and write a list of blessings, I always look at him and say, “But no matter how tough things are – we have a roof over our head, we have food in our fridge, and we have people who love us. And that is enough.”

And it is enough.

A great way to get yourself into the practice of giving thanks is to start a journal. It doesn’t have to be much. Keep it by your bed and at the end or beginning of each day, write down three to five things that you are thankful for. Gratitude takes practice. At first, you may find that you struggle to find more than a handful of things and end up repeating them a few days in a row. Other times you may find that things are so tough you genuinely only have a few things to be thankful for.

It doesn’t matter. Write them down and take a moment to be thankful for what you do have.

Otherways to practice thankfulness and gratitude are equally easy! You can write a quick note to someone thanking them for the ways they have impacted your life. Spend time in the evening with the family and go around the dinner table. Give each person a chance to share something they are thankful for. Build a habit of thankfulness and giving thanks; it will stay with you even during the dark times of your life.

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Maintaining Thankfulness in Tough Times

During times of grief and frustration it is hard to keep up an attitude of gratefulness, but being thankful is even more important during these times. The best advice we can give you when it comes to being thankful during tough times is to stop and reset. Every time you feel as though the darkness is going to drown you, stop and find just one thing to be thankful for.

Holidays are some of the most difficult times, sadly, to maintain thankfulness, even with a whole holiday dedicated to Thanksgiving. Those who are alone, who are separated from their loved ones, or struggling with healthy relationships often lose themselves during these times and sink into the waters of despair. Release these toxic emotions and find something, anything, to be thankful for. No matter how far underwater you may feel, things can always go back up. The first step is giving thanks.

For more on the science of gratitude, check out these links:

Positive Psychology – Neuroscience of Gratitude

Nationwide Children’s Org – The Mental Health Benefits of Gratitude

Harvard Medical School – Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier

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