By Marquita Herald, Emotionally Resilient Living, June 16, 2015
While most of us are aware that gratitude is a “good thing” to feel, at times it can be challenging to muster the emotions let alone focus on precisely what we’re grateful for. This is especially so if we happen to be going through a rough patch, indulging ourselves in a little quality time on the oh-pity-poor-me pot, or focused more on all the things we want in life rather than what we already have.
Of course the benefits of gratitude are well documented and include the possibility of more energy, increased optimism and happiness, improved sleep, stronger immune system, and decreased chance of depression.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. ~Melody Beattie
You have to admit, there aren’t many things that require so little investment and have such a nice return. So, even though this is far from revolutionary thinking, why do we still sometimes struggle to find things to be grateful for?
#1 Reason We Struggle With Gratitude
Let’s start by acknowledging that positive life circumstances are seldom equally distributed; while some of us appear to have relatively easy lives, others suffer greatly. Sometimes adverse circumstances come about as a result of poor choices, and other times we find ourselves facing obstacles or unexpected change that we have no control over. Regardless of the nature, the reason we struggle to find anything to feel grateful for during these times is that we’re basing gratitude on external circumstances.
If your sense of gratitude is based on how things happen to be going in your life at the moment you’ll likely be incredibly grateful when things are going well. But as soon as your circumstances change, those warm and fuzzy feelings will soon be replaced by disappointment and frustration.
In order to turn an “attitude of gratitude” into a sustainable habit, your foundation for feelings of gratitude must be independent of your circumstances and the way to accomplish this is by shifting your mindset to focus on being grateful just to be.
Take Your Gratitude to a Deeper Level
True gratitude, like love, is as much an action as it is an emotion. You may have many things in your life to be grateful for at the moment, but to shift away from focusing on external circumstances try taking your expression of gratitude to a deeper level to develop a sense of appreciation for the art of being fully alive.
The Wealth of Your Senses
Touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing. Our senses are what connect us to the world. Consider the wealth of all you can see, hear, and feel everyday of your life. Learn to appreciate the subtle changes in a loved one’s facial expressions, a beautiful piece of art or the smell of fresh cut grass, the sound of rain, the wind, or waves lapping on the shore. Allow yourself to enjoy the feeling of petting your dog or cat, the rich smell of fresh cut grass, or the touch of a lover or a friend. Focus not only on your enjoyment of a good book, but the blessing of your ability to see the print and read.
Familiar Things and Faces You Rely On
Have you ever noticed that the more familiar you become with the people, beautiful places, and comfortable situations in your life, the easier they are to take for granted? It’s your favorite cashier that you look for whenever you head to the checkout line, your favorite restaurant where everyone recognizes you and makes you feel special, or the one and only mechanic that you will trust your precious car with. We grow comfortable with circumstances and assume things will never change. But things do change, and people will leave. So why not take some time to think about all of the things, people and situations that you count on to make your life a little easier, a little more pleasant, and where possible voice your appreciation for the difference they make in your life.
Your Ability to Learn
Our ability to learn is something that is sorely taken for granted. There is a whole world of fascinating information and opportunities for growth out there, and a lot of it is free and available right at our fingertips as long as we have an internet connection or a library card.
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young. ~Henry Ford
The Beauty and Power of Nature
There is so very much beauty all around us to see, touch, and hear. Nature is so miraculous because it is always changing. No matter how many times you look at something, it is always different. When it is sunny and bright outside, we feel cheerful inside. When it is cloudy and rainy, we often feel gloomy but even in the clouds there is beauty if you are only willing to open your eyes to it.
I live on a beautiful Island in the middle of the Pacific and still have to remind myself from time to time to “see” my surroundings. Just this morning I returned from a walk with my dog and finally noticed the plumeria trees that line the drive coming up the hill to my home are in full bloom!
Learning to become more aware of nature can truly have a profoundly positive effect on our lives in the way we look at things and in the way we feel about ourselves.
Every Experience That Led You to Become Who You Are Today
Life is a collection of moments and all of your moments up to now have made you the person you are today. The seemingly useless happenings that added up to something special, and the elaborate future plans that never came to be. Every lesson, every regret, every decision, and every obstacle mattered because all of this has strengthened you. Challenge yourself to celebrate your successes and redefine regrets, mistakes and failures as valuable life lessons, and allow the knowledge to help you look for the opportunities for growth in all of your future experiences.
The Privilege of Being One of a Kind
YOU are one of a kind … there is no one quite like you in the whole world. Stop worrying about fitting in or comparing yourself to others and learn to embrace your individuality. Every one of us has our own strengths and weaknesses, and it is only when you accept everything you are, and aren’t, that you will truly find the happiness and fulfillment that you seek. Be grateful for the amazing person that you are!
Taking the time to be thankful allows us to look at the bigger picture in life and enjoy each day to the fullest. It’s hard to be focused on all the negative aspects of your life while feeling grateful. The same applies to being grateful for people. It’s hard to think about the shortcoming of others when you’re focused on how grateful you are just to have them in your life.
Your Turn: What would you add to the list? Are there things or people that you sometimes forget to be grateful for?
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
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Here’s to living and loving your resilient life!