Thanksgiving is literally a celebration of giving thanks. Every year on Thanksgiving, people gather around the dinner table with friends and family and express gratitude for a variety of things: good health, kind neighbors, and at a minimum, a day off from work. But, what if you find it hard to express gratitude? What if gratefulness feels somehow awkward or New Age-y?
Many people find giving thanks to be complicated. This can affect your relationship with your partner and family. Some clients in my Potomac MD marriage counseling office tell me that their life seems perfect on the outside, but on the inside, they’re plagued by anxiety, stress, and moments of unhappiness. They report feeling guilty because they have “so much to be grateful for,” but when faced with the task of listing things their grateful for, their mind goes blank. Gratitude really can feel like a loaded word. Here are some ways to take the pressure off of yourself:
1). “Good enough” journal. Most people are familiar with the idea of a gratitude journal, the daily practice of writing down a few grateful sentiments from the day. For those of us who struggle with gratitude or who don’t feel grateful unless things are “perfect,” a gratitude journal can be an exercise in frustration. Instead, you might try sitting down a few times a week (instead of daily) and identifying a few things that went “well enough” or things that could have gone worse, but didn’t. You might be surprised with what this exercise brings – I often recommend it to my Potomac MD marriage counseling clients.
2). Be present. If you’re running from one task to another, it may be hard to recall moments that went well throughout the day. Speaking from personal experience as a Rockville MD family counseling therapist, on whirlwind days, I oftentimes find it hard to feel grateful in the midst of exhaustion. Take a few moments each day to sit in silence, without checking your phone or To Do list. You might feel grateful, or maybe not. Either way, a moment of silence in a busy life and a hectic world should be considered a win.
Research tells us that identifying and expressing gratitude improves physical and psychological health, enhances empathy, and improves sleep, self-esteem, and mental strength, while reducing aggression. If you’re struggling to find the bright moments in your life and other aspects of your life have also been challenging, you might want to reach out to a Rockville MD family counseling therapist for additional support. A kind, compassionate ear might help you find more moments of happiness and joy.