From Attitude to Gratitude

If you live in the United States, you’re probably feeling excited about having an extra day or two off in honor of Thanksgiving. Yay for extra time off!

That being said, I understand that the holidays can sometimes bring a sense of added stress, especially if the current state of your romantic relationship is feeling less than harmonious and creating a lot of stress already.

And if your Thanksgiving holiday usually includes getting together with extended family and friends, connecting with others and putting your best foot forward might feel like an obligation rather than a reason to celebrate.

I understand, and it’s important to honor your feelings. But even in the midst of a troubled relationship, you can still empower yourself by using this special day (or any day!) to your advantage.

Connecting to the Meaning
Thanksgiving is a day dedicated to giving thanks for the blessings in our lives. And if you’re alive, you have many reasons for which to be grateful.

As much as I love the the idea of a holiday that gives special attention to the practice of gratitude, what I love even more is the idea of creating a practice of gratitude as a way of life.

After all, when we’re in a state of appreciation, life feels better, even if just for a moment. And the more we incorporate this practice into our daily lives, the greater we feel on a regular basis.

Life is Full of Choices
Every single day is full of choices. What to eat, what to wear, what to say, what to put your attention on, where to go, how to get there…the list goes on.

It’s helpful to remember that choices made from a place of empowerment help us feel even more empowered. And choices made from a place of frustration usually cause us to feel even more frustrated, which often leads to what people commonly refer to as “attitude”.

When feeling lost in the pain of relationship struggles, it may feel difficult to remember that you have a choice as to whether or not you focus on the good things in your life. But if you’re willing to stop the spin cycle of frustration, even if just for a moment, you can make your life much easier by choosing to change the focus of your attention.

Okay…so I get that this is easier said than done. Believe me, I still have moments of struggle! And I’ve noticed over the years that sometimes it’s way easier than others to pull myself out of it.

I’ve also realized that the times of greater ease are directly related to the times I’ve been consistently taking good care of myself – when I’m consciously connecting with sources of pleasure and appreciation that allow me to alleviate the pressure of pain.

This is part of the reason why I highly recommend a consistent practice of gratitude – so that when the difficult times come around, you’re already familiar with a regular feeling of gratitude and can more easily shift your focus to that place.

From Funky Attitude to Peaceful Gratitude
The good news, is even if you’re not yet engaging in a gratitude practice, you can still make that shift. Whenever you’re in a funk, and the idea of consciously choosing gratitude makes you feel even more frustrated, try this:

  • First acknowledge that you’re in a funk…it’s okay, you’re human. Trying to dismiss your frustration without acknowledging it doesn’t help. 
  • Next, be willing to acknowledge that even though you’re feeling frustrated, you love and accept yourself anyway. We tend to beat ourselves up when we’re frustrated, and that only makes it worse. 
  • Then, go ahead and have an internal dialogue with yourself (not with your partner) about what’s causing your feelings of frustration. It might go something like this:
    • I’m not happy about my relationship and I don’t like feeling this way.
    • It feels like a lot of work and I’m tired.
    • It’s not where I want it to be and this frustrates me.
    • I am so done with feeling discouraged!
    • What am I doing wrong? I wonder if this is ever going to work.
    • (tailor this internal dialogue to whatever is going on for you – it will be more effective if you make it real and personal)
  • If you’re by yourself and in a place where you can verbally express your frustration, go for it! On days when I’m feeling extra irritable or unsettled about something, it’s not uncommon for me to loudly pronouce, GRRRRRR! It’s a release, and release feels good. And if you feel the need to release even more, find some pillows and beat them up. This is a great way to release pent-up anger without hurting anyone in the process. 
  • After you’ve expressed your feelings of frustration in a healthy way (by honoring your feelings, but not directing them toward someone else), start shifting your internal dialogue to something like this:
    • But I’m willing to be open to change. I am open to feeling better in this moment.
    • I am open to feeling less discouraged because I know it’s better for me and my health.
    • I am open to finding ways to relieve my stress so I can move forward with better choices.
    • Part of me wants to climb into a hole and give up, but a much bigger part of me knows that I deserve to feel good about myself and my life.
    • I am willing to listen to that bigger part of me.
    • I choose to focus on what is going right for me.
    • I have so much to be grateful for…a roof over my head, loving friends and family, my health, a reliable source of transportation, all sorts of resources that support me through my challenging times, etc.
    • (again, tailor this part to whatever is true in your life…it will be much more effective.)
  • And finally, take a nice deep breath and exhale with a noticeable and audible sigh of relief. If you feel the need to do this 2 or 3 times, listen to your body – it feels really good to exhale when we make this kind of mental and emotional shift.

If you just read this exercise and didn’t actually try it, please take a few moments to go back and participate in it this time. This method is very soothing to feelings of frustration, and I want you to feel its benefits.

I’m not suggesting that this is always easy, or that it will change the way you currently feel about your relationship (although it might!). But I am suggesting that this practice of shifting your attention from what’s bothersome to what’s favorable will help you feel more at peace in that moment – and that in itself is worth the effort.

This is especially helpful if you know you’ll be getting together with family and friends to celebrate the holidays, because you’ll feel better prepared to do it with joy instead of a sense of burden.

A Choice That Leads You to More Clarity About Your Relationship
Please don’t let your wounded ego fool you into thinking that, because you’re expressing gratitude, your partner will think everything is okay and you definitely don’t want him or her thinking that. Whatever issues are causing a disconnect still need to be addressed, no doubt.

When you’re ready to communicate with your partner from a place of honesty and respect about what needs to be addressed, you’ll know it’s time. Until that time, you can choose to have a better relationship with yourself, which will naturally lead you to more peace of mind and clarity about what to do and when.

If you’re able to see a regular practice of gratitude as a choice that you get to make to improve the quality of your life, rather than a chore that needs to be added to your list of tasks, it will feel more like an invitation than a obligation

And if you approach it with an attitude of ‘I’m so happy that I’m taking action to bring more peace into my life’ instead of ‘supposedly this will make a difference, so I guess I’ll try it’, you’ll look forward to this daily practice with pleasure.

Taking care of and feeling good about yourself allows you to see the circumstances in your life from a higher perspective. It helps you have a more positive attitude and outlook on life.

So, if you don’t already have a regular practice of gratitude, I highly encourage you to create one. Be creative, add your own personal touch, shape it into whatever works for you.

As quoted by Robert Braathe, “Gratitude and attitude are not challenges; they are choices.

It’s all about choice and a willingness to choose what enhances the quality of your life in each and every moment. What do you choose?

Stay tuned for more mindful messages and other valuable resources – giving you helpful insights, tips and exercises to improve the quality of your life and relationships!

With love and support,

Catherine Dietz
Healthy Relationship Coach
Licensed Heal Your Life
® Coach

P.S. Thank you for your interest in these mindful messages. Thank you for choosing to be thoughtful about the health of your relationship and your willingness to take action to improve its quality. And most importantly, thank you for being YOU! Happy Thanksgiving!