Developing an Attitude of Gratitude
Developing a “Gratitude Attitude” enables us to find the positive in those situations we perceive as being negative, says self-help author.
“I’m thankful for the promotion I received at work.” “I am grateful for the good health I enjoy.” “I am appreciative of the relationships that are part of my life.”
Sit down at any table this Thanksgiving and chances are you will hear some variation of the above statements. After all, it’s easy to recognize positive outcomes and express our appreciation for them. But recognizing and appreciating the good in those situations we perceive as negative is more difficult, or at times, downright impossible.
That’s where a “Gratitude Attitude” comes into play, helping us focus on what we gain from every occurrence in our life, says Nancy Christie, author of The Gifts of Change (Beyond Words Publishing).
“The benefit of having a ‘Gratitude Attitude’ became very apparent to me this past year, when my mother suffered a recurrence of the cancer that had plagued her since 1999,” explains Christie. “For six years, we had taken a positive approach, and expressed our thanks to God and the doctors each time it looked like she had beaten the odds. But following her last surgery in June, we all had to accept the fact that her condition was terminal. And to be quite honest, the concept of thankfulness didn’t initially seem to be relevant.”
But as she helped her parents cope during the last weeks of her mother’s life — a time she described as both heartbreaking and healing — Christie realized that there was still much to be grateful for. “Although it was very difficult to help my mother through this final transition in her life, it also gave me so many precious memories. Being able to provide some measure of comfort to her — not just medically but by talking and caring for her physical needs — comforted me as well. And although my Dad and I had always been close, this time of shared grief truly enhanced our relationship and made me realize anew how fortunate I am to have him as a father.”
That’s the whole point of developing a “Gratitude Attitude, she explains. “I could have spent those last weeks condemning the medical profession for failing to heal my mother or berating God for taking her from me. But that would have kept me from making the most of the time I had with her, and in the end, wouldn’t have changed the outcome. Instead, I tried to focus on the positive experiences those weeks gave me, which ultimately helped me deal with the loss.”
The Gifts of Change explores the idea of seeking out the good in all situations. In the chapter entitled “The Hidden Advantage of Hindrances,” Christie uses a quote from Elizabeth Kübler-Ross to illustrate the choice we all have when confronted by difficult experiences.
“In Death Is of Vital Importance, Kübler-Ross wrote that tragedies are not really tragedies unless we choose to make them so,” says Christie. “She pointed out that we can also see them as opportunities for growth and transition, as hints that our life needs to change.”
But adopting that approach isn’t easy, Christie admits. “When things don’t have the outcome we desire, we all tend to be what my husband calls ‘members of the Whiny Family.’ We complain about it, we blame others for it, we metaphorically kick the situation which only hurts us in the process.”
Knowing how difficult it can be to develop a “grateful approach” to life, Christie has created a “Developing a Gratitude Attitude” worksheet as part of the Workbook for Change available atwww.communityofchange.com.
“It’s a real test of one’s ability to uncover the positive in the face of adversity,” she notes. “We tend to dismiss that approach as ‘Pollyanna-ish’ but it’s really an empowering attitude. What we are saying in effect is that, while things may not be going the way we planned or hoped, we still have control over our responses and the ability to make even a bad situation work for us. A ‘Gratitude Attitude’ keeps us from wasting our mental and emotional energies fighting against what can’t be changed, and instead, encourages us to mine the situation for ‘hidden gold’ that enrich our lives.”
Need help making a change? Visit the Community of Change site for tips and strategies or to sign up for a “Rut-Busting” Workshop!
“Knowledge comes from questions, not answers”…Nancy Christie