Finding Gratitude In Difficult Times (How to + Why Bother)

We’re in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Talking about gratitude right now can seem a little…out of touch…

But here’s the thing:

Gratitude doesn’t bypass or negate all that is full of fear and unknowns. All that big stuff is still out there in the world and here in our hearts and heavy on our shoulders. Gratitude softens the experience for us, even if just a little bit. The sweetness of gratitude nestles in beside the fear and pain as a companion and makes life just a little lighter as we find our way forward.

Making space to let in and notice even the tiniest bits of gratitude can help us cultivate resilience and expand our emotional intelligence. Gratitude is a balm for our heart that helps us carry on through the intolerable times.

WHAT TO DO IF GRATITUDE FEELS OUT OF REACH:

In the midst of heartache, fear, and overwhelm, gratitude can feel far away…or even impossible to connect with. You really can’t force yourself to get grateful, but we find that it’s super helpful if you get curious about what little things right in front of you give rise to an itty-bitty celebration in your heart.

Sometimes allowing our gratitude to come from the little things around us, rather than seeking out the big shiny things that typically fill up your social media feeds can make the practice of gratitude a surprisingly lovely experience. Seeking (and noticing) gratitude is a practice, just like yoga…the more you practice, the more comfortable and ease-filled it can become.

Here’s a few tips to help you practice looking for gratitude in your day:

1) Keep it super simple.

Notice what feels cozy, comforting, and lovely in your life. Even the little things count:

the way your hot cup of coffee feels between your hands

that my lungs are filled with the miracle of breath

that the wee green buds are beginning to press through on the trees

that the mail truck just pulled up, making deliveries as usual

a sweet text message from a friend

wrapping up in a cozy blanket for a nap on a rainy day

2) Get specific.

So often, when we start practicing with gratitude, we get stuck on autopilot and our quest for gratitude starts to sound like a child’s bedtime prayer (I’m thankful for my family, my friends, my house and clean air to breathe) which is completely OK and super sweet, but can sometimes feel a little forced and fall a little flat. Instead, try to get really specific about what brings a smile to your lips or fills your heart with gratitude and WHY:

I’m grateful for the miracle of another sunrise welcoming a new day for me to experience the blessing of being alive.

I’m grateful for the smell of fresh bread baking that fills our home with coziness and connects me with the nostalgia of beautiful memories of childhood.

I’m grateful for the health and strength to care for my family to lighten the burden of this difficult time so they feel well cared for and know they are loved.

I’m grateful for the experience of community and the way technology is allowing us to stay connected, supported and well-resourced.

3) Make a list.

Rather than sitting down to create a list of things you should be grateful for, keep a notepad or post it note at your fingertips today and anytime you experience even a blip of gratitude, write it down. You’ll be amazed at the list you’ve collected by the end of the day.

*FAMILY FRIENDLY OPTION: Invite your family to create a gratitude jar together. Select a container (it can be a big glass jar with a lid, a plastic container, or a basket – get creative!) and label it “Gratitude Jar”. Then, anytime anyone experiences a moment of gratitude (sighting birds in the bushes outside the window, receiving a helping hand from someone in the house, receiving a moment of relief after taking time for a soak in the tub), write it down on a small piece of paper or draw a picture of it and add it to the jar. At the end of the day (or maybe at the end of each week), gather together and read the bits of gratitude out loud together. Be sure to fill everyone on how it works so it’s truly a collaborative effort.

“Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.” -John O’Donohue

May we be courageous enough to notice the quiet miracles happening all around us today as we tend to the way forward in this time of unknowns.