Talk About Something You’re Grateful for…

Gratitude is a beautiful concept. Feelings of appreciation can really fill the heart and help to create a more positive outlook on things. When I was in graduate school I had a counseling seminar course and one day my professor asked us to go around the room and talk about something we were grateful for. Now the idea of this was great, however, it happened to be a very difficult time period for me. I had just lost my grandmother and it was my first class coming back, so the exercise was not very appreciated in that moment. I think I said I was grateful I made it to class and that was it. It’s beyond challenging to try to think of things to be grateful for in dark moments, but since then I’ve tried to learn how to look at the things that are still immersed in the light. Gratitude does not always have to be an extravagant or grandiose notion in order to feel it, actually most of the time it’s felt in the simplest of moments. We just have to allow ourselves to embrace it.

A stranger holding a door open. Someone else making dinner. A note of thanks for something you did. Having a day off. It doesn’t matter the action or words but the feelings behind it. Being thankful for things, big and small, can help to improve well-being and attitude. They study gratitude in the research area of positive psychology nowadays and have found that it helps to increase happiness and optimism. Many individuals use gratitude journals each day/week to note specific things they’re thankful for, which can really help to change one’s perspective and views. The world can sometimes be a very dark place with very unfortunate moments, but if you choose to see the light that still lives just as strong as this darkness, that generates hope, and hope is what keeps us all moving forward.

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Someone Has to be Excited…

In talking about relationships this month on the blog it’s impossible not to think of the bonds I have with the people in my life and how impactful they are in shaping who I am, and in turn, what I am to others.  Sometimes we don’t realize how much we’re touched and influenced by other people. But all it can take is just one conversation, one tiny fraction of an entire day to make an impression on someone else. I had an occasion recently that I wasn’t really feeling up to celebrating much. My husband on the other hand, was very happy and wanted to share his elation; he has a special knack for being positive and optimistic. His exact words were “someone has to be excited for you.”  The sentiment didn’t resonate in that precise moment but afterwards it was all I could think about. That this man knew that I wasn’t able to feel joy in that particular moment but still wanted to mark the occasion and celebrate for me. That is a remarkable relationship trait.

There are going to be times when a day is gloomy, a mood is sour, or chaos arises. It’s a roll of the dice sometimes in how a day will play out — but what matters is who is there with you at the end of that day, being your cheerleader and light in the darkness. It’s difficult trying to be happy and positive 24/7, we’re only human; it’s part of our wiring to experience other moods and emotions. But if you have or can find that other person who can champion for you when you can’t for yourself, find gratitude in that because it’s a truly special trait. Being your own champion is of course ideal, but in those moments where this isn’t possible, having that piece in your relationship with someone else is truly significant.

Unfortunately many people experience toxic relationships that are one-sided and selfish where the other person wouldn’t think to imitate this selfless behavior. That is why self-love and self-respect are necessary in your pursuit of finding relationships that will help foster encouraging aspects and positively influence you. You deserve to be loved and supported and knowing this makes all the difference in what you want or are looking for in others. Being that hopeful light for someone else and having them be the same for you when needed signifies a healthy bond; and a relationship where one person can be excited for the other if and when they can’t be for themselves.

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Giving Thanks

V2-2015-MSAA_Thanksgiving_Cards5This week many individuals around the country will celebrate Thanksgiving, a national holiday symbolizing the notions of graciousness and appreciation. This holiday and others represent different things to different people and hold varied meanings for all who celebrate them.  But a concept that can be universal and celebrated all year through is that of gratitude. Finding what you’re thankful for, no matter how big or small or different, is a part of this holiday tradition. Expressing your gratitude can help pay it forward and inspire others to do the same, and to hopefully further inspire acts of appreciation and kindness across our society. Celebrating the holiday can simply mean appreciating and reflecting on the words themselves-‘Thanks’ and ‘Giving.’

Please note that MSAA’s offices are closed for the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, November 26th and Friday, November 27th.

From all of us here at MSAA, please enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

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Developing New Ways of Thinking

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“Optimism is like a muscle. Gets stronger with use.”-Robin Roberts

Taking an optimistic view rather than focusing on negative thoughts can benefit your overall mental well-being. While it might take some time, eventually you may find that thinking positively starts to come more naturally. Consider putting some of the following tips into practice.

List five things that you are grateful for right now. Let this practice become a part of your daily or weekly routine. It may be helpful to hang your list in a spot where you may come across it often, so that you can take a moment to think about what you are grateful for.

Live in the present. Too much focus on future and past events can distract our minds from what is important today. Meditation and yoga can help in centering the mind and body, allowing you to identify with yourself in the present moment.

Surround yourself with positive people. Positive thought patterns are contagious, so surround yourself with people who make you happy and are optimistic.

Positive thinking and optimism does not come overnight, and you do not need to be a positive perfectionist. It may be challenging to try and find the positive in every aspect of your life – health, finances, relationships, and/or work. Focusing in one area will aid in building the skills to transfer into the other areas of your life.

What helps you to maintain positive thoughts?

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Creating a Different Kind of Holiday Season When You Have MS:

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, it is easy to get wrapped up in the holiday bustle. Many people get so focused on decorating and shopping that holiday thoughts change from decorating enough to feel festive and finding gifts that spread cheer, to the bigger and fancier (and more expensive) the gifts and decorations, the better the holiday.

So, before we all get wrapped up in consumerism, I would ask you to think about creating a different kind of Holiday Season this year. Instead of having said your yearly, “Thanks” on Thanksgiving, carry that idea over into the rest of your holidays by creating a Gratitude Journal.

You might be asking, “What is a Gratitude Journal?”

Several studies have shown that individuals who participate in gratitude-based activities may have an improved sense of well-being. So, I would challenge you to get either a specific journal or notebook (or smartphone app) and assign that as a specific place to write each day one thing for which you are grateful. Try to spend at least 10-15 minutes thinking about what you are grateful for, why you are grateful for it, and how it impacts your life before you write it down. At the end of each week, spend a little time to read over all the things you have written down over the last week.

At the end of the month, reflect back. Has this activity helped to keep you centered and focused during the Holiday Season? If so, this may be an activity to keep up throughout the year, reminding us that Holiday Season or not, upon reflection there are things large and small for which we are grateful.

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Gratitude

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”

– John F. Kennedy

 “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

– Albert Schweitzer

In life, there are many instances where good deeds often go unnoticed and the people who do these deeds can be overlooked. As we live in a somewhat “rushed” and hectic society, there are many moments that tend to slip under the radar as we hurry along to accomplish the day’s tasks. We can often ignore the things in life that are precious and valuable. It is not through personal fault that this occurs; there are simply not enough hours in the day to single out all of the privileged moments we experience.

But what if we did just that? What if we made time to think of all the moments, people, and interactions that we feel grateful for on any given day? Showing gratitude to the people in our lives that we cherish and to the moments that make life unforgettable has the capability to brighten our outlook, and make an otherwise “hectic” day seem gracious and special.

What are some things that make you feel grateful?

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