Being grateful does not mean things are easy. But gratitude can be a blessing when expressed while we are going through our most difficult challenges in life. Lately I’ve been through various trials and horrific experiences, and while I would never choose to go through them, I can see how I am growing and changing as a result of these struggles. I am thankful for this growth.
Feeling gratitude during conflict is not easy and it may be the last thing we want to do but focusing on gratitude opens our hearts and minds to new ways of thinking. It can put our struggles into perspective and help us find balance. That stability gives us a platform for coping with difficulties.
It is often only through times of change that we allow ourselves to grow and learn, to be stretched and pulled, to see things in a new way. That, in itself, is something to be grateful for as it is important for us to stretch our brain, heart, and spirit. This stretching of our minds, known as neuroplasticity, is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience.
Our brains are amazing in their ability to adapt and change. In fact, studies have shown people continue to develop neuroplasticity through old age. So you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!
In my art therapy practice, I have my clients use the art-making process to enter into a mindset of gratitude. The very act of considering art making for a specific intervention begins to develop new pathways in their brains. As they continue making art about their challenges, their minds continue to change and expand. Gratitude becomes a healthy companion in the recovery process as they begin to see problems in new ways and choose alternate ways of responding to them. They are learning new ways of living their life.
We learn best through experience and the things we learn help us cope with future challenges in life. Plus, our responses and expressions of gratitude can become a guide for others to mimic when they, too, experience challenges.
Gratitude does not mean everything is okay. Gratitude does put us in a place of openness so we can respond better to our circumstances. For that, I am grateful.
– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC