A lot of people arenít very good at looking at the positive. I hear a lot of negativity, blaming and complaining daily in my counseling office, and I find the more negative people are, the worse their lives work. Talking about how bad it all is seems to be quite popular. When I can break through this fashionable bad attitude enough to get my clients begin thinking of what can be done to fix the problem (rather than how awful it all is) things soon begin to improve.
Of course parts of life are hard; things don't always go right. We all grieve at loss; we hurt sometimes; we can feel tired and overwhelmed.
But when you make the effort to see the other side, this very same life can also be full of delight and joy. When we look with gratitude, we remember the people we have lost also filled many days with laughter and friendship. Loyal friends rally round and support us when we get hurt, tired or discouraged.
For clients who complain that they're lonely and lost, I point out all the wonderful opportunities they have to connect with others. If you're out of a job, sure that's hard, and sure job hunting takes time -- but it also gives you time to spend with people -- which can be absolutely free, if you arrange it that way. There is no charge for walks on the beach, sitting on the porch at sunset talking, or helping each other with your resumes.
I knew someone who was fond of quoting research that claims depressed, pessimistic people have a more accurate view of reality than optimistic, happy types. What I want to know is whose lives work better: the depressed people who are supposedly more "realistic", or the happy, "unrealistic" ones. This charge of unreality connected to a happy outlook is more of the modern, fashionable "downer" attitude.
We don't get to choose everything that happens to us in life -- but we do have many powerful choices to make, including how we respond to what happens to us. If you constantly see the most negative interpretation (half a glass being half empty, rather than half full), your demeanor will reflect that negativity. If you seem depressed, down or angry most of the time, others will respond to that negatively -- by rejecting or criticizing you. No one can handle being around a person who is down most of the time -- it saps the joy out of life.
The opposite is true when youíre optimistic and grateful for what you have.
It's probably easier to show gratitude when you're not overwhelmed by largesse and opportunity. Itís easyto take it all for granted, when we have so much. But, in my practice and in my own life, I see the result of remembering to stop and be grateful. Counting blessings enhances your life, by increasing your awareness of what you have, what you've accomplished, and the love you experience. It enhances relationships by reminding you to say "thank you" and getting the reward of spouses and friends who feel appreciated, and thus motivated to give/love/share more. Celebration + Appreciation = Motivation.
Here are some easy tips on how to feel more thankful:.
*Take some time each day to be thankful (ideally, to your Higher Power, God, the Angels, The Saints, the Universe, Mother Earth/Nature, or whatever you see as a Supreme Being) for each and every thing that comes your way. Do this silently, for yourself, not ostentatiously, to impress others. If you say a grace before meals, say it silently, and think about how fortunate you are.
*Keep a list for one week about every good thing that comes your way -- a funny e-mail, a phone call, a business success, a loving gesture. At the end of the week, you'll be astounded at how much you receive.
*Saying "Thank You" to your partner allows both of you to feel valued. Gratitude is powerful, and, used properly, a much greater motivator than demanding, criticizing, or nagging. Creative thank you's are the most powerful kind. It's easy to scope out what kind of thank you will be memorable for a particular person, when youíre paying attention. Recognition is a powerful motivating factor, and a little gratitude can go a long way.
*Whenever a negative thought comes to mind, counter it with a feeling of thanks for something that is good in your life. Change your focus from what's wrong to what is right.
*Start counting what you already have that you cherish. Consider beginning a gratitude journal, and noting all the positive things, beloved possessions, and tender moments you experience. Or, start a gratitude jar, and note down on scraps of paper all the positive things, beloved friends, favorite possessions, and tender moments you experience in your own life and store them in the jar. Then whenever you feel another pang, pull out a few papers and read them. You'll find that reminding yourself of all you have to be grateful for will cheer you up and help you remember that your life is a good one.
Looking for the blessings in every day will maximize your awareness of how lucky you are, and increase the luck that comes your way. I think of it the same way I think of receiving a gift. If I receive good things by thinking "It's about time", then who would want to give me more? But, if I receive gifts with gratitude and pleasure, then the giver wants to give me more. I think life works the same way.
May your life be full of good things.
Adapted from: Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Squabbling About the Three Things That Can Destroy Your Marriage (Adams Media) ISBN# 978-1-59869-325-6
© Tina B.Tessina, 2007
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. http://www.tinatessina.com is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California, with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 11 books, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page); How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page); The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) and The Real 13th Step: Discovering Self-Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs (New Page.) Her newest books, out from Adams Press in 2008: Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage and Commuter Marriage. She publishes Happiness Tips from Tina, an e-mail newsletter, and the "Dr. Romance Blog" http://drromance.typepad.com/dr_romance_blog/ and has hosted "The Psyche Deli: delectable tidbits for the subconscious" a weekly hour long radio show. She is an online expert, answering relationship questions at www.CouplesCompany.com and Yahoo!Personals, as well as a Redbook Love Network expert and "Psychology Smarts" columnist for First for Women.Dr. Tessina guests frequently on radio, and on such TV shows as "Oprah", "Larry King Live" and ABC news.