Gratitude is something that we don’t really get taught in school. Sure, we’re told to say please and thank you, it’s nice to be polite—but that’s not really gratitude. And, in a world that’s becoming more and more challenging, gratitude is getting left in the dust.
How on earth can we be thankful for pain and suffering?
Not always easy
In fact, it can be more than impossible—and what’s more than impossible?! The times we need gratitude the most are the times it’s hardest to find.
And, it’s easy to say “we just need to be grateful” if we’ve got a roof over our heads and food in our bellies and a general quality of life. To tell someone living through crisis that they need to be grateful can sound downright condescending—or like we’re trivialising what they’re going through, which is not the intention at all.
It’s simply that gratitude has the ability to pull us out of some pretty deep holes. There’s a heap of research that shows the benefits of being grateful, on our mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
Try being angry or frustrated or bitter when you’re feeling grateful, instead—is it possible? If it is, it’d feel mightily funky.
So, how can we all choose to tap into that well of gratitude, no matter what we’re going through?
Back to basics
Maybe it’s about getting really fundamental and simply being grateful to be alive?
Life is never guaranteed—they’re called given moments for a reason. They’re given to us and we don’t know when they’ll be taken. The things we get to experience as living, breathing, feeling creatures on this planet? They’re pretty darned unique and miraculous.
I’ve no idea how this stacks up when we’re going through a crisis—miraculous is not always the word that comes to mind. But, can we still, no matter what, be grateful for breathing?
When we’re going through the impossible, say this too shall pass and take a big, deep, refreshing breath in?
And a long, luxurious, relaxing breath out?
We need to, somehow, make gratitude our default setting.
There’s a school of thought that suggests that we’re souls or spirits that take on human form, in order to learn through feeling and experience—to balance out the karma of the universe, its past successes and failures.
Now, I don’t have the foggiest idea if this is the case and everyone will have a different take on who we are and why we’re here—that’s a whole other topic for another day!
I just mention it as an example of finding something, a seed of reason for the negative things that happen in our lives and how we can grow from them? Can we accept that we’re part of something magical, that bad things will happen, but that we’re a vital part of the big picture and be grateful to be alive?
It would take some almighty courage and strength to be grateful for the pain we experience, but courage and strength aren’t bad things to carry in our pockets.
The other thing is that pain is often a symptom of something else and occurs to show us that something’s wrong—physically or emotionally. Pain can be there to save our lives—but how often do we make it our life’s mission to avoid it, dull it, numb it, cover it up?
It’s almost against our nature to say howdy, pain, how are you? Instead of dealing to you, I’m going to deal with you, and be grateful that you’re pointing me in the right direction.
Because, if we’re in pain, something needs to change.
Mark your day
I’ve recently started a gratitude journal. Every evening (except when I forget!), I sit and write down at least one thing that I’m grateful for that day. At least one and up to as many as I can think of—or scrape together.
Let me tell you, some days are easier than others. Some days I’m no where near as grateful as I could/would/should be.
On the days when the thanks aren’t as glaringly obvious, we need to dig deep—find the thanks that haven’t necessarily directly affected us that day, but are still a tad important.
Be grateful for the trees that give us life. Their gorgeous, vibrant greenery.
Be grateful for the ability to breathe and speak and eat and move, relatively freely.
Be grateful for the amazing things that the body can do—bodies can grow other bodies inside them? Seriously?! It’s so crazy and amazing!
Or be grateful for the little big things—the first light of the morning, the smile of a fellow human, the feeling of stretching out sore limbs, the escape of a good story.
Some people start the day with a gratitude practice—laying the foundation for the day ahead, as we’re laying the foundation for our weeks ahead! Starting as we mean to go on.
Intention determines outcome.