The Key to Happiness is Gratitude – not Attitude

4 Ways to Practice Gratitude:

Having a positive attitude is a great way to face life every day, but if you do not know how to embrace and practice gratitude, you may still be unhappy.  In the busy world we live in, it can be very difficult to be grateful, especially when we are facing challenges with our relationships, family, finances, or health issues.  Many times in counseling, clients will tell me they are optimistic and have a positive attitude, but they still feel unhappy.  This is usually a result of a disconnect existing between what they are thinking and feeling.  To be happy and healthy regardless of life’s circumstances, we must allow ourselves to connect our thoughts with emotions and spiritual beliefs.  Try these four easy ways to practice embracing gratitude every day.  Then notice how you start feeling calmer and happier even when your circumstances stay the same. 

Be Thankful Two Times a Day:  When gratitude is at the beginning and end of your day – every day will be a good one.  Two things will happen to every person every day…we wake up and we go to sleep.  How we start and end our day is essential to our state of happiness.  Regardless of what time we get up or go to sleep, most of us have some kind of routine like taking a shower and getting dressed in the morning or getting our bed clothes on and saying “good night” to our loved ones in the evening.  Although we can’t always control how our day will go, we can always find something to be grateful for.   Metal health experts suggest that expressing gratitude can be a great way to start and end your day in a way that nurtures our mental and emotional wellbeing.  Try making it a habit during your morning and evening routine to express gratitude out loud and notice how different your days are!    

Be Specific in Your Gratitude:  Be sure to be specific when you are acknowledging what you are thankful for.  Try saying both what you THINK and how you FEEL.  This allows the brain to think specifically and connect with a feeling emotionally so you are more likely to be positively impacted for overall wellbeing.  For example, don’t just say, “I am thankful to be healthy”, but think about what being healthy means for you.  Instead, say, “I am so thankful that I can see the beautiful colors of the clothes I am wearing today, because wearing this outfit makes me feel pretty”, or, “I am so thankful I can ride bikes with my daughter today after school because I feel happy when we spend time together riding bikes.”   

Share Your Gratitude:  Text, email, tweet, facebook, or call someone and share your specific thoughts and feelings of gratitude with other people.  Try it…it only takes a few minutes to share what you are thankful for with your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, store clerks, waiters, or whoever you have an opportunity to connect with.  This is a way to “pay it forward”…sharing your gratitude with others will be a blessing to you and them.  Multiple research studies have shown that sharing gratitude strengthens marriages and improves your health.

Include Your Faith:  Whether you are embracing gratitude or sharing it, include your faith practices with your thoughts and feelings.  For example, if you are a Christian, you may want to include thanking the Lord through the practice of prayer, or reading a scripture each morning for inspiration, or sharing a testimony in church.  Research studies support the idea that including whatever faith you practice into your daily gratitude routine will strengthen your overall mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.  

Sometimes in life we just can’t find reasons to be grateful.  If you find yourself struggling to be grateful, feel overwhelmed at the end of every day, or have had significant changes in your life – you may benefit from talking with a counselor who can help you work through your struggles to develop and maintain strong mental and emotional wellbeing. 

New Year Resolutions | Don’t Forget Relationships

As you are making your list of New Year Resolutions with goals to lose weight, exercise more, spend less, save more, and get organized…don’t forget to add your Relationship Resolutions.  These are resolutions to reconnect with people you haven’t talked with in a long time, attempts to mend broken relationships, and commitments to growing relational intimacy with the people you are in daily contact with.

We know that strong and healthy relationships with other people help us stay healthy both emotionally and physically.  Social networking has made staying connected to people easier than ever, but how many of these connections are actual relationships?  You may have 435 friends on Facebook and 352 people following you on Twitter, but how many of those people could you actually call if you needed something?  How many do you actually get together for lunch with on a regular basis?

