Cultivating the Attitude of Gratitude
— By Elena Michaels, PhD, CCH, LMFT
You may have heard it said before, that to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, is desirable. It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? However, when we are facing a difficult situation, it is often hard to find something to be grateful for. Yet, it is important to find those things to bring about that emotional state of gratitude.
If you are concerned about finances and feel that you don’t have enough money in your bank account, you have options. One of them is to focus on “how little” you have, and the other is to focus on “how much” you have in your account. The energy goes where we focus, so if we are focusing in on “how little” we have, or “how bad things are”, that’s where the energy goes. If we focus on “how much” we have, or “what is good” in our life, that is where the energy goes.
Life has it’s trials and tribulations, and we cannot control many of the events going on around us. But we can control our responses to those events, and that is where to focus. It is very empowering to focus on what we can change when facing a difficult situation.
When I was dealing with cancer (I was diagnosed with late stage cancer in but am happy to say that I am now cancer-free), it was very important for me to write in my gratitude journal every night before bed. On the days when I was very sick, anxious, and frightened, I would work hard to focus on things that were wonderful in my life. The warmth and joy of hugging a loved one, the sound of a bird chirping outside my window, the caring smile of a concerned nurse, and the burst of flavor in a ripe raspberry, were all things that were written in my journal. I did my best to focus on what I was grateful for, and what was good in my life.
When my son had an accident that changed his life, I had to look closely to find things about it for which I was grateful. His hand was severely injured in a piece of equipment. Reconstructive surgery was required on his (dominant) hand which was temporarily grafted to his abdomen. After the skin graft took hold and his hand was surgically separated from his abdomen, several additional surgeries followed. He had a very long road of recovery and daily physical therapy.
I was grateful for many things in this situation. I am grateful that he had experienced and well-respected hand surgeons, who were also warm and caring human beings. I am grateful that he was wearing a glove, as he probably would have lost his hand without that glove, which gave him a few extra seconds of protection from the machinery. I am grateful that his friends stood by him and came to visit him and lift his spirits. I am grateful that he still has one fully functioning hand. I am grateful that his thumb did not need reconstruction. I am grateful for the healing energy and spirit that moved through his body connecting his newly reconstructed tendons and mending his broken bones as they healed around the many screws that were inserted into his hand. I am grateful for that healing energy that is still moving through his body, even now as I write this.
Our bodies are designed to mend and heal…this is apparent when we cut ourselves and watch the skin come back together again. I am grateful for the healing spirit in all living things. Regardless of your situation, find the things in your life that you are grateful for. Even when it seems like there is nothing to be grateful for, look again, and you will find something. The softness of a flower petal, the beautiful blue of the sky, the unconditional love of a pet coming to sit in your lap (my cat was a wonderful healer for me during the cancer challenge), the sensation of the breeze on your cheek…find these gifts and savor them, for they are precious.
Remember, the more helpful question is not, “Why did this happen”? Instead, it is, “What can I do about what is happening”. The answer is a very empowering response of “Plenty”! Focus on what you are grateful for, and you will feel truly blessed!
Elena Michaels is a Doctor of Natural Health, clinical hypnotherapist and licensed psychotherapist trained in nutrition. Her office is in Valencia, California, and she can be reached at (661) 250-4395, (661) 255-3388 and www.DrElena.com