Gratitude is a practice. Like yoga, nailing the perfect liquid eyeliner, or sticking to a budget, it is a practice. You must work everyday to build the muscles. Because it’s easy to fall into the “this is shitty” camp, we must practice gratitude with intention.
How can I be grateful when my world is falling apart?
It’s not easy. I’m not going to tell you to pretend, or fake it til you make it, or just think sunny thoughts because it doesn’t work that way. What I can tell you is that even in the crappiest of times, we do always have something we can be thankful for. Even if it is tiny. Whether it’s the cup of cold coffee you had this morning or the fact that you have at least one bestie who shares your hatred of laundry equally, there is always something to keep us in check. There’s a couple of ways to keep your mind from delving into the endless chasm of “but I could have/be/do this”.
Think of what you do have
Change your frame of mind. Even when life sucks, it can help to put things in perspective. It’s never shameful to think in “at leasts”. At least I have a working fridge. At least I know about Ajax. At least I can see the stars tonight. Rather than ruminate on things or situations that you don’t have and can’t really change, try for just a few minutes every day to list one thing for which you are thankful. For me, one year it was toilet paper. No joke.
How it could be worse
Yea, it may seem counter-intuitive, but just thinking about how it could be worse is an exercise in developing awareness about our fortune and in our privilege. However, it does no good if we don’t do anything about it either. As a practice, our gratitude should extend to spreading that fortune to others. Literally and figuratively. It should never be weaponized or used as a way to sit in an ivory tower. We seek to create a better life for ourselves and for others by recognizing the different facets of society that make crappy situations to begin with. And we put up our fist and help change them. Sometimes considering our fellow humans’ struggles empowers us to be the shoulder they need and gives us a bit of insight and gratitude.
Use all the tools
The kind of help we can employ can be a lifesaver and get us to appreciate our journey on this Earth. Going to therapy, eating your favorite meal, using medication, visiting friends and family, whatever tool you use. Don’t feel like practicing gratitude is wishful thinking with magic results. It is a great practice, but it is part of the toolbox and it comes full circle. Practicing gratitude makes it easier to utilize all the help which then makes us feel even more grateful!
Gratitude is a practice, and as a practice, it takes work. It may not result in a pretty little box from Tiffany’s, but it does create valuable results.
How are you practicing gratitude today, tomorrow, and beyond?