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Catch and Don’t Release: That Gratitude Attitude!

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It’s been twenty years now since a caring neighbor and friend challenged me to change my ATTITUDE.  It was a difficult time for me as suddenly my life became filled with darkness, doubt and pain.  My Spouse of almost 20 years had recently been diagnosed as having a brain tumor and given only a few months to live.  While he was fighting a battle to survive for as long as possible by receiving daily treatments of both Chemo and Radiation, I was trying to continue to raise five children and eventually became a caregiver of a man who couldn’t even remember how to brush his teeth.
My friend encouraged me to read and study a book that contained wise advice, “Simple Abundance  A Daybook of Comfort and Joy,”  She provided me with a beautiful Journal and instructed me to take a few minutes each day to write down 5 things that I was grateful for.  Although at the time I doubted that such a simple task could improve my mood and change my ATTITIUDE  I took on the challenge.  As I began to focus on what I HAD rather than what I lacked my burdens became lighter and my soul was filled with joy and hope.  Now 20 years later this small and simple task has become not only a habit but a ritual I look forward to performing.
Remember there is no right or wrong way to keep a gratitude journal.  While doing so you will discover what works best for you, but here are some tips:
1-  Keep a physical record.  Write things down.  Just don’t think about these things in your head.
2-  Look for the small things that may seem trivial,small or unimportant.
3-  Include a narrative as to WHY you are grateful.
4-  Focus on people as well as things you are grateful for.
5-  Record unexpected events or surprises.
6-  Write regularly.  Commit to a certain day and or time and be consistent.  New evidence has shown that writing 1-3 times a week can be more effective than writing daily,
7-  Set a goal to write for at least 15 minutes each time.
8- Try it!  You’ll  like it!
It’s easy to take the people who we love and the good things in our lives for granted.  Keeping a gratitude journal will improve your relationships with others, improve your sense of well being, and enable you to enjoy greater happiness and better health.
So… Catch but DON’T release that “GRATITUDE ATTITUDE!”  Doing so has made an incredible difference in my life and it can in yours too.
Sue Hodges  LCSW Wasatch Family Therapy

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5 Tips for Creating a Peaceful Holiday Season

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At the beginning of November my mom sent me a text that read “I just saw my first Christmas commercial of the season…. I’m starting to feel anxious.”  It was meant as a joke between us because of how early the commercial side of Christmas starts.  All joking aside, Christmas can be a very stressful time for a lot of people.  Personally, I can become overwhelmed at Christmas time.  The shopping.  The parties.  The neighbor gifts.  The decorating.  The list goes on and on.  I thought sharing some tips on how I stay peaceful and stress free during this time of year would be helpful.

1) Identify what triggers your anxiety during the holidays.  This seems like a no brainer, but is so important to decreasing your stress.  Is it handing out neighbor gifts?  Is putting up Christmas lights going to send you over the edge?  Figure out what causes so much anxiety and then…

2) Identify what causes you the most joy during this time of season.  Cookie making?  Decorating the tree?  If it brings joy write it down.  At this point you should have a list of what causes you stress and what causes you joy.  Once you have that list…

3) Prioritize.  This time of year is not about doing every last Christmas activity, or attending each and every party to which you received an invitation.  If that is what brings you joy then by all means please enjoy those parties.  If party attendance is on your list of triggers then prioritize which parties are the most important and regretfully decline the others.  The idea is to bring joy into this time of year and push out the things that cause so much stress.  This may change every year.  One year at my house, to decrease stress, we only put up stockings and a Christmas tree.  Another year we only attended select Christmas parties.  We prioritized what was important to us and let the other stuff fall by the wayside.

4) Make special time for yourself and your significant other.  There is so much emphasis on family this time of year.  That is such a wonderful thing.  I love being together with my family and close friends.  Sometimes we forget that we need time for ourselves that does not include Christmas shopping or planning Christmas magic for our family.  Take some time for yourself to relax and enjoy the sights and smells of the season.  Take time with your spouse to be together without throngs of people around.  It will make a big difference.
5) Be grateful.  Being grateful always grounds me to be content and joyful.  Especially at this time of year I love to keep a daily gratitude journal.  It helps keep me centered on what I already have instead of what I need or want as gifts from other people.  Everyday take an inventory of the blessings you have in your life.  It will create a wonderful perspective for the season.
Good luck!  Hopefully as you create and maintain some good boundaries this year your holiday season will be less stressful and more enjoyable.
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