Living Gratitude: An Ingredient of Resilience for Every Expatriate Family (Part 1)


Having seen the devastation and chaos from typhoon Haiyan in Central Philippines this past week, my heart aches for the people. Many dead and injured. Others lost. Families torn apart and in shock as they try to survive, get help for the necessities of life, and keep going. My prayers go out for them. And may we never take life for granted- but choose to live each day to the fullest, loving deeply and giving our best. Would you respond to help our Filipino brothers and sisters, so that one day they can look back, be grateful and say “People around the world were generous and kind”?

hands linkedTragedy connects us. It brings out a depth of love and understanding that compels us. Maybe because none are immune to life’s crisis’. We’ve been through hardship ourselves. Maybe not to this magnitude, yet we’ve all felt the pang of loss, security stripped and a sense of hopelessness. I’m all about resilience – facing hardship with a strength of spirit and rebounding stronger and more resourceful. You can’t have resilience without pain.

And that brings us to the topic of gratitude. It’s November… about that time in expat life when things are:

Girl SmilingRootless still, if you’ve just moved abroad and settled your family into a routine. There’s still a sense of aloneness, a disconnect between who you are and where and what you’re living.
Routine, after returning from home leave some 3 months ago, adjusting the kids back to school and now you find yourself pretty much at “same-old, same old.” Or,
Restless if you‘ve lived here for a while and sense you want a change. Likely not a move (!), but a sense of deeper contribution, fulfillment and aliveness in your expat life.

Gratitude can be your solution. It opens the heart and activates positive emotional centers in the brain. It soothes stress and broadens creative thinking to develop a more expansive view of our lives. It shifts our focus from what’s lacking to the abundance that’s present. It’s the awareness that whatever we have is exactly what we need – be it people, circumstances or challenge. It doesn’t mean everything in our lives is great, but rather that we CHOOSE to count blessings. Giving thanks makes us happier, more resilient and strengthens relationships. It opens us to freedom and generosity. How?

Girl Crying• By turning bad things into good. Does it seem like everything you try do takes 8X longer there than what you’re used to? Feel like a toddler because things are new? Be grateful – you’re learning to problem solve. Determination and strength are being developed. And if you have a feeling of uncomfortable restlessness – what could it be moving you toward?
• It reminds us what’s important. It’s hard to feel negative about things when you’re grateful. Ex. You dreadfully miss your friends. With gratitude, you realize those great friends are an incredible gift and you will, in time, make them again in this new place. You STILL have your old friends – friendships have taken on a new dimension. Or, let’s say you’re living in temporary housing, being thankful reminds you that you have a roof over your head.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments
when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” – Thornton Wilder

• It helps us grieve well. Gratitude is the perfect partner to grief. Going to our losses, acknowledging and processing them… and then counting our blessings in the present, gives a balanced perspective.
• It recalibrates our happiness set-point. Dr. Emmonds researched the effects of gratitude for over a decade and says: “If something bad happens during the day, your happiness drops, then returns to its natural set-point. If something positive happens, your level of happiness rises, then returns to your “happiness set-point”. A practice of gratitude raises your “happiness set-point” so you can remain at a higher level of happiness regardless of outside circumstances.”

Some of us are naturally more grateful. It’s good to know for the rest of us that gratitude is a practise, and can be developed over time. The more you practise, the more you benefit. For the next three weeks, we’ll look at practical ways you can cultivate gratitude in your life: personally, as partners and as a family. Lots of great ideas, so hold on!
In the meantime, ask yourself:

1. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being “rarely” and 10 being “all the time”), what number would I give myself in the area of gratitude? What about between my partner and I? Within our family?
2. How does gratitude show up in your life?
3. What area of life would you like a perspective shift, from bad to good?
4. What are you making more important than it needs to be right now? How could gratitude shift that?
5. In your life, how does grief and gratitude coincide?

Start being mindful of when gratitude is a part of your life and when it isn’t. No judgement, just a noticing. I’m doing the same here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada!

Becky Signature



Gratitude Quote

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