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Gratitude is an attitude, a perspective on life.
Having and expressing an attitude of gratitude helps reduce distress.
Sometimes it's a feeling, other times the feeling is not there. But, even with the feeling not there, we can have the attitude.
Looking through the "pair of glasses of gratitude", we have a certain perspective on life.
Sometimes when we are having a difficult time, it's hard to feel grateful and hard to have an attitude of gratitude. At those difficult times, we have to try hard to remember and focus on people, places, things, and experiences for which we are grateful.
Remembering and focusing: this is called nurturing an attitude of gratitude. After remembering and focusing, expressing our gratitude through words or actions nurtures it even more, and makes it more real and present in our life.
Psychological research shows we human beings much more easily remember negative events and this negativity will persist and overtake our consciousness, causing us to have a 'negative attitude' unless we balance the negative out by consciously remembering and expressing gratitude.
Sometimes, taking a couple of minutes each day to make a gratitude list and making a commitment to express gratitude can help us nurture an attitude of gratitude, and can help us let go of a negative attitude.
Taking the time to make a list and nurture an attitude of gratitude is not an attempt to make natural feelings like sadness, grief, hurt, or fear go away. Taking time to make the list, and think about who/what we have to be grateful for changes in perspective on these painful feelings and can help us deal with painful feelings. It is not to cover them up, or make them go away. It is looking at our life, even the difficult things, through the pair of glasses of gratitude.
Here's a suggestion on how to increase your attitude of gratitude:
Tom Lavin, MFT, LADC, ACATA
A private non profit organization dedicated to providing resources to mental health professionals