Guilt, Fear, Anxiety, Depression, Dread. If you’re anything like me, these words are heavy and familiar to you. At one point in my life, these words controlled me, I bought them, I owned them, I wore them everyday. I fought them too, resisted them in every way I could, I was obsessed with how to escape them.
This past year has been the most challenging of my lifetime (I can almost bet it was the same for you). I’ve experienced the most pain, made the biggest mistakes, been the most selfish, but I have also felt the most joy, fixed my biggest problems, been the most caring and loving. Here lies the contrast of life: the ups and downs, the struggles and triumphs.
So here’s the secret to getting through hard times: There is no secret. But the tool that can get you feeling good again as fast as possible is the practice of gratitude. Sometimes getting through tough times is just a matter of distracting yourself. Gratitude distracts your monkey mind from the anxiety, depression and fear – the hyper focus of your mind on the problems in front of you to get you to solutions, or at least to focus on what makes you feel really good.
You can do hard things and there will be happier days ahead, no matter how hard they seem right now. The pain and challenges you’re experiencing are priming you for the good stuff ahead, so don’t avoid it, embrace it. This may be an impossible feat when everything seems WRONG, but the easiest tool to get out of the funk is gratitude. Write it down, let it ruminate in your head, make it into a game, say it out loud. You can be thankful for everything that went right, be thankful that the sun rose in the morning, then get ready for the brighter days ahead.
When you choose to keep moving forward, being grateful to what worked, for what you have and what you learned, the struggles ahead don’t seems as insurmountable, and the challenges don’t paralyze you. I believe that this is what real “maturity” is, to understand that pain, while sometimes inevitable, is also impermanent. There is a way through every block, and everything is not your fault, and when we look at the darkness we are rewarded with great light.
1.Gratitude shortens the length of your misery.
What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life. – Oprah Winfrey
Gratitude can make hardships less painful when we’re experiencing them. Do you ever notice that sometimes we torture ourselves for the bad stuff, ruminating over it in our minds and prolonging those feelings of misery like some sort of penance? We can even subconsciously re-create the same negative experiences over and over, because it feels safe, because it’s what we KNOW, and it is what we have always done.
We get stuck inside ourselves, being obsessed with our own problems, playing the victim, feeling sorry for ourselves. Gratitude can be a way out of this pattern. Gratitude takes us outside of ourselves and into our lives, into our world, to widen the lens and see the bigger picture.
Your pain matters, and it’s very very real, but it doesn’t define you. It’s here for a reason and it can pass through you, can leave you when you choose to see it, learn from it and let it go. It’s hard to change our patterns of thinking, but gratitude is the first step, and it’s so incredibly easy.
2. Gratitude banishes guilt.
Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance. – Eckhart Tolle
When we feel like crap, we often do more things that make us feel like crap because of the guilt we feel about feeling like crap! It’s normal to experience feelings of low self esteem and a lack of worth, but these feelings keep us in the loop of negativity, again prolonging our misery and pain.
Through my past of low self worth and not feeling good enough, I began to notice how I was pushing away good things coming to me, how I was rejecting the love of others, and my inability to accept anything. Gratitude helped me immensely with this because it’s basically the opposite of guilt. When I switched my feelings of guilt to feelings of gratitude, I transformed from a person feeling unworthy, to someone that was hyper aware of the gifts and solutions I was receiving every day. I shifted my focus off myself, and onto the generosity of my family, peers and world.
3. Gratitude provides perspective.
Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses. – Alphonse Karr
It’s in our human nature to be selfish, but often we are so caught up in our heads we forget to see the bigger picture, or just the fact that everyone else probably isn’t thinking about that mistake you made, or that thing you said (they’re actually just thinking about themselves!). Gratitude takes us out of our own heads and can be a tool to reflect on what matters most.
In being grateful for small things you take for granted, your mind is conditioned to focus on the good. And after doing this time and time and time again, it can become a part of who you are. You wear the lense of gratitude, and then even some of the hardships can seem rosy, because you understand that down the road it will have served you in some way. Regardless of how out of control your life feels (news flash: control is a myth) what you can control is the way you see things, the lenses you wear to view your life.
So where to start? Absolutely anywhere. I can guarantee there are about 1,000 things happening in your day today, that are amazing, incredible, and that are missing from someone else day. That tree outside? The clear blue sky? Those sneakers on your feet? Your bottle of water? The air in your lungs? The hair on your head? The fact that your body is not in excruciating pain right now? Grateful.Grateful.Grateful.
The easiest and most powerful way is to write it down. You can write in a journal, on a notebook, or even just on your phone. But if you’re anything like me, you might need some external motivation, or some type of structure to keep you accountable. I’ve created a 30-day digital workbook to guide you through creating a daily practice of gratitude, and set goals to move through challenges. They 30 day format will help to create a routine of practicing gratitude every day, and begin to train your mind to focus on the good, and on the gifts.
- The Gratitude Lessons – Brief lessons on mindset to give you the low down on just why and how Gratitude is paramount to a fulfilling and abundant life.
- The Gratitude Games – Short, fun games to train your mind in thinking positively.
- Daily Gratitude Journal Pages – each reflect on what you were grateful for in that area today, and a goal for yourself tomorrow. You’ll highlight the low point and the high point of your day, and finally, you’ll give yourself an overall mood score for how you were feeling.
- Weekly Intermissions – A weekly break between your Gratitude journaling for a short lesson on cultivating your mind and expanding your perspective.
- Making Space – 2 final days of reflection & manifestation, you’ll reflect past 28 days and see how far you’ve come.
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily.The secret of your success is found in your daily routine” – John C. Maxwell
Gratitude is a starting place and will open you up to the goodness that is already in front of you… but it is not a magic bullet. YOU are the magic bullet and you are the only one with the power to change your life and the power to change the world.
p.s. I’ve recorded a meditation for feeling better that you can listen to for free on sounded cloud. Hopefully it adds a little light to your day. Enjoy!