How to feel grateful when you don’t

Photo: Cape May, with Sage and Asia

Got Gratitude?

Happy Thanksgiving.
Some days it’s tough to feel true gratitude, or hard to find anything to be grateful for at all. Some days you might wonder why you should feel grateful because nothing seems okay. Like life, gratitude practice is not an eternal upward slope. Anyone can feel challenged as struggles diminish our energy to appreciate.
It’s okay if you spend some days without feeling grateful. Attempting to force yourself to feel what you can’t truly isn’t going to improve your head space. Acceptance of our reality is the most crucial step towards healing from wounds. You don’t have to keep a gratitude journal. You already have one in your head.

1. Think small
When you’re at a loss of things to feel grateful for, think about what you actually do on a given day. For example, your strong hands help you interact with everything around you. You pat your dog or cat, scratch an itch, pour your coffee, swat away a mosquito. Without them, it would be quite a struggle. But, how many times a day do you appreciate how fundamental they are to your day-to-day life?
Similarly, things like clean water, healthy food, access to transportation, paved roads, music, the MCU, cool wind, flowers, technology, education, books, sleep, friendship, intimacy, warmth, light, are some of the things that we engage with regularly in one way or another but somehow forget to mention as enthusiastically as we do other great achievements. These are the small parts of our lives that have mostly been with us through thick and thin, like that friend who stays with you through successes and failures. See also Stones Across the River, Mindfulness Practice.

2. Reflect on negative experiences you have overcome
During the hard times, it’s hard to remember that you’ve already been through hard times. You survived. Every single thing that ever happened brought you to this space and time.

3. Start gratitude conversations
Ask people what they are thankful for. Better yet, ask, “Who are you grateful to?” Learning about others and their struggles, touchstones, goals, and experiences can be moving, inspiring, and downright connecting.  More at The Psychology of Nostalgia.

4. Practice mindful verbal expression
Say, “I appreciate you.”
Say, “I notice xyz. Thank you for doing that.”
Say, “You look absolutely amazing in that sari.”
Also see The Power of Words Through Text, The Power of Texting.

5. Be generous
Another way is to take the focus away from ourselves and express gratitude to all the people that care and have made our lives easier or more beautiful with their presence. Gifting is not fancy. It’s an acknowledgment through deed, word, action, or a significant object that someone matters to you.  See also The Mental Health Benefits of Random Acts of Kindness.

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