If there is ever a time to focus on gratitude, certainly it is during this season of Thanksgiving. Studies have shown that there are many benefits to finding and expressing gratitude on a regular basis, including increased happiness, improved physical and mental health, better life satisfaction, decreased levels of depression, and improvements in social connections, resiliency, and humility. It seems simple, and yet it can be difficult to put into practice during difficult times – which is actually when you need it the most.
For many people, the practice of gratitude takes, well, practice! Some of the parents who attend our parent support meetings* are struggling, like I am, with a child who is suffering or in crisis. And when you are in pain, it’s often hard to find gratitude. We get it. Which is actually why we ask each participant to share something they are grateful for at the end of every parent support meeting of The Parent Support Network.
At a recent parent support meeting of The Parent Support Network, a mom asked, “what if I simply don’t feel grateful right now?” Good question. I paused for a beat and said, “I get it. I’m having a tough time, too. But close your eyes and think about the small things. When you’re practicing gratitude, you can start with something very small. Like a good cup of coffee, or the fact that the sun is shining. Sometimes we think having gratitude must be about something big, but the reality is that acknowledging even small bits of gratitude can transform our negative thinking into positive thinking.” We each took turns sharing one small thing we were grateful for:family, breakfast, good weather, a kind teacher, a beloved dog or cat, a job, and good health.
Even though we all came to the parent support meeting with heavy hearts and concerns about our children, we ended the meeting visibly elevated by our expressions of gratitude. We felt connected, both in our pain and in our triumphs. These amazing and resilient parents reminded me that holding on to goodness by expressing gratefulness can not only boost your mood, but it can help you find hope for the future.