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How to Feel Thankful When You’re Feeling Anything But Thankful

As Thanksgiving approaches, you might be hearing a lot about gratitude and counting blessings. But let’s be real—expressing gratitude can feel like an eye-roll moment, especially when you’re dealing with emotions like anger, betrayal, loneliness, or worry. In this blog, let’s chat about how to find gratitude when it feels out of reach, why it’s common to feel these heavy emotions as a teen, and why choosing joy is not just some cheesy advice but a game-changer.

Why Negative Emotions Can Feel Overwhelming for Teenagers

If you’ve ever felt like your emotions have cranked up to eleven, and you’re on a rollercoaster without a seatbelt, we totally get it. Let’s take a moment to understand why this emotional whirlwind is, well, a typical part of being a teenager.

Imagine your emotions are like a kaleidoscope, swirling with colors, patterns, and occasional chaos. It’s not just you; it’s the incredible journey of adolescence. Here’s some intel on why you might be feeling the way you do, offering a bit of clarity in the midst of the teenage emotional storm. 

P.S. – Feeling these emotions is normal, and it is a-ok to feel upset, angry, bitter, sad, etc. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. But understanding why you may be feeling these intense emotions more often than not can help give you some perspective and tools to lessen the times you feel them so intensely. 

  • Hormone Havoc – Your body is on a hormonal rollercoaster. This isn’t an excuse; it’s science. Hormones, the chemical messengers in your body, are doing somersaults, affecting your mood, energy, and even how you see the world. It’s like a daily surprise party for your emotions.
  • Brain Under Construction – Your brain is still under construction, especially the prefrontal cortex, the decision-making and emotion-regulating part. Think of it like building a skyscraper; it takes time, and sometimes there’s a bit of chaos at the construction site.
  • Identity Exploration – Who are you, really? Teens often grapple with identity, trying to figure out their values, beliefs, and who they want to become. It’s like exploring a vast jungle, and sometimes you might feel a bit lost.
  • Peer and Social Pressures – The social scene can be intense. Peer pressure, fitting in, dealing with friendships, romantic interests—it’s a lot. Navigating these social waters can stir up emotions like worry, anxiety, or even frustration.
  • Transition to Independence – Teens are on the brink of independence. The transition from being a kid to a young adult is exhilarating but also nerve-wracking. Decisions about the future, responsibilities, and adulting can be overwhelming.
  • High Expectations – Expectations, whether from parents, teachers, or society, can feel like a heavy load. The pressure to excel in academics, sports, or extracurriculars can contribute to stress and anxiety.
  • Emotional Intensity – Teens often experience emotions more intensely. Joy feels ecstatic, sadness feels crushing, and anger feels fiery. It’s part of the emotional growth process, but it can be a wild ride.

Navigating the whirlwind of emotions during your teenage years is no small feat. Your feelings might sometimes resemble a storm, intense and unpredictable. It’s important to recognize that this emotional turbulence is a typical part of being a teenager.

Several factors contribute to the intensity of these emotions. Hormones play a significant role, creating a rollercoaster of mood swings. Your brain is still developing, especially the part responsible for decision-making and regulating emotions. Additionally, the journey to discover your identity, navigate social pressures, and transition to independence all add layers to this emotional experience.

Feeling upset or overwhelmed doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. It’s okay to acknowledge the challenges and complexities of this phase. Understanding the reasons behind these intense emotions can provide some perspective and empower you with tools to navigate them more effectively.

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How to Find Gratitude When It Feels Out of Reach

It’s totally okay not to be okay. There are times when positivity seems like a distant planet, and gratitude feels like a language you haven’t quite learned. Here are some straightforward, non-judgmental strategies for navigating those moments when negativity takes the lead:

1. Start Small: Baby Steps Toward Positivity

Gratitude doesn’t always have to be grand gestures. It can be as simple as appreciating the warmth of sunlight on your face or savoring the taste of your favorite snack. Begin with these tiny moments, gradually building a bridge to more profound expressions of thankfulness.

2. Gratitude Journal: With a Twist

Ever tried putting pen to paper? It’s a powerful way to externalize those stormy emotions. Instead of a traditional gratitude journal, try jotting down things you’re looking forward to. It shifts the focus from what’s currently challenging to what holds potential in the future.

3. Express Yourself: Verbalize Your Thanks

Feeling thankful about something or someone? Speak up! Expressing gratitude aloud can be liberating. Whether it’s telling a friend how much you appreciate them or acknowledging the support of a family member, vocalizing your thanks can break down emotional barriers.

4. Connect with Others: Share the Positivity

Ever noticed how joy multiplies when shared? Connect with friends or family, discussing moments that made you smile. Share your gratitude, and you might find others reciprocating. It’s a beautiful chain reaction that fosters a positive environment.

5. Reflect on Challenges: Finding Growth in Struggles

Life isn’t always a smooth ride, and that’s okay. Reflect on the challenges you face. What have they taught you? Every difficulty can be a stepping stone to personal growth. Shifting the perspective from ‘why me?’ to ‘what can I learn?’ introduces gratitude in unexpected places.

6. Seek Support: Rely on Others

You don’t have to go through tough times alone. Reach out to a friend, family member, or someone you trust. Sharing your feelings can provide relief and support.

