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5 Ways To Practice Genuine Gratitude No Matter What

AUTHOR: Erickson Coaching International
DATE: 23 October 2015

There comes a time when we tend to feel that there is nothing, or very little, to be grateful for in our lives. Dealing with a crumbling relationship, loss of financial security, or poor health can lead a person to have a negative attitude. When we experience financial difficulty, we might be unable to comfortably support ourselves and our families. Enduring mental or physical health challenges can make us feel hopeless, angry, and apathetic.

Other things that can make us even more dejected are losing someone dear to us, undergoing a difficult period in our close relationships, or seeing our children suffer in some way. Yet, various research studies suggest that we can change our perspective despite the hardships in life. It’s possible to alter the chemistry of our brain towards feeling more grateful and peaceful with ourselves. Let’s examine some ways how practicing genuine gratitude can be made possible despite any life tribulations.  

1. Accept your situation

See beyond self-denial. Instead, accept your current situation. There are times when people create ideal pictures of what their life should be based on what they think other people have. It’s quite unfair to compare your life with other people’s lives because you can never know important little details about their private lives. Comparing is never helpful, and can only take you on a descending spiral. Dwelling on what you don’t have can make you not only more frustrated but also more negative. Sometimes it helps to accept a loss. This means accepting what you don’t have currently. It means accepting the situation and doing the best you can with what you have. This makes you ready to take in everything thrown at you.  

2. Keep a gratitude journal

Another thing you can do to stop the feeling of apathy is to keep a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is an effective and well-known tool that can help you increase your sense of gratitude. It helps to schedule your writing before you go to bed. Begin with small yet positive aspects of your day. This can include things like catching a train or bus on time, a warm smile from a stranger, not being stuck in traffic, a phone call that brought good news, or an inspiration quote you read that day. Appreciate something good in every situation. Writing it down will definitely help you feel better.  

3. Remember the bad

Life crises can make us more grateful. Practicing gratitude can help us cope better with them. By consciously cultivating daily gratitude, we are able to build a kind of psychological immune system to cushion us should we fall again. There is evidence to show that grateful people respond much better to stress. So why does it help to remember the bad? Here is why: think about the worst moments in your life, your losses, your sadness, and then take a moment to appreciate that after all that, you have not only survived but emerged as a stronger person. You actually made it through your life’s worst moments. You emerged unscathed through a trauma, you got through a difficult trial, and you survived what seemed the worst. Remembering the bad helps us appreciate the good. As Dietrich Bonheoffer, a German pastor and theologian once said:  

“Gratitude transforms memory pangs into tranquil joy.”

4. Be near those you love

Physiologically, humans are not meant to be by themselves when under stress. Regrettably, our thinking errors tend to cloud our minds, which may make us want to isolate ourselves.  Although it might not be possible to be physically near those we love, it can still be beneficial to mindfully think about them. Experts say that when you experience difficult situations, you can take a few moments to think of many people you would like to support you at that time. You can visualize that they are fully present and are there for you. If you cannot think of anyone, perhaps a historical figure or a famous person could be another option. What would this individual advise you to do at this time? Think of their advice, take it in, and try to apply it in your life.  

5. Be Social About Your Gratitude Practice

The greatest thing that affects our happiness is our relationships with others. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to think of others even while building our own gratitude. By focusing our gratitude on individuals that we are thankful for (and not material items or specific circumstances) we enhance the benefits of our gratitude. Even more beneficial would be to directly include others into your expression of gratitude. You can do this by jotting a gratitude letter to that person who impacted you in a positive way. Give a detailed description of what this person did for you, and what impact they have created in your life. Some people find it inspiring to write gratitude letters to people they don’t know personally, but who have influenced their lives in a good way.  

Practicing gratitude can help us soften the sharp pain of many challenges of life. When we focus on even the smallest feelings of appreciation, gratitude can help restore our emotional energy, and expand our ability to handle anything that comes our way.