Parenting Post – Linda Marten MSW

How do you Cultivate Gratitude in Hard Times?

This is supposed to be the holiday of giving thanks, of Thanks-giving.
We may encourage our kids to be grateful, but are we grateful?
How can we be grateful after great loss or death or change that shakes our world? What if you just lost your job, or got divorced, or found out you have cancer? What if you depend on food stamps to feed your kids and the government just cut them right before the holidays?

I can be mad about the injustice and sorrow of this world, or I can decide to do my part to “Be the change I wish to see in the world.” as Gandhi said. I can choose to be kind when others are mean. I can remember, “hurt people hurt people”.

I just watched a very moving video where people in Russia are helping each other in the severe cold of winter. There were little acts of kindness done without expecting anything in return. If you’re losing your faith in human kindness as I was, take a look at this video on my Facebook page or you can look it up on YouTube,
“Russian video that made the whole world cry” at

An old wise lady reminds me to “act as if”. Write 5 gratitudes before bed, even though you don’t “feel” like it and think it’s a stupid waste of time.
I’ve tried it many times and am amazed every time how gratitude has the power to shift my thinking and attitude.

Then there are those days when you and I lose perspective and can’t think of anything for which to be grateful. That’s when doing the opposite can help.
I think of all the things that I’m grateful did NOT happen today: The toilet didn’t over flow. We didn’t have an earthquake or a tsunami here in Los Angeles. I didn’t have car problems or an accident. I didn’t lose my home. None of my loved ones died.
I don’t have cancer or heart problems. The cat didn’t barf today…..
This often gets me laughing and gratitude and perspective return once again.
(You might try turning this into a game with your kids to see how many things they can think of.)

Then there are those times when nothing seems to help and we need to just be where we are and feel what we are feeling. That can be the hardest thing to do, to accept life (people, places, & things), as it is now, whether we like it or not. And yet, amazingly, when I stop resisting and fighting the pain of how things are, my pain decreases! This is true with both physical and emotional pain. Life is quite a paradox.
Breath. Relax. Just BE.

Also, remember, human beings are social creatures and we need to feel connected to others, to have a sense of community where we belong. (Teenagers vividly demonstrate this human need as they separate from family and seek a family of friends.)
Have the strength to ask for help. Seek support when you need it and be willing to give to others when they need help. You don’t have to carry your burdens alone. Avoid judging your insides by someone else’s outsides. We all have something we are struggling with. Don’t be fooled by outward appearances.

I find humor can be a great relief from sorrows and difficulties. Take a break from it all and watch a comedy this holiday. Laughter is great medicine. It releases natural endorphins that make us feel happy for a while. I watched Tim Conway’s “Speedo Airlines” from the old Carol Burnett Show on YouTube. I couldn’t stop laughing.

If you have a hard time getting to sleep, try saying gratitudes for every letter of the alphabet. For example, A for Apples, Apple pie, Air to breathe; B for Beauty, my Bed, Books; C for my Cat, my Car, my Children ……………. Before you know it, you’ll be fast asleep.

Happy Thanks-giving.

Contact Linda at:
[email protected]

The Actors' Gang

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