The importance of gratitude

The importance of gratitude

Despite being an experienced expat, Dee Mackenzie found herself desperately unhappy in her latest location. She shared her story with me of how gratitude helped her to get unstuck. She reassures us that gratitude starts with an intention and just takes a bit of practice, before it completely transforms your life…

“Today, I’ve been thinking about the importance of gratitude. Taking time out daily to focus on what I’m grateful for has been life-changing for me. We move around quite a bit – it’s what we do and we love it – but our most recent move was hard. Very hard.

For two years, I was miserable. I spent a lot of time dreaming of when we would move again. I had a constant yearning, almost a physical pull, to be somewhere else, and it became all-consuming.

I posted about this in a Facebook group for expats and found out it was a common feeling. I then got really, really irritated with the people who told me it was up to me to improve the situation by changing my attitude. Clearly, they didn’t understand how much I didn’t want to be here, and how sad I was!

But the more I tried to ignore their advice, the more I realised they were right. Moping around wasn’t changing a thing. It certainly wasn’t making the next move come any sooner. I realised I did actually have some control. I could choose whether I was going to continue hating living where we were, or whether I was going to find the good things (there are a gazillion) about where we live and focus on those instead.

Enough was enough

I could see the good things. They were all around me. I live in an incredibly beautiful part of the world, a place where the sun shines, the sky is blue and the air is clear for much of the year. But I couldn’t feel the good things and I wouldn’t let them get in the way of my misery.

Don’t get me wrong – feeling sad or lonely or wistful are all valid feelings and it’s important to feel these things, to acknowledge them and work through them. But this had gone on for two years and enough was enough.

Committing to gratitude

I started to make myself look at the things I found beautiful around me. Each time I noticed something, I would focus on it, breathe it in, and revel in its beauty and the joy it gave me. I would let that feeling really sink in and remind myself how lucky I was to be here.

Whenever I saw friends, I would take a moment to appreciate the many things I loved about them. I would focus on how lucky I was to get to spend time with these incredible people. Each time I looked at my beautiful family, laughed with them, hugged or kissed them or just spent time with them, I focused on that feeling of deep love. I was reminded of how very lucky I was to have these people in my life and to be loved by them.

Every time I did this, I would feel myself smile a little more, and more and more, and on it went. And each day I noticed these things, my heart felt a little lighter and my spirit felt warmer, and I felt so grateful for what I had.

Gratitude: the golden thread

There are still days when that yearning to be elsewhere hits me. There are many days when I miss past places, friends (every day!) and times gone by. But there’s an undercurrent of gratitude for everything I have now. This gratitude makes those pangs of yearning less painful, and actually sweet because I’m learning to be grateful to have had past experiences so wonderful they have stolen a piece of my heart.

I’ve also learnt that the heart is an amazing thing: you can leave pieces of it spread around the world, but it still has the ability to feel as much love, as much pleasure, as much joy and as much gratitude as it always has.”

What are you grateful for, right now? Let’s count our blessings together! Join the conversation below.

Vivian  Chiona


Vivian Chiona

Vivian Chiona is the founder and director of Expat Nest (, which provides emotional support to expats and their families through online counseling services. A bicultural, multilingual expat with family...

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DoSoCoach 11:48 | 14 November 2019

Love your article Vivian on gratitude. I think it is such an important aspect and element of happy and meaningful life, yet often undermined!

vivianchiona 13:40 | 14 November 2019

A big huge thanks for your comment Dorota and glad you found it valuable. Indeed it is such an important topic that makes such a difference once it becomes part of the way we see the world! Best, Vivian