Sometimes gratitude is hard to do. Life hands us challenges. Loss of health, job, or a loved one can make every day routines difficult to bear, making thanks a monumental task. Adapting to change can be a painful struggle.
Gratitude can be developed just like a muscle. Regular workouts provide resilience for muscles, allowing them to bounce back from setbacks. Going to the gym, getting in a workout trains muscles. Hence the popularity of ‘couch to 5k’ programs. The running program trains your muscles to run consistently for over three miles. Regular adherence to the program can have most healthy adults running three miles in 6-9 weeks. It takes time and dedication to reach the 5k goal. The key is getting started.
A good start for a gratitude practice is to write down three things you are grateful for each night before bed. If you are struggling to find items for your list, here’s a thought. One friend has a job that can be emotionally difficult. During those times when his job is stressful, he turns to his crazy sock collection. He has socks with clowns, fireworks, and balloons – even toe socks! He is a snappy dresser and looks quite professional but those socks always keep him smiling, even under pressure. He shows his socks to his friends so they can smile too. At the end of the day, he is grateful for those smiles.
A client gave me permission to share her gratitude journey. She is a hard-working young lady, driven to achieve results in her life. After discussing options with her boyfriend and family she applied to a competitive MBA program and was accepted. Two months into the program, her boyfriend of two years broke off their relationship, citing the reason that she didn’t have time to go out weekday evenings since beginning the program. She had discussed her plans with him, including study time, and thought they agreed. At first, she was quite sad for the loss of the relationship, but could still express gratitude for the two years of companionship. As time passed she realized that they each had different life goals. She had learned from this experience how important her life goals were to her, how important it is for her to have the space within a relationship to follow her dreams and to allow the other person the same space. She is grateful for this learning. Looking back, she is grateful for the two years of fun they had together and the self-awareness she gained through the experience.
Sometimes when life is difficult, the best you can hope for is learning/self-awareness from the experience and be grateful for that. Consider the famous quote adapted from an ancient Persian poem: “I cried because I have no shoes until I met a man who has no feet.” Looking at what you do not have creates discontent. Appreciating what you do have is gratitude.
Personally, I once found gratitude during a funeral. The person giving the eulogy spoke so honestly and eloquently about the kind nature of the deceased that I found myself offering thanks for having known her. Gratitude during loss can be quite profound.
It is difficult to find gratitude in a dark place. If life is offering you challenges, try some of the suggestions in this blog article to begin a gratitude practice: look for a reason to smile, look for what you have learned, look for a way to grow as a person, look at what you do have instead of what you lack, look for a way to offer thanks. When life challenges you, what are you grateful for?
- - - - - - - - - - - -
DYG Coaching is offering a FREE 30-day Gratitude Journaling course starting November 1. Sign up today!