November seemed like a really natural time to spend some energy thinking about gratitude so I had intended to focus on this topic this month anyway. In last last few weeks there have been devistating storms, terrible violence and so much pain going on in the world that I thought I really needed to focus on some good, uplifting things so that I don’t get lost in all the sadness.
When things are going well and it seems we are getting what we want and need, it feels easy to be grateful. But what about the rest of the time, when we are really being challenged?
I thought that it would be good to start the conversation by looking at what may block us from real or sincere gratittude.
It may be true that, “things could always be worse” though when I’m struggling with something that rarely feels uplifting, it is more likely to give me the sense that in fact things will probably get wrose. Murphy’s law does apply, right? Also, I think that is one of the many dangers in comparing our circumstances to that of others is that we rarely know the full story.
So when things are hard, how do we find the good?
For me, even in difficult times it has started with small things. I had to look for them and at times even create them but I had to find things to look forward to each week.
This may sound silly but in some of my darkest times, the day I washed my sheets became my favorite day of the week. It had the benefit of spuring me on to do it, even if I didn’t really feel like I had the energy and I would focus on how good it felt and know that it was a feeling I could give myself again and I could be grateful for the feeling.
How do you SEEK gratitude?
“As we express our gratitude, we much never forget that the highest appreciate is not to utter words but to live by them.” - JFK
What if gratitude begins with how you treat yourself? If you are taking care of yourself (ie eating healthily, moving your body, journaling, meditating, etc) you are in a far better place to be grateful for everything. Of course when life is difficult, these are often the first thigns to go but they are likely the things we need the most to get back to a good place.
Something happens in the brain when we are of service to others. In every religion, AA and other people created systems of how to behave, we are encouraged to be good to and go out of our way for others. It turns out that nuero-science backs this up. When we are kind to others there is a dopamine dump in our brains and we have more positive self talk.
You don’t have to go crazy with this and give up your life savings but there is likely something small you can do to be kind to others. Opening doors, sending a thoughtful email to someone else who is hurting, being aware of the need to let people know you sincerely appreciate them, etc.
I’m also glad to hear what you think. What do you do to reset when it seems as though nothing is going your way?