One of the most common obstacles people come across with their gratitude practice is the question of whether or not they are “doing it right.”
I have many friends and clients who have begun a practice, bought a special journal, and intend to write 3-5 things down each morning or night that they are grateful for. So far, so good, right?
Then they come to me asking:
“I’m not sure if I truly felt grateful.” Or,
“I felt pleased about certain events of my day, but I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude”
“I’m struggling to figure out what I’m supposed to be feeling”
And similar statements…
It’s happened enough times that I thought I’d include a blog post about it to set the record straight.
Gratitude may seem like a simple enough emotion, but it is, in fact, quite a high vibrating feeling that not everybody can reach in seconds. Sometimes this is because you’re trying too hard or overthinking it and sometimes it’s because genuinely you’re in a rough patch and feeling grateful just seems out of reach.
If the latter applies, let’s take a look at what you can do:
Let’s say you’re in the middle of a challenging time in your life or perhaps you experience depression or suffer the effects of trauma from the past, even if you’re just having a really dreadful day – gratitude is not always the easiest state to slip into.
That’s entirely normal.
If you’re in the middle of a divorce, or you’re late to pay rent or your child is sick, maybe finding something to be grateful for is not really where you’re at. Maybe you’re pretty mad at the world and finding gratitude makes you want to vomit or scream or punch someone! Again, normal and depending on your circumstances or emotional and mental state, totally understandable.
I like to think of gratitude practice as a guiding light – maybe it’s really really faint, a tiny flicker in the distance like candlelight, but as long as you know it’s there it can still provide some comfort, and eventually bring you back on course and help you navigate back to yourself.
My advice to anyone who cannot find the feeling of gratitude is to either:
- Go Big
- Go Small
What do I mean?
When I say “Go big” I mean find something universal and big to be grateful for. Take your perspective outside of your personal issues and think about how incredible it is that the sun rises every day. Be grateful for the Earth and how it continues to spin on its axis. Be grateful for the rain and the sunlight, for the day and the night full of stars, for the abundance of possibilities in the world. If you’re getting the hang of it, you could even consider being grateful for things you’ve done in your past, maybe people you have met that have changed the course of your life or countries and cities you have visited.
Think of the most beautiful places you have been and what you have seen there. If you need to, think of a photo or painting you have seen that you find beautiful and be grateful for that. What’s your favorite piece of music?
Find gratitude for the fact that it exists and you can listen to it. Try to keep things large and non-specific for as long as it makes you feel good.
When I say “Go small” I mean find something seemingly irrelevant and tiny in your day, or in your life that you can muster up some gratitude for.
It could be the parking space that you got that morning, or being on time when you thought you were late. It could be that someone held a door for you, or that you were offered a seat on your commute and got to read the paper. Maybe you can feel grateful for your car starting without problems, or that you had a good hair day or that there was enough milk for your coffee at breakfast time.
When you start really small, maybe you’re not cultivating a huge high vibrating feeling within you yet, but you are training your mind to find little positive moments or aspects of your life that make you feel better.
That’s the secret to gratitude after all – training your focus to look for what makes you feel happy, instead of drowning in negativity.
The secret is to keep going. You will train your mind to find things you are grateful for throughout your day and before you know it, you’ll be noting them down to write into your journal later on!
As you stretch into your downward dog you’ll realize how grateful you are for the time to quietly practice yoga. As you breathe the fresh smelling air after the rain, you’ll feel grateful for the chance to be outside. You will continue to notice both large and small things that make you appreciative and grateful every single day of your life.
Don’t give up on yourself or on finding gratitude, in any circumstances.
It’s always there, it’s just waiting for you to truly see it.