Cultivating the Attitude of Gratitude

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. 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 diagnosed with late stage cancer and dealing with all of the challenges involved with 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 blackberry, 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.

Shortly after that, my son had an accident that changed his life forever when his hand was severely crushed in a piece of equipment. Reconstructive surgery was required on his (dominant) hand which was temporarily grafted to his abdomen to provide a blood supply to his traumatized tissues and bones. Later, once that graft took hold, his hand was separated from his abdomen and he began the long journey of three years of several major reconstructive surgeries and daily physical therapy.

I was grateful for many things in this situation. I was grateful that he had experienced and well-respected hand surgeons, who were also a warm and caring human beings. I was grateful that he was wearing a glove when the accident occurred (we were told he probably would have lost his hand without that glove), which gave him a few extra seconds of protection from the machinery. I was grateful that his friends stood by him, came to visit him and lifted his spirits. I was grateful that he still had one working hand. I was grateful that his thumb did not need reconstruction. And I was and still am grateful for the healing energy and spirit that moved through his body (and still does), connecting those newly reconstructed tendons and mending his crushed and broken bones.

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 Health, certified clinical hypnotherapist and licensed psychotherapist, trained in nutrition and natural health. She has been helping others for more than 3 decades. Her office is in Valencia, California, and she can be reached at (661) 250-4395 or (661) 255-3388, or