“Without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life… actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice.” – Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
This past summer was a vortex of challenges for me: a loved one’s impending divorce, entrepreneurial obstacles, an upcoming move, and my own heartache after a relationship ended. Throw in the demands of a struggling artist, and you’ve got a recipe for burn out.
Finding appreciation for our blessings at times like this, can seem nearly impossible. Yet it is at exactly these overwhelming moments that we need a huge dose of the gratitude elixir. This is because when we center our thoughts on what is going right in our life, we reroute ourselves back onto a path of positive results.
Here are some highly engaging strategies to ensure that during difficult times, gratitude takes its rightful place at the forefront of our lives:
Take something away from yourself
This seems counterintuitive! Yet it works because we have to take an inventory of what we have in order to make the decision of ‘Which one of these will go’? This inventory is also known as our BLESSINGS.
All of a sudden, what seemed like a hopelessly hard luck life turns out to be much more filled with good stuff than we had realized.
Making the decision of what will go also allows us to begin to understand what is really important to us. Will we get rid of TV or the Internet? Overtime that cuts into personal time or the latest and greatest cell phone? It is the answers to these questions that help us simplify our lives, and to focus on what’s most fulfilling to us.
When we begin to understand this, it is easier to move onto the next gratitude-enhancing trick.
Stop DOING so much and start BEING more
Fulfillment is found in who we are, and who we are is human BEINGS. If we continually choose not to take that into consideration, true gratitude for our innate awesomeness will not be possible. It is in making time to contemplate our own selves that we find true appreciation.
The ironic side effect of this is that it allows for a clearer focus that makes us much more efficient when we have to get back to the business of DOING.
So don’t be afraid to take that 15 minutes to meditate, to pray, or to simply sit and enjoy the amazing unconditional love of your cat. You won’t be wasting time, but instead gaining increased clarity throughout your day, along with the increased ability to see life through the lens of thankfulness.
Solicit a compliment from a friend or close family member and repeat it to yourself for at least 21 days straight.
When we’re low, an influx of kindness becomes the fuel that recharges our own gratitude battery. One minor compliment can get us thinking about an aspect of our life that is right where we want it to be. All of a sudden, we begin to feel less hopeless.
It is even more useful if you repeat the compliment to yourself each time stress about the hard stuff pops into your head. It becomes like a meditative mantra to center you back on thinking of your life with a glass-half-full mentality.
Doing this for at least 21 days helps to make it a habit. James Clear’s HuffPost article How Long Does It Actually Take to Form a New Habit (Backed by Science) found a recent scientific study showing that repetition over 2-8 months is more likely to make it stick, so the more you can repeat the compliment to yourself, the more likely it will become part of your gratitude arsenal.
Give to someone else
“The heart that gives, gathers.” – Tao Te Ching
Giving of ourselves ensures that our dissatisfaction’s days are numbered because it centers us on what we can do right now to help. This focus on how we can currently affect positive change makes it easier to let the rest go until it becomes possible to change it.
During trying times, it’s best to keep your giving simple so as to avoid further overwhelming yourself. Hold the door open for the elderly man at the bank who is struggling with his balance, thank the military woman in line at the grocery for her service to our country, or simply give your own compliment to a loved one who you sense could use the morale boost.
By performing these seemingly small acts of kindness, we send gratitude out into the world, and just like a boomerang, it will come flying back to fill us with its unconditional joy.
Are you grateful every day you’re allowed to be alive? How do you bring gratitude back on your plate when life gives you lemons? Tell us in a comment and don’t forget to pin the image below (mouse over it and click the red button: yes, it’s as easy as that!)