It’s that time of year – to express gratitude for what you have in your life. No matter the date on the calendar, I work on being grateful and really do pay attention to the things that are going right in my life. Yet, like so many expected feelings we tie to our holidays, it can seem forced.
Everyone has something to be thankful for, no matter how small. Everyone has something, or someone, good in their life, even when everything seems to be going wrong. But not everyone feels gratitude. Or even wants to. And, oh, is there anything worse than being told you should be grateful for something if you’re not feeling it? Basically, being told you’re doing it wrong; that you don’t have the right emotion.
My gratitude comes from finding myself in a place where I hated everything about life. I had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was afraid and anxious a lot of the time. I felt alone in my pain. I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel I seemed to be staring down. So, it took time for me to even hear the message many good and caring people where sharing with me about being grateful. To find the things that were working in my life and celebrate those. Like that fact that I woke up that day and was relatively physically healthy. Or that the sun was shining. Or that I had a roof over my head and warm clothes to wear.
It seemed silly at first. To be thankful for the heat in my home on a cold winter day. For the umbrella and waterproof coat that kept me dry when it was raining. Or to be grateful for the fresh food in my refrigerator. For the electricity to light my nights. For the phone that connected me to my loved ones. This was just regular life, right?
Gratitude was just for the big things, wasn’t it? Getting a new job. Winning the lottery. Catching your flight after getting a flat tire on the way to the airport.
Whatever it was that spurred me on initially, I decided to begin to consciously practice gratitude for even the small and regular things. Because I had to do something. I had to find something that worked to move through the pain I was in. And it did work. As I reminded myself to be grateful for even the small things (first with a gratitude journal and then a gratitude jar), I could slowly see the difference. All the difficult emotions were still there, full force, but I was starting to see some faint flickers of light in the tunnel.
Maybe we have to learn to be grateful. Maybe this is part of the wisdom that comes with age and it would be hard to feel grateful when we’re young and feeling invincible. Maybe it takes life throwing us under the bus, literally or figuratively, to recognize all the good things we do have. I don’t know. I just know that whyever it works, deciding to be grateful has made a big difference in my life. And I also know that it’s ok if you’re not there yet.