7. Break Tasks into Smaller Steps: Don’t Add More to Your Plate

When everything feels too much, break tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. This can make overwhelming responsibilities feel less daunting.

8. Mindfulness and Meditation: Center Yourself

In the whirlwind of emotions, taking a moment to breathe can make a world of difference. Explore mindfulness and meditation techniques to center yourself. These practices create mental space, allowing you to appreciate the present and find gratitude amid the chaos.

Remember, friend, it’s okay if gratitude and positivity don’t knock on your door immediately. It’s a journey, not a sprint. Embrace the process, and little by little, you might find yourself waltzing with gratitude in the middle of life’s chaos. 

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Choose Joy – More Than Just Advice

You might have heard the phrase “choose joy” tossed around, and at times, it might sound like cliché advice. But here’s the real deal – it’s not just a catchphrase; it’s a game-changer, especially for teenagers facing the rollercoaster of emotions.

Even if you still feel those negative emotions like fear, anger, anxiety, resentment, sadness, you can still feel joy as well. Emotions are fleeting. In fact, on average, you feel most emotions for a maximum of 90 seconds. Then you can let it pass or you can hold onto it and let it harden into a mood. 

Even if you are feeling negativity, you still have opportunity to find moments of joy or other positive emotions si, simultaneously. Here are some suggestions for how to find joy in your daily life: 

  • Connect with Nature: Take a walk in the park, sit by a lake, or simply enjoy your own backyard. 
  • Creative Outlets: Whether it’s drawing, writing, or playing an instrument, express yourself in a way that makes you happy. 
  • Mindful Breathing: Practice deep, mindful breathing to center yourself in the present moment.
  • Random Acts of Kindness: Small gestures of kindness towards others can bring immense joy.

So, choosing joy isn’t just about putting on a happy face; it’s a mindset that empowers you to navigate life’s complexities with resilience, mental well-being, and a positive outlook. It’s not a quick fix, but a powerful strategy for a fulfilling and meaningful journey through adolescence.

Embracing Positivity: Your Journey with Positive Presence

As we wrap up this exploration of choosing joy and finding gratitude, we want to acknowledge that sometimes, despite our best efforts, breaking free from negative patterns can be challenging. Life’s journey is unique for each one of you, and it’s okay not to have all the answers right now.

If you find yourself caught in the storm of persistent negative emotions, remember you’re not alone. It’s okay to seek support, and that’s where Positive Presence comes in. Our team understands the complexities of navigating adolescence, and we’re here to offer guidance, understanding, and a helping hand.

Whether you’re grappling with identity exploration, academic pressures, social challenges, or the whirlwind of emotions, our mentor coaching programs are tailored to provide a safe space for self-discovery, growth, and resilience. We’re not here to change who you are; we’re here to help you embrace the best version of yourself.

Choosing joy isn’t about dismissing the difficulties you face; it’s about cultivating a mindset that empowers you to face them with strength and optimism. It’s a journey, and every step you take towards a positive outlook is a victory.

So, as you navigate the sometimes tumultuous seas of adolescence, remember that you have the power to shape your experience. It’s okay to ask for help, to seek support, and to choose joy even when it seems out of reach. Your journey is unique, and Positive Presence is here to walk alongside you, providing guidance and encouragement every step of the way.

You’re not alone, and your path to positivity starts with a single step. Embrace the journey, embrace yourself, and let the light of positivity guide you forward.

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Jessica Waugh

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Jessica has roughly 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, curating premier wine programs in Las Vegas and developing educational programs for the largest beverage distribution company in North America. In 2022, Jessica altered her focus and is now utilizing her educational, management, and organizational skills to positively impact others on a grander scale. She is now developing multiple modalities focused in emotional intelligence, executive functioning, meta-learning, and positive psychology for struggling teens and young adults.

Favorite Mindfulness Techniques:

Meditating with sound bowls!

A Fun Fact:

I was the architect for my grandmother’s house

State: Nevada

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Missy Vandenheuvel

Sales Manager


Missy is a revitalized mother of two teenagers who understands the resilience it takes to raise children in the midst of a global pandemic. She is a passionate mentor because she recognizes there isn’t nearly enough support for the overwhelming number of people silently struggling. Her sincere and compassionate personality is what makes her thrive as a coach and a leading member of our company. As our Sales manager she recognized that her role is to listen and learn as much about your child (or yourself) as possible. While listening, I am identifying a mentor coach that I believe your child will not only like based on their personality, but also one who has experienced and overcome similar pain points, and areas of opportunity, optimizing relatability. Ultimately, setting your child up for growth and fulfillment socially, mentally, and physically. 

Favorite Mindfulness Techniques:

My Favorite Mindful technique is to Shifting Thought Patterns by focusing on the Grounding Technique. Starts with a big belly breath in. Then, you tap into your 5 senses, to quickly and effortlessly shift your current focus. Choose a sense- any sense, and count down from 5 (order or senses can be altered): 5 things you see, 4 things you smell, 3 things you feel, 2 things you hear, 1 thing you taste.

A Fun Fact:

 I travel to Florida from Wisconsin 3-4 times a year, and we plan to relocate somewhere with the state in 1.5 years. I’ve been dreaming about this since I first saw the ocean at the age of 14 years old. 

State: Wyoming

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