How — and Why — to Start a Gratitude Practice

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Do you take time to notice, appreciate, and reflect on the good things happening in your life? Claire gives you some tips on how to cultivate more gratitude every day. Plus, she answers a question from a listener who wants advice on how to handle her relationship with an abusive parent.

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Claire Bidwell-Smith

Claire Bidwell-Smith  00:01

#Grateful. See this one much. I see it’s so much that my eyes glaze over. And I actually have to remind myself the value of gratitude. I’m Claire Bidwell-Smith. And that’s what we’re talking about today on NEW DAY. But seriously, pick up any self-help book or look at articles on ways to be happier. And you’ll see gratitude practices high up on the list. That’s because it actually works. When we can remind ourselves of the things we’re grateful for. What we’re doing is actually counterbalancing all the shit we’re unhappy about. It’s not that you don’t get to be unhappy. Go ahead and complain, grieve, feel all the difficult emotions, but sprinkle some gratitude in here and there, and you’ll find yourself getting a little more balanced. studies actually show that people who take time to notice and reflect on the things they feel grateful for actually experienced more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, have an easier time expressing kindness and compassion, and even have stronger immune systems. I first learned about gratitude practices in my late 20s. Around the time I really hit rock bottom in my life, I was still deep in the throes of grieving my parents and all I was focusing on was how hard my life was, how much it didn’t look like everyone else’s, and how much I had lost. I think I came up on the gratitude stuff around the same time I got into yoga and meditation. And trust me, those were last resorts. Like I said, I was pretty rock bottom. But what I found was remarkable. It wasn’t that I made myself stop grieving or stop being upset about the hard stuff in my life. It was that I started to additionally notice and reflect on all the good stuff, too. And once I did that, I saw so much of it. There was good stuff everywhere. And the more I noticed it, the better I got it focusing on it and even inviting more good stuff into my life. Honestly, it felt so good to feel good. There are a couple simple ways to cultivate more gratitude in your life. The easiest way is to keep a gratitude journal, you can literally order went online right now. But these journals really helped because even if you forget all day to be grateful for the good shit around you, you’ll at least end your day reflecting on it. And doing so will get you into a place of being able to notice it more frequently, not just when you’re journaling. Another way is to voice your gratitude when you feel it. Tell people what you’re happy about or grateful for. Tell them you’re loving some TV show or their hair today, or the weather, or how nice it is to be having lunch together. Don’t just think it, say it. Lastly, create some rituals around gratitude. I love rituals for really cementing things. For instance, every time you find yourself grateful for something, take just a moment and close your eyes and really feel the moment. Don’t just let it be fleeting. Soak up that good stuff just for a second. Okay, thanks for listening. I’m grateful you’re with me on this journey.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  02:55

I’m also always super grateful to hear from you. Sometimes your questions are tough. Sometimes they’re a little more lighthearted. whatever’s on your mind, though, I want to know, send me an email at Or fill out the form at Today’s question is from Natalie, in Madison, Wisconsin. She asks, how does one grieve a parent when they suffer from mental illness/chronically ill, but they had been abusive in the past. Even if the parent hasn’t passed, why am I already grieving? Is it what could have been our relationship if they were healthy? Or is it because even now it can never be the relationship? I need slash one. And last, how do I move on? Or grieve the weight of loving someone who only causes me pain? Do I accept the loss of what could have been, had they gotten help and still try to have a relationship? Or is it best to cut ties? Oh, Natalie, this is a really tough question. It’s one I’ve heard before from different clients and people I’ve met. And I’ve worked with a lot of people in this situation. I think that first thing you need to do here is really acknowledge the grief. It’s very real. There’s grief over so many aspects of it. I think that you’re going to have to grieve multiple things here. And it might be helpful to kind of tease them apart and grieve them separately. I think you need to grieve for the parent and the relationship you didn’t get just like you asked in your question. I mean, that’s the big underlying one here. You didn’t have the parent and the relationship that you wanted and needed. And there’s real grief around that. I would journal about it, talk to a therapist about it. I would try to connect with your younger self through meditation. And then I think you also have to let yourself grieve for the bigger picture of it all the abuse, the way it’s turned out who they are now. And you would do the same kinds of things with this grief, journal, therapy, meditation. And then you also might want to consider writing your parent a letter or multiple letters. I’m really telling them all of these things. These aren’t letters that you have to share with them or anyone. But all of this stuff is cycling through your head and your heart and it really needs an outlet. Whether or not you choose to keep them in your life or cut ties, I think you’re right that you need to let go of some of the weight here. But the only way out is through. So really letting yourself grieve these various pieces will help with that. I think maybe joining a support group or an online grief group so that you can talk to other people who really understand what you’re going through and can commiserate and sympathize and just help you feel less alone would be really helpful. And I think finding outlets for all this pain and heavy grief will help you release it, and then releasing it will enable you to either let them go or cut ties, and keep them in your life in a different way. Perhaps, I think that just really letting yourself process all this stuff that’s coming up. I think if we don’t, and we sit there with it, and we don’t address all the really big, heavy, painful feelings, then it doesn’t move and it doesn’t go anywhere. And it keeps us stuck and not able to change the relationship one way or another. And I know it can feel really scary to dip into that kind of grief and to really dip into stuff like abuse and grieving a parent that you didn’t get to have. But that’s why you need to get support around this work really finding a great therapist joining support groups reading books by other people who’ve been through something similar. Lastly, I think giving some thought to the concept of re parenting. Two of my upcoming guests have talked a lot about re parenting after abuse. Both Tara Schuster and Stephanie Foo, have memoirs slash self-help books that are really helpful in this department. Okay, and then the real last thing Natalie, self-compassion, self-compassion, self-compassion. This sucks. You did not ask for this. You don’t deserve it. But you do deserve to take care of yourself and you do deserve to heal. Thank you so much for writing in.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  06:53

That was a lot I know. But I really hope something I said will be helpful. And speaking of helpful Wednesday’s listener question that applies to everyone. I’ll give you some tips on how to be a better patient and the messed up medical system we have in this country. And then you will not want to miss this Friday’s episode with the one and only Lena Dunham. I can’t wait for you to hear it. The best way to make sure you catch every episode of new day, subscribe on your favorite podcast app. See you Wednesday.


NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show was produced by Kryssy Pease and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. New Day is produced in partnership with the well-being trust the Jed foundation and Education Development Center. Thanks for listening.

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