Updated: Feb 15
Gratitude is a powerful state of emotional being. Gratitude can shift perspectives, change relationships and open up unimaginable possibilities.
But what about those who find gratitude hard?
It is easy to get into a depleting cycle when challenging moments are constantly coming up. As a result, many begin to think something is wrong with them or that they may be just one of those people who can't experience gratitude.
This cycle is not productive and unnecessary as it is true that gratitude, given certain situations, can be tricky, but it is not as elusive as you might think.
How can one be grateful for the collapse of a relationship or the loss of a job?
The truth is that sometimes gratitude can take time and can be a process of allowing.
Here are five ways you can practice and invite gratitude into your difficult situations; remember, it might not happen overnight, but a shift can and will occur if you practice consistently.
Be okay resting in neutral.
Neutral, especially when times are difficult or emotionally charged, can be the best place to strive to be.
When you practice resting in neutral, focus on nothing more than this exact moment, breathe in and out in a slow cadence that is comfortable to you.
You may only be there for a minute or two and know that this is okay. By practicing resting in neutral, you are allowing the charge of the situation to be processed.
If you feel compelled to write, exercise or yell at that moment, I will encourage you to honour the energy that resting in neutral brings up.
Write about it.
Writing can help release energy and allow you to see what is in your control and what is not.
Try this flow of inquiry to work through:
First, describe the situation that is challenging you. Try not to justify your position at this point of the writing; allow yourself to describe what you see going on, like watching a movie.
Second, write about why this is so hard for you. Perhaps consider a time in your life when you felt this way before. Or you can write about what is being threatened by this situation.
Next, write about what it would be like to be grateful for this situation. This imagining part of the exercise will entice you to think about how it might be possible to feel gratitude and be the encouragement you need to continue to work through the challenge.
Finally, decide on a baby step to move closer towards gratitude. Decide what could be the smallest, most incremental thing you can do.
Look into your eyes in the mirror.
There is nothing more powerful than human connection, especially when it comes to your relationship with yourself. But, unfortunately, in challenging or downright hard situations, it is so easy to lose contact with your essence.
You forget just how magical of a human being you are.
Take some time at a mirror and look deeply into your own eyes, focus on the essence of who you are beyond the stories you tell yourself or the flaws you might feel compelled to take inventory of in that moment.
It is very common in an exercise like this for emotion to come up. Do your best to allow that flow to rise. Emotion is energy in motion, and gratitude can get stuck behind this trapped energy.
Encourage yourself with a loving mantra, like the beautiful one from Ram Dass, "I am loving awareness," or create one that suits you.
Take a breathwork class.
The breath is a powerful tool when it comes to connecting with gratitude. So much research has been done that a quick Google search of 'breathwork' will provide you hours and hours of reading on the subject.
Every experience that I have had, no matter the modality of breath work, has been transformational and unique. The gift of breathwork is that it navigates past all the stories, rationalizations and judgments you have and gets right into the body.
The body and the predisposition to hold onto the struggle may be what is blocking you from experiencing gratitude. Being willing to explore this with a trained breath practitioner is a worthwhile consideration. I equate it to going in and dusting out the corners of your inner world.
With time, and practice this can help you experience more gratitude in your life.
Develop a heart-based practice.
Gratitude is an emotional state that is rooted in the heart. Moreover, there are decades of research to support the transformative power of the heart.
The HeartMath® Institute in California has done a lot of research about the benefits of a heart-based practice and how it can reduce the impacts of stress, anxiety and support you in becoming a more resilient person all around.
The heart has over 40,000 neural receptors around it, and studies show that eight out of the ten messages sent between the brain and the heart come from the heart.
When you focus on your heart, you activate those neural receptors that release those 'feel-good' chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.
These chemicals have a strong relationship with feeling grateful and a general sense of wellness.
It is worth thinking of gratitude as something you cultivate in your life, rather than something that should just be there.
Gratitude is work, and with a bit of practice, day-by-day, week-by-week, it will start to creep into areas that your life previously felt challenging to accept, let alone feel grateful for having.
The struggle comes when we decide to hold on too tightly to a righteous idea about something. Holding on too tightly prevents the opening up to even exploring the possibility of feeling grateful and may be the most significant barrier to climb.
With intention, anyone can grow to be more grateful, even when it comes to life's most difficult situations.
Dave is a Leadership, Life Coach and Equine Guided Facilitator living in Steveston, B.C., Canada. Dave has experience with individuals that feel stressed out and exhausted who know that they want something different.
In 2017, Dave left a career as a Senior Manager at a large Local Government organization to start Small Pause Coaching & Consulting. His philosophy about taking a pause and inviting in a new conversation, a deeper conversation, has supported hundreds of individuals and organizational clients.
He is a Certified HeartMath® Coach & Mentor, a trained Equine Guided Learning Facilitator and a Certified Coach with the ICF. Dave took his coaches training at the Newfield Network in Boulder, Colorado.
Dave also expresses his creativity through the Small Pause Shop, where he designs apparel that supports living life 'inside the pause.'