5 ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude

November often commemorates the beginning of the Holiday season. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, there is often pressure to put on large parties and attend special events related to expressing gratitude for what we have. Unfortunately for many individuals, families, and stepfamilies the holidays often mark the beginning of a stressful time. Not everyone is able to experience gratitude and joy with ease.

Some individuals and families including stepfamilies experience feelings of regret over what they have not accomplished due to the approaching New Year. Many families often reflect and think about loved ones who are no longer a part of their daily lives. Some of us experience feelings of sadness over what we don’t and what we have not accomplished; have such as having a house vs. an apartment, a career vs. a job, romance vs. being single or an ideal relationship vs. the realities of the average relationship.

It’s natural to strive for more and to want to do better in life. If we didn’t, we would not be ambitious or goal-oriented people, would we? But the question becomes how do we exercise gratitude in the meantime before we achieve our personal, professional and relationship goals?

Finding gratitude when you are struggling with your finances, in the workplace, and within your personal relationships can feel impossible. You might be thinking the grass is greener on the other side and that you would feel “better” if only that one thing were different in your life. Although it can feel overwhelming and feel confusing about how to feel grateful in the meantime, it is possible to cultivate that attitude of gratitude.

Lack of gratitude

Continuing to feel ungrateful in the meantime, until you reach your personal and professional goals as a stepparent or as an individual could result in your own misery. Yes, it’s always great to take stock of your life and evaluate what needs to change but not having the capacity to be grateful for what is going right in your life can become a significant source of stress and anxiety.
Stepparenting and step-coupling just like with all other forms of parenting and coupling come with their challenges. As a stepparent, it may become easy for you to tell yourself if only I were in a ”regular” family “I would have fewer problems, worries, and stress.” It’s important to realize that all families’ and life situations come with some level of stress and unfavorable aspects included but not limited stepfamilies. If you’re single, you might be telling yourself that your life would be happier or more enjoyable if you only that special someone in your life. Keep in mind that not all couples are happily coupled.

Practicing Gratitude

If you don’t currently feel very grateful, that’s okay to acknowledge that realization. Gratitude is a practice that one has to engage in actively. Gratitude is something that comes naturally to some individuals and families but can be hard for others. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel very grateful in the present moment. Being open to the process and having a willingness to cultivating more gratitude is a good enough place to start.
Becoming more grateful may not feel natural in the beginning, but with practice, you will begin to feel more thankful for the things that are going well in your life. Exercising more gratitude can help you as a single parent, stepparent and as an individuals feel recharged and restored to fight the challenges, you face on a daily basis. Think of gratitude as the fuel necessary to get through the day. Gratitude helps you feel grounded enough to do the small daily tasks that will bring your personal and professional goals and passions into reality.

5 ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude all year round.

You might be doubting your ability to feel grateful if you’re currently feeling down in the dumps, but remember, you deserve the benefits that gratitude has to offer. Be kind and compassionate to yourself.

Take a look at these 5 ways you can cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

#5 Grieve

It’s easy for many stepmoms to think about what they don’t have such as the loss of privacy, not running their homes in the way they envisioned and the realization that they will never come first in their partner’s lives. As stated previously start with being honest with yourself about the things you are not so happy or grateful for. It’s okay to vent to yourself and wish things were different. Honor the place you are in presently within your gratitude journey. If you are feeling angry and resentful about your situation be honest with yourself and grieve what you don’t have or what you think you deserve.

A lack of gratitude is usually rooted in feeling a sense of loss about what you think you deserve but don’t have in your life currently. You might feel a sense of loss over not being the first person to give your partner a child, not having children of your own or the fact that your partner doesn’t want to get married again. All of your feelings are valid. Give yourself some time to adjust to and accept these symbolic losses and what they meant to you. The sooner you acknowledge your hurt and grieve you are in a much better position to heal and move through your feelings. Acknowledging and grieving symbolic losses is a necessary step in moving toward a greater sense of gratitude.

#4 Unfollow people accordingly

It’s hard to feel grateful when you are surrounded by people who make you feel bad about yourself or your life circumstances. It’s great to look at hair, makeup and workout tutorials for inspiration but it’s another thing when you compare yourself to the people you follow on social media so much that you begin to dislike yourself. Comparing yourself to people may be inspiring but ask yourself honestly “Do I feel better or worse after looking through this person’s social media page? When you look at endless pages of #Relationship goals does it make you feel like you’re not measuring up as a single person or as a stepparent? Try this experiment and unfollow those people, instead replace them with people who are both inspiring and relatable. You may notice that when you are intentional about who you follow you may feel better about yourself and your level of gratitude may begin to increase.
Unfollowing may seem like something that can be done only on social media, but you can unfollow people in real life as well. Are you surrounded by people who are always bragging or trying to one-up you when it comes to their lifestyle, their career or their parenting style? It’s okay to take a break from people in our lives to cultivate your own wellbeing and to improve your sphere of gratitude.

#3 Gratitude Journal

As with all things practice makes better. The more you exercise your gratitude muscle, the more you will be able to find inspiration around you regarding things to be grateful for. Keeping a gratitude journal could be an excellent way to help improve your ability to be thankful for what you have. When some people hear the word gratitude journal, they might think you need to have long journal entries every single day. Instead, try to journal one time per week for about one to two weeks. After that, try to increase your journal entries to 2 times per week and so on until you are able to contribute to a gratitude journal on a consistent basis. This journal could keep you grounded and centered on help cultivate your gratitude. You write about the small things that you are grateful for, your health, having a place to live, clean water and food to eat. Sometimes when we think about feeling grateful, we assume that our gratitude has to be about tremendous accomplishments when it comes to appreciating the challenge is in thinking of the small things we often take for granted. For example, you can be grateful for waking up in the morning, or for your car, or for your good friends or your pet. The list is endless the more you practice, the more you will spot things around you to be thankful for.

#2 Giving back

Take some time to think about the things you are passionate about in life. What causes can you champion? You don’t have to change your career to find a passion project. Improving gratitude could be gained through volunteering your time regarding something that motivates you and makes you feel energized. Volunteering and giving back holds within it the possibility to create ripples of change within your community and within yourself. Signing up for Habitat for Humanity, passing out food to the homeless, or improving literacy in your community are all great ways to give back and to help change your perspective and develop a greater sense of gratitude.

#1 Reflecting on how far you have come

To do lists are popular with some people. Consider the benefits of creating a weekly or monthly to done list. A “to done” list is a record of all that you have accomplished. Sometimes we lose track of who we are and our accomplishments. Keeping a running tally with a “to done” list can help you realize that there is much to be grateful for regarding how far you have truly come. Your “to done” list doesn’t have to be comprised of large goals it can be small things you have done for yourself or for others throughout the day, week or month. Did you talk to a friend when she was down? Did you show up to work on time? Or have taken the first step on attaining a personal goal? All of these actions are things to find gratitude in. Keeping track of your daily, weekly monthly, and yearly accomplishments will spark and cultivate your gratitude muscle.

If you would like to talk to a therapist about your experience as an individual, stepparent, or single parent and need a safe space to work through the challenges you may face on a daily basis, please call (562) 275-8371 to schedule a free 15-minute consultation.

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