3 Relationship Resolutions to Consider Adding to Your List:

Reconnect:  Has a job moved you away from friends and family?  Has a romantic relationship caused you to let go of some friendships that you once cherished?  If so, why not make a resolution to reconnect with people you have a history with.  Facebook may be the tool you can use to reconnect, but resolve to go beyond postings on Facebook and take steps to talk on the phone, plan to visit on vacation, or get lunch together every week or month to stay connected.  Reconnecting with someone you share a history with will give you a sense of feeling grounded and safe, especially when life gets challenging.

Reach Out to Repair:  Think of people you have had disagreements with that ended your relationship with them… Are you both waiting for the other one to apologize?  Do you miss having him or her in your life?  Don’t waste another year letting anger or pride stand in the way of restoring a relationship with someone you care about.  Consider making a resolution to reach out and attempt to repair the relationship by making a phone call or writing a letter from the heart.  Even if the relationship is not restored, you will feel better and have peace of mind knowing you have done your part to reach out.

Renew:  What about the people you live with, work with, and spend time with on a daily or weekly basis… Take some time to assess the state of these relationships and consider making resolutions to renew how you value them.  Are you and your spouse enjoying a weekly date night?  When is the last time you did something with your kids that involved everyone turning their phones off and enjoying time together?  How often do you notice what a co-worker is doing well and take time to praise them for it?  Have you ever invited your neighbors over for dinner?

Relationship Resolutions are perhaps the most important ones to add to our list for the new year because we all need each other for support, fulfillment, and overall emotional and physical wellbeing.   If you find yourself wanting to make relationship resolutions, but are struggling with reconnecting, reaching out, or renewing relationships – consider seeking the help of a counselor who can work with you to accomplish your goals.  When we maintain healthy relationships, we will most likely be more successful at accomplishing all of our New Year Resolutions.

3 Ways to Love Yourself

Do you love yourself?  This isn’t exactly an easy question to answer because at times you may love certain aspects of yourself while despising others.  Sometimes we feel loved and cherished by other people and sometimes we may feel like nobody loves us.  We can’t base feeling loved on the actions of other people or how we feel from time to time. 

We have to learn to be the one to love ourselves unconditionally.  When we do, we will be able to accept and give love in a healthier and more fulfilling way throughout our lifetime.

Here are 3 Ways to Practice Loving Yourself:

Say It: 

When is the last time you told yourself “I love you”?   Multiple research studies have shown that we can change our habits, beliefs, and brain chemistry over a period of 90 days.   We have learned that positive self-talk has a powerful affect on a person’s sense of self worth.  When you say, “I love you” to yourself – you are thinking, saying, and hearing that you are loved.  This makes a powerful impact on developing your belief system and increasing your self-esteem.

Show It: 

When we love someone, we give our time and effort to show it by our actions.  We will go to great lengths to protect, value, and care for a loved one.  How do you show love to yourself?  Are you protecting yourself by establishing healthy boundaries?  Do you value yourself by treating yourself with kindness and caring for your body, mind, and spirit?  Showing love to yourself involves nurturing your mental and emotional health, spending time embracing your spiritual beliefs, and taking care of yourself physically with a healthy diet and exercise plan that includes a healthy sleep pattern and relaxation time. 

Share It: 

Loving other people becomes so much more fulfilling for us when we practice loving ourselves because the love we give comes from a genuine place in ourselves.  When we have a strong sense of self-esteem and self-worth, we understand the value of embracing our uniqueness and are able to focus on the positive more than the negative.  Your attitude and countenance will be an encouragement to other people.   When you feel loved yourself, you can easily share that love with others through words and actions. 

Today is a great time to start Loving Yourself.  Why not make a commitment every day for the next 90 days to say “I love you” to yourself, take daily action to show yourself love, and then share that love with others every day.  You may want to journal your “love journey” to be able to reflect on the changes in your life as a result of loving yourself. 

There is Hope for Healing that produces Harmony through Counseling!

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