I was going to end my gratitude series with a post on the 20 things I’m thankful for in 2020, but whenever I sit down to write this post, I’m not feeling grateful. I’m thinking about all the things that are not working for me right now and I’m thinking about everything wrong in the world. That doesn’t leave much head space ￼for gratitude. Rather than try to force myself to write a post that’s not coming, I thought why not share strategies to help you when you are having difficulty feeling grateful. Here are three strategies that can help you when you want to feel gratitude, but don’t.
Accept Your Feelings
Everyone knows that it’s better to have positive thoughts. I don’t think anyone consciously wants to stay in a negative thought pattern, but it’s easy to get stuck there. I think of it as a spiral. Something negative can happen to me in the morning and it can effect me for the rest of the day. On the other hand if something really positive happens, your thoughts start to go upward and you notice the positive things that are happening. This is why well meaning people say things like, “think positive” or “be grateful for what you have.” Well, there are times when life feels pretty shitty and you can’t see the beauty because you are living your nightmare day after day. The nightmare is different for everyone. It could be an abusive relationship, a horrible job, a bad break up, losing a loved one etc. There is usually something to be grateful for in the end no matter the situation, but sometimes it can be microscopic.
If you’re the person who needs the magnifying glass right now to see beauty in your life or to find that shred of gratitude, it’s okay. I’ll say that again, it’s okay not to feel grateful every moment. It makes those moments when you feel real gratitude even more powerful. Just notice how you are feeling and let it pass. You are not a horrible person if you weren’t spilling over with gratitude over the Thanksgiving holiday. I know I wasn’t and I felt guilty about it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it is healthier to accept my feelings.
Make a Happy List
While there are so many benefits of gratitude, that doesn’t matter if you are not feeling it. Your mindset doesn’t change over night. Sometimes, we have to take baby steps. Rather than thinking about things you are grateful for, start by thinking about or making a list of what makes you happy. What makes you smile? What makes you laugh? You may be thinking, but isn’t that a gratitude list? Well, in a way it is since gratitude and happiness are closely linked. I want to take gratitude out of the equation for now because if you are not feeling grateful, you may feel pressured to come up with things you are grateful for. On the other hand, it’s not usually hard to come up with a list of things that make you happy.
This list can be as short or long as you want. It can be things from both past and present. Here’s a sample list I came up with.
Rosebud, mocha coffee, cupcakes, making people laugh, the beach, reading a good book, when someone says something I wrote helped them, wearing a pretty dress, snuggling with Diamond, hot chocolate, cheese cake, days off, chats with friends, when I’ve helped a coaching client, baby laughter, etc. I could go on and on, but you get the point. After you’ve made your list, how do you feel? Do you feel happier? Are you feeling more grateful than when you started?
Reverse Bucket List
When you think of a bucket list, you usually think of all the things you want to do in the future. Well, a reverse bucket list is all the amazing things you’ve already done.
- What have you accomplished that you are proud of?
- What events have made your life meaningful?
- What have you really enjoyed about your life?
The purpose of doing this list is to remind yourself of the great things you’ve done in your past. Some examples may be having your children, meeting your partner, your wedding day, an amazing vacation, getting an advanced degree, a career switch, buying a home, learning an important lesson etc. You may in fact be grateful for these things, but haven’t stopped to appreciate them. This way, if you aren’t feeling grateful in the moment, you can recall things that will bring you back to feeling gratitude.
Did you have trouble feeling gratitude this season? What do you do when you are feeling ungrateful? Tell me in the comments.