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Practicing Gratitude When Caring for a Child With Autism

Posted on November 27, 2019

This time of the year can be overwhelming with expectations around the holidays, and caring for a child with autism doesn’t make it any easier. One way to find some relief from the pressure and stress of caregiving is to focus on gratitude. You might find gratefulness in a glimmer of beauty, a positive emotion, someone's smile, a favorite show. Finding something to be thankful for, whether great or small, can help calm your mind and lift your mood.

The evidence of 15 years of research shows that in general, an attitude of gratitude may benefit one's daily well-being, and not just in psychological ways. Some study results even indicate that thankfulness may support physical health as well – improving sleep and heart health, for two examples. Research still has many questions to answer. Are grateful people healthier? Or are healthier people just more grateful? Perhaps people with a thankful perspective on the world are more likely to eat a healthy diet, exercise, follow their doctor’s recommendations, or less likely to smoke? Even with all of the questions that still exist about the impact of gratitude, thankfulness does seem to be connected with better quality of life. Don’t we all want some of that?

Some days, caring for a child with autism can make it hard to think about gratitiude. Managing your child's needs and behaviors may make it difficult to find time to focus on your own emotional well-being. Like most things in life, gratitude can get easier with practice. Setting aside time to practice gratitude can help you get in the habit of looking for things to be thankful for.

Here are some practical ways you can harness positivity in your life:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Each day, spend five minutes writing about three things that went well for you and why you think they happened.
  • Send thank you notes for gifts or kind acts.
  • For special dear ones, write a letter of gratitude detailing all the ways you are thankful for them.
  • Engage in spiritual acts such as counting blessings or giving thanks.
  • List a few important, positive events in your life, then reflect on what life would have been like without them.
  • Take a short break from a favorite thing – a dessert, a beverage, a type of music, a show – and then when you come back to it again, you’ll remember how much you love it.

Imagine a jar where you could place one thought of gratitude. What would it be? Share what you're grateful for with fellow MyAutismTeam members in the comments below.

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