Finding gratitude in the storm

There’s no shortage of information on the subject of gratitude out there. Spiritual teachers and even psychologists are always speaking about the benefits of a grateful spirit, and with good reason. Nothing good ever comes from dwelling on the negative. However, when you’re going through a rough time, listing off things that you’re grateful for can be a challenge. Heck, just getting out of bed some days can be hard when you’re depressed, broke, going through a loss or if you’re generally just in a dark season in your life.

If you’re feeling down and someone tells you to go and be grateful, it can almost seem like a guilt trip. Of course you know that you have things to be grateful for, and that there are people out there in way worse situations than you. But your feelings of sadness, anger, disillusionment or dissatisfaction are very real. Instead of sweeping them under a rug of gratitude, acknowledge them. You can even practice finding gratitude for your feelings, both the ones that society labels as positive and the ones labelled as negative. Our feelings are our guidance system; our gut lets us know when something is off, when danger is present, or when something just doesn’t feel right. Our feelings are here to keep us safe, and it’s up to us to use our mind and hearts to interpret those feelings and take appropriate action. A good way to start off is by appreciating all of your feelings, and acknowledging that they aren’t wrong or bad. It’s a lot easier to work your way up to better feeling thoughts from this place of acceptance.

When searching for things to be grateful for, I find that focusing on non-material, non-conditional things is most beneficial. It’s not that you shouldn’t be grateful for the sunshine, a special relationship, money, or anything else that you enjoy. The only problem with focusing all your gratitude on conditional things like that  is that when those conditions change, you’ll be left feeling depressed. Focusing on unconditional things, things that can’t be taken away, is a good way to connect to feelings of gratitude no matter the circumstance. Some things I like to practice being grateful for are:

  • My breath. If all else fails, go back to your breath. Where there’s breath there’s life and where there’s life there’s hope.
  • My integrity. Perhaps it’s the Taurus in me, but I value integrity greatly. I strive to do what I feel is right even if it’s not the most lucrative or socially acceptable thing to do. I hold myself like accountable for decisions I’ve made and have a high standard of integrity for those in my life. The more I practice standing in my integrity the easier it becomes, and for this I am grateful.
  • The wisdom I’ve gain through the process of living life. I am grateful for for the collective wisdom that I get to share in, and the Divine wisdom that I have access to when I quiet my mind and listen.
  • The desire for something better. If you know that you aren’t happy with conditions now, it means that life has caused you to give birth to a new desire. A new plan is bubbling up inside of you, even if you’re not quite sure what it looks like yet. If nothing is going right at the moment, try to appreciate the new, more favourable conditions that are being created out of the chaos.
  • The transitory nature of life. No matter how bad things are, rest assured that this too shall pass.

When looking for things to be grateful for, try looking at aspects such as your character, your intuition, your wisdom, and the abundance of resources and knowledge on Earth- I guarantee you will soon find things to appreciate about yourself and about life. And eventually what you focus on will expand.

Retroactive gratitude

I think we all take some things for granted in life. I’ve certainly had the experience of not fully appreciating something until circumstances changed and that something was no longer present in my life. In these situations, beating yourself up about it will do no good. Simply give gratitude for the lesson, and send love and appreciation to the person or the condition that once was.

It’s only natural to get caught up in the human drama- even the most ‘enlightened’ individual isn’t spending every moment of their life beaming with gratitude. Life has ups and downs, so be gentle with yourself. By practicing gratitude for non- conditional things on a regular basis, it will become easier to connect with that feeling, no matter what life may bring your way.

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