What is Gratitude?
Some of us have been told that we should “just be grateful for what we have.” Sometimes, that implies that we aren’t supposed to feel badly about some things because other things are going well. We find ourselves in a back-and-forth argument, feeling badly, and then maybe feeling badly about feeling badly because we should just “be grateful.” But what does gratitude actually mean?
Gratitude is the process of intentionally recognizing things that have gone well
It is looking at the day and spotting things that were beneficial, helpful, hopeful, and meaningful and taking a moment to acknowledge them. Gratitude is NOT the process of undermining or undoing the things that are hard. It is the intentional practice of seeing BOTH. It is looking at the day and not allowing the things that were difficult to completely outshine the things that went well.
Think about it
When you get home from your day, are you more likely to reflect and talk to your friend or partner about the things that went really well, or the things that really didn’t? Most of us focus on and remember the days that we hit all the red lights, and maybe don’t notice so much when we hit all the greens. It takes a little practice to really take notice of what’s going well.
To help you in your gratitude practice, here are a few little things you can try
- When telling someone about your day, start with at least one good thing that happened
- Keep a daily log of the best thing that happened to you each day
- Before meals, have each person in the family go around and say one thing they were grateful for today
- Spend extra time reflecting on the days that you’re sure nothing good has happened and work to find something (even something tiny) that you can be grateful for
- Keep a running list of things that you are grateful for, and reflect back on it on the hard days
- Remember that sometimes you can be grateful for something that didn’t happen (I didn’t get a ticket when I was speeding to work this morning; I didn’t spill my coffee when I knocked my mug over)
- Share in your gratitude with others by making sure to say thank you, or ask others what is going well about their day so far
Being grateful doesn’t mean finding good things to drown out the bad, or to somehow say that you’re not allowed to feel grumpy because you have things to be grateful for. Ultimately, it’s trying to remind ourselves that often we have both; that our lives are both wonderful and difficult, light and heavy, fun and frustrating. It’s taking on a practice that says maybe sometimes you get to be grumpy and grateful.