Wellbeing word of the week: Gratitude
You probably hear about gratitude often when it comes to being happy and living the best life you can.
But being grateful starts to sound unrealistic when you’re going through something hard. it’s even even harder to muster gratitude if the hard time goes on for months or even years.
This week I’m offering a different definition of thankfulness, or gratitude.
A realistic version of gratitude or thankfulness includes all the challenges and hard times. It’s a tool you can use for your wellbeing, rather than a sweet word to cheer yourself up.
How applying a slight mindset shift to gratitude makes it helpful and real
To illustrate this, imagine Sarah has lost her job. There are two ways she can use gratitude.
1. A common way to thankfulness
First, she lists all the things she’s grateful for at home and in her relationships. But on Monday morning she wakes up feeling low with no job. She tries to push away the fear and focus on the good things but the nagging sadness hangs around all day.
2. A broad way to thankfulness
The second way incorporates the pains the feels.
Sarah notices she’s scared about the future and she’s down about losing her job. She tells herself this is a normal feeling and calls a friend to talk it out and they nut out ideas for her future. Sarah notices the kindness of her friend and the mixed emotions she’s having of joy and sadness. She feels thankful for the options she’s now imagining, even though she knows it’s not easy.
In this example, Sarah is open to her feelings and allows them. This motivates her to reach out to a friend and brings possibility into her thinking. She is honest about the situation, rather than suppressing it, which is hard to do.
Openness to our feelings and the reality of a situation broadens our view. Being thankful is easier when we see possibility along with out pain.
A 5 step note taking exercise to build open and realistic gratitude
Note: The Wellbeing word of the week is my weekly post to help you grow your happiest life. This is to help you build self knowledge and solutions to reach your goals. Grab your journal to take notes on the points below. Want to know more about creating your preferred life plan? Click here for a summary article explaining a plan for next year.
- Write one short paragraph about something that’s troubling you at the moment. This could be in relationships, work, finances, health etc. Just describe the situation, not your feelings (yet)
- Now write three reasons this is upsetting you. For example, “Because I’m scared i’ll lose the friendship” or “i’m worried my boss thinks i’m an idiot”
- Jot the numbers 1 to 5 down the page. Next to each number, write a strength, ability, or personality trait you have that will help you through this challenge. For example, “I am good at persisting in hard tasks”
- Now next to each strength, write why you are grateful for this strength or trait. For example “persistence has led to success in my career”
- Write one sentence of thankfulness for this problem you’re facing and the possibility it brings. For example, “being with this difficult person is helping me to be patient and practice kindness as best as I can”.
The power in our problems
To be thankful means having a full view of our current situation. We expand out vision to see the problems, hurts, joys and gifts. We acknowledge them and allow them all to exist. This takes courage to look at where we are right now.
But the power in the problems is we allow ourselves to feel our lives fully and learn lessons to help us grow.
We become unstuck by seeing possibility for our future because we don’t wait for pain to go away before we can make healthy changes and go for our goals.