The Practice of Gratitude – Why Bother?
“Be grateful for what you have.”
“You could have it so much worse.”
“Just focus on the good.”
Most of us, at one point or another, have heard one of those statements, or something similar, and it probably didn’t sit well. That’s because it invalidates, and even minimizes, what we are currently going through. Those statements are being used as a way to bypass a negative experience, as if we can “gratitude away” difficult emotions or hard times.
Let’s get this out of the way – gratitude is not toxic positivity, and it’s also not a way to shove down or minimize the challenges we face.
Simply put, gratitude is a tool that allows us to expand our perspectives, to zoom out from micro to maco.
The Struggle is Real
In the midst of a struggle, we often get so caught up in the distress of what’s not working that it’s hard to see anything else. We become hyper-focused on how bad it is and how awful we feel that we block out the full picture of our lives.
While each of us has had different life experiences, we’ve all had positive moments and negative ones. Struggle tends to highlight the negative moments and often brings to mind other similar negative experiences.
And then, before we know it, we are so overwhelmed by all of these negative thoughts that it can be hard to see or think of anything else.
Gratitude as a Resource
That’s where gratitude can be a supportive resource. Gratitude is when you say, “This is bad, and I acknowledge it. And, I remember that I have Gina, who’s really been there for me. I’m lucky to have her support.”
Or, maybe gratitude looks like this: “I know that life is hard right now, and the pain feels all-consuming at times. But yesterday I watched this show that made me laugh. I’m grateful for that experience because it reminded me that it’s possible to feel good. I can get through this.”
Gratitude allows us to recognize that there’s more to the current situation than we may be seeing through our narrow lens of pain. It says, “Hold up, let’s pause for a moment. What am I missing here? Can I zoom out and see things a bit differently?”
Humans are extremely resilient creatures. We are able to bounce back from struggle more readily than we may recognize or give ourselves credit for.
But, in order to do so, we have to create the space for the ‘pause,’ the ‘stop and breathe,’ and the ‘let’s just take a second here.’
Often, that’s the hardest part.
See, gratitude is not a way to ignore or skirt around our feelings and experiences, but rather a way of saying, “Look, I see you here, right now, in this moment, and it’s hard. Let’s be with that. And, let’s remember that feelings and experiences are temporary, that you’ve gotten through struggle before, that you have people who love you and support you, and that you have the amazing capacity to be angry one moment and laughing the next. And how wonderful is that?!”
Especially during hard times, gratitude is often found in these moments. Sometimes we search for massive shifts to know if a tool or resource is “working,” but we may be missing out on the moments that are right in front of us.
What’s so incredible about gratitude is that the more that we look out for it and intentionally connect with it, the easier, in time, it will become to spot opportunities to capitalize on its power.
The goal with any practice of gratitude is to allow for expansion. To remember that the complexity of being human means that we are capable of holding space for all sorts of things – the good, the bad, and everything in between. It’s not an either/or, all-or-nothing kind of existence. Gratitude is there to remind us to look for the beauty, the persistence, the resilience, the love, the wonder, the possibility, and, most of all, the hope.
It’s there, within all of us; it just takes practice and the art of returning to it again and again.Darcie Brown