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Staying Positive During Hard Times: The Power of Gratefulness

The September 2011 issue of The Economist shows that with an unemployment rate of 8-11.9%, we are seventh in the world after South Africa, Spain, Ireland, Italy, France and England.  An article like this can fuel negative thoughts and attitudes about our country’s state of affairs – thoughts that then transfer to our personal lives and make us feel upset and frustrated about our own financial problems.

I believe it is important to acknowledge and express those feelings when they arise and to take appropriate action. Identifying problem-solving skills and coming up with an action plan will diminish anxiety, frustration and depressive symptoms.

And the truth is that there is still so much to be grateful for.

My recommendation: stop the expression of negative feelings and change gears to start thinking about all of the things that are still going well for you. Practicing gratefulness can uplift your mood. It is proven that gratitude not only dissolves negative feelings, but also evokes the healing emotion of happiness – anger and jealousy melt in its embrace, and fear and defensiveness shrink in its presence.

Gratitude can be cultivated by reflecting on the gifts that are already ours, even if just for one minute every day. There is always something to be grateful for, like the smell of a good cup of coffee, the “good morning” of a loved one, or a great parking spot near the front door.

Our minds are powerful tools, and the way we think about our circumstances directly affects how we feel and how we act. If you allow your mind to get stuck on the negative, your mood and behavior will surely go downhill – use gratefulness as your weapon against negative thoughts.

What are you grateful for? For the next month, I invite you to think and write five things that evoke gratitude for you everyday. Try going to www.gratefulness.org/candles and light a free virtual candle to express your gratitude, or write a daily thank you note. I am convinced practicing gratitude will deepen your capacity to stay positive, even in the hardest economic times.