A Guide To Gratitude

November 26, 2015

It’s that time of year for your Facebook feed to fill up with gratitude challenges and our good friend “Thank You” gets some much deserved play. I love gratitude.

It may be the first personal development tool that I really took to almost twenty years ago – I’m pretty sure I heard about it from Oprah :). But when we see everyone being thankful for the obvious stuff, it is nice, but it is…..well….a little obvious, right?

This past week everyone is sharing what they’re grateful for. We see posts showing gratitude for our families, our spouses, friends, our kids, our jobs, sweet vacations, special times. It’s beautiful right? It really is, don’t get me wrong. We’re often so busy that stopping just to say “thank you” for the good in our life gets overlooked, and it is important. It is powerful. But what about those times when you just can’t find it, when it’s just so hard to feel grateful? Or worse, what about those times when you feel something other than gratitude like jealously, frustration or confusion?

When we’re looking at a deadline, a business deal gone totally awry, an overwhelming to-do list, a long line at the post office surrounded by cranky people, a gigantic bill, a far off physical goal like losing weight, it can be hard to feel grateful. This is the time when you need gratitude the most.

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Thanksgiving is a great reminder to be grateful, but it’s not necessarily the day of the year when you need to do it most. I love this time of year and I love the buzz around gratitude right now so let’s use that to cultivate an attitude of gratitude the rest of the year so she’s there for us on all the other days when feeling grateful doesn’t seem as obvious.

Here’s how: Practice, Practice, Practice.

Look, it’s easy to feel good when it’s all good. I can snuggle with or just look at my two beautiful girls and be hit with a wave of gratitude that almost knocks me over.

girls grass

It’s easy for me to feel grateful for them. What is it easy for you to feel gratitude for? Use that easy stuff to get BETTER at gratitude. As you practice it with the easier stuff, you get better at cultivating a feeling of gratitude all the time. The more often you feel grateful, the quicker it becomes a default way of being for you and the less you need a “10 Day Gratitude Challenge” to set you straight.

Gratitude is a tool, one that gets you out of a lot of sticky spots. It is a tool I use in my Fattitude program, it’s an antidote to unfairness.

As in: “It’s so unfair that I can’t eat gluten, that she’s skinnier than me and drinks more wine, that they can afford a personal trainer, yada yada……”

It’s a tool you can get good at using, so keep practicing. Practice with the easy stuff, the stuff that gets you immediately into a state of life is good, it’s all OK, or “too blessed to be stressed” 🙂

You Have To Feel It

Don’t just say it – feel it. Feeling agitated, sad, angry, frustrated, etc. and saying “I’m grateful for….” is a start. But it’s just a start.

Action has to meet attitude. Feeling it is so much more powerful than just saying it – because it’s real. It’s OK to start with fake it till you make it, but eventually you can’t fake it – you have to feel it. Look at those great things in your life and say thank you, really say it, really mean it. Use those things that can bring you that feeling.

When I’m struggling, I go back to the easy. It is absolutely no challenge for me to count my lucky stars when I think of my adorable husband who makes me laugh, tells me I’m smart and beautiful all the time, and who not only trusts me to mother his children but truly appreciates what I’m bringing to our parenting team (Before I had kids, I didn’t know that would be such a compliment, but turns out, it feels like the biggest one I think I could get!).

joe and girls

It’s easy to get into that feeling when those things so clearly make you feel so good. Know what those are for you. Use them. Remember what they feel like. Use these as go-tos when your’e struggling to feel grateful. This is why I love the gratitude journals (the daily practice of writing down 5 things you’re grateful for) so much, it gets you back to this feeling so easily.

And you’ll be shocked how even on your worst day you can find those 5 things. When it’s not feeling good return to what you know makes you feel good.

Start there. Cultivate it. Grow it. Nurture it. Practice it. The best way to get better at being grateful is to feel it more often. Ya gotta feel it.

You Don’t Have To Be Grateful For The Struggle But Be Grateful In The Struggle

Hindsight is truly 20/20. It is impossible to have complete clarity in the midst of a tough situation. Part of the beauty of reflection is looking back, taking that big picture view and saying, “Ah, I can see what that was all about now.” It’s awfully hard to feel squished int your clothes and think, “I’m so grateful for the experience of needing to lose weight.” It’s hard to feel sick, tired and unhealthy and be grateful for your “healing journey”. Just like it is hard to look at a negative bank balance and think,”I’m so grateful for being broke! I’m learning so much from this.”

You can – and likely will – look back at all the tough times with clarity of what happened, lessons learned and appreciation for how those situations made you grow. But it’s often impossible to see that while you’re down in it – and part of how you grow are feeling those bad feelings, so don’t skip over them.

And sure you can have that sense of “everything happens for a reason” but it takes time to fully understand and reflect upon things to see their shiny spots. So don’t think that you have to be grateful for something that feels awful today, but know you can still be grateful. Find something! If you can’t be grateful for the struggle, still be grateful in the struggle. Life is hard some times and when it comes to changing our bodies or our health it is a process that is nonlinear, full of ups and downs, rife with emotional turmoil, and often times feels like its moving at a snails pace.

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If you can’t muster gratitude for that journey yet, find something that you can feel grateful for. Go back to your gimmies, like me and my little family. Take the easy ones and use them. Keep practicing. Or celebrate those small victories along the way. I don’t finish a workout, look in the mirror and think, “Perfect, I’m done!” But I still celebrate each workout as another victory in my battle for my best self. Each set of squats is something for me to be grateful for and worthy of praise – even if I know I’ll be back there in two days doing more squats.

Every time you choose to be your best friend instead of your worst enemy, be grateful for that. It’s a win, even if it seems small.

Still just can’t quite get there?

At least don’t complain

There will be days when even if you muster some gratitude, it slips right out of your fingers as you start feeling crappy again. When this happens and even your go-tos are not doing it for you just zip the lip.

Complaining is the opposite of gratitude. It’s focus on how much you don’t have to be happy about. Griping about it is so easy, so resist the temptation. Consider that it’s temporary. Trust that the way you feel right now isn’t how you will feel forever.

And as soon as you can, find even one little thing to be grateful for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’m grateful for each eye that reads my words and for every one of you that is vying for your BETTER every day. Thank you for being with me!

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