“Be joyful even when you have considered all the facts.” —Wendell Berry
Jennifer has recently been through a painful divorce and she’s not sleeping well. She’s having difficulties with her children, who blame her for the divorce. Her work life is rocky as well, and sometimes she’s unsure if she’s in the right career.
What she thinks: Yes, life is rough right now, but every life has difficult times. Really, I am so grateful to be alive, for my children, for my home, my good health, all that I have.
Robert has lots of everything—a nice apartment in the city, a well-paying job, new car, nice clothes. But he didn’t get that last promotion at work. His last vacation was a disappointment, and no matter how hard he tries, he just can’t save money.
What he thinks: I just don’t understand why things are going wrong. It just doesn’t seem fair when I work so hard. People don’t appreciate me and I deserve better than this.
Robert’s approach is about holding a grievance—about what’s missing or wrong. Jennifer’s is about being grateful for all you have.
Gratitude isn’t a new idea; most spiritual practices and philosophies emphasize gratitude and compassion for others. But in recent years gratitude has shifted from being an idea to a concrete tool that people can use to become happier and healthier. This practice focuses on appreciating what others have done for you and de-emphasizes being angry or blaming others for your problems.
“When we develop a sense of appreciation for those around us and cultivate a sense of gratitude for life itself, we are relieved of the burden that comes with seeing ourselves as ‘victims,’” writes Greg Krech in Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection.
Krech calls this state of appreciation “grace,” a term used in many religions. However, grace as a practice is not a belief as much as a shift in thinking. Or as Krech puts it: “It’s the difference between seeing life as an entitlement and seeing it as a gift.”
However it is practiced, gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Yes, pain and injustice and cruelty exist in this world. But when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. We often feel more energized to reach out and help others; we feel we have some power to positively affect our world. This again leads to a feeling of well-being…and gratitude. It’s a self-sustaining cycle!
In her book Radical Gratitude, author and speaker Ellen Vaughn tells the story of a soldier in Vietnam, imprisoned as a POW for seven years. When he returned to the United States, he was startled at the small things people complained about. He decided then he would never stop being grateful for everything in his life, no matter how difficult.
Of course, most of us don’t have such extreme experiences to help us count our blessings. In their book Seasons of Grace: The Life-Giving Practice of Gratitude, authors Alan Jones and John O’Neil write that practicing gratitude can be as simple as writing a thank you note, working in the garden, walking on the beach aware of nature’s gifts, telling someone you love what you appreciate about him/her. According to them, it’s even more than what you do, it’s the attitude with which you do it.
Consider the following exercise for putting gratitude into action in our relationships with people close to us, whether they be spouses, friends, children or business partners:
Now try it on yourself!
To help you on your gratitude journey, here are 8 ways to have more gratitude in your daily life.
I really recommend keeping a gratitude journal. Every day write at least 3 things that you are grateful for. If you write these just before going to bed you fall asleep with that feeling of gratitude which will attract more of that feeling into your life. It is all about having the energy of gratitude every day. The more you feel grateful the more you will have to feel grateful for.
Cultivate your attitude of gratitude!
Written by Wanda Davis, M.Sc., B.Sc., B.Ed.
Reiki Master/Teacher | Professional Speaker | Co-Author of International Best Selling Book, Are You Missing the Piece and Getting Well: Mind, Body and Spirit.
www.WandaDavis.ca 226-374-9045 firstname.lastname@example.org
Why it’s OK to get your kids’ backs when the going gets tough.
I’m a mom of a boy, and any moms of boys out there know that there’s something special between moms and sons. But it wasn’t until I had a son of my own that I truly understood that bond.
When he was a baby he was my everything. He still is, but it’s taken on a new meaning. While I still have to meet his needs as a mom, I realized a couple of years ago that as he gets older I need to meet his emotional needs…times a thousand. It’s not just about hugging and kissing when they have a bad dream. Hold on to your hats, parents. It gets harder.
I haven’t shied away from talking about Cooper’s struggles in grade one. He didn’t adjust well to the transition of play-based learning to the structure of the primary grades. I watched as he grew more and more angry and frustrated, full of anxiety about doing school work. It escalated to him throwing things around the classroom, wiping things off the principal’s desk and getting sent home on a regular basis. Emotions ran high as we were all trying to figure out what was going on in his tiny head to make him so angry. We followed the teacher’s plan to consequence him at home if he had a troubling day at school. AFTER he was consequenced all day by the teacher. He was sometimes afraid to see me after school.
I watched him become sad and confused. He called himself a “bad boy.” If he wasn’t in tears, he was angry. If we were confused as parents, I can only imagine how confused he was. No one was listening to him and he was in trouble all the time. He felt he had nowhere to turn to.
While I wanted to get to the root of the problem, the teachers were after something else. One teacher told me he was the “most aggressive child we’ve seen without a diagnosis.” He was six. At six years-old they were looking for a diagnosis, and we knew what that meant. Test him for ADHD. We refused.
It wasn’t until April of that year, that the struggles came to a head, and I truly became the mama bear. Things weren’t getting better with Cooper, so we were called to a meeting at the school. I remember sitting at that table with the school principal, vice principal, teacher and special education teacher, telling me and my husband that our kid didn’t fit in a box. Eluding and to the fact that he needed to be tested. I remember saying, he’s only six! In my mind, jumping to the ADHD theory before examining all other angles wasn’t the answer. I know many parents have tested their kids and had great success. I just wanted to make sure it was the right choice, with my doctor too. Plus, as a mom, you kind of just know there’s more to your kid!
We left the meeting with a safety plan and IEP, and a lump in my throat. How could they say my son was something at school that he wasn’t at home? Why wouldn’t they work with me to find other solutions? Most of all, why was everyone else against this kid, except me? I was livid, hurt and so confused.
That day ignited something in me that I hadn’t felt before. I knew right then and there that no one would be his advocate more than me. No one would be his biggest fan more than me. Two years later, that is still true. I now take a huge role in his academics. I work with his teachers (all who have been absolutely wonderful) to ensure we are on the same page and agree on how to handle my son. I am fierce in my way of parenting which is positive and firm but offer a lot of love. I don’t consequence at home if he is in trouble for something at school that is handled by the teachers. We talk about it but he won’t get second consequences at home. I want him to feel safe at home, emotionally and physically.
Over the years he has taken great strides and has eliminated the IEP and the safety plan and hasn’t been sent home. His behaviour problems have gone away and he thrives with some great friendships with peers and teachers. Is that because he felt like there are people on his side now? We have no clue, but whatever happened, it worked.
I’m still a mama bear. That will never go away. I’ll always be his biggest advocate and I won’t apologize for it. And if he is a mama’s boy when he’s older, that’s ok. I’m married to one, and he’s a pretty good guy!
Written by Apryl Monro from This Kinda Life! Check them out!
Sarah Lajeunesse and Apryl Munro became fast friends while working together as news Videographers with Rogers TV in Simcoe County in 2004. They covered countless breaking news stories over the years and learned so much about the area, the people and the community as a whole.