2020 has been a truly tumultuous year, literally one for the history books. Some of us have lost family members and friends, our idols and even our livelihoods. There’s been so much pain, anxiety and uncertainty, it’s hard not to focus on all the things we’ve lost, can’t do and can’t have. But it’s exactly at times like these that a shift in perspective is needed. When all hell is breaking loose, when you feel at your lowest, it’s time to turn to gratitude.
What does gratitude mean?
For me, gratitude means that despite our individual circumstances, good, bad or indifferent, we acknowledge that there are things, people and experiences we are fortunate to have. We express our thankfulness and appreciation for these gifts.
Knowing (intellectually) that you should be grateful is very different to truly feeling grateful, and over the last 9 months I found myself saying the words but not really feeling them. I learned that to really feel grateful you have to go deeper than the words. Here are five things to remember.
1. Gratitude starts with a decision
When what is happening around you is not what you want, you have to decide to look beyond your current experience. You decide instead to look for the good, to be happy regardless of circumstance. You decide to be thankful for the ‘little’ things: a sunny day, a beautiful sunset, a joke shared with friends, the ability to breathe, walk and talk.
It’s easy to be grateful for the good things, but much harder to be grateful for those things that challenge you and bring you struggle. So gratitude means being thankful for the struggle because although you may not see it, there is a purpose. Perhaps you are being given an opportunity to learn and grow.
2. Gratitude does not mean being in denial
There’s a storm raging around you and you feel helpless and afraid. It’s ok to wish things were different, to be angry and disappointed. You don’t need to pretend that you’re not affected by the challenges that you are going through. When you focus on gratitude, however, it invites you to step outside your troubled mind and consider an alternative perspective.
3. Gratitude offers an uplifting perspective
When you step out of your struggle you get to look at the situation more objectively. What’s really at stake? Is it truly life and death? What is something positive that you can learn?
When you look at the situation through that lens, those obstacles may not seem as ominous. And yet if they are, you start to see that you can’t control it. It is what it is and like all things it too will pass.
It’s funny how you can sit around, stressing and straining your mind to find a solution when what you need to do is shift from what is not working to what is. Gratitude shifts your attention from the negative to the positive. The problem doesn’t disappear but you feel lighter.
4. Gratitude focuses you on the good in your life
Most of us don’t have everything we want and some of us have more than others. Gratitude brings the realisation that you don’t need to have everything to be thankful or happy. You may not have it all, or as much as you see others out there do, but you have countless blessings to appreciate and enjoy.
Gratitude reminds you that what you have won’t always be there, loved ones, things, even your life. All of it will eventually pass on. Can you be grateful for what you do have, right now?
5. Gratitude fosters peace and tranquility
We all have to navigate through the highs and lows of life but when you feel grateful it’s difficult to remain angry or resentful. There is a peace that comes from surrendering your troubles and looking at your life from a perspective of abundance not lack. There’s a calmness that comes in knowing that it will be fine.
Are you going through a challenge right now? Do you feel overwhelmed and lost at times? Does it feel like it will last forever?
Decide today to focus on one thing, anything, that is good in your life. What is one thing that you’re grateful for? Big or small, if you think hard enough you will find it.
Now reach beyond the thought of it to the feeling it creates. Consider what having this gift has brought to your life. Feel your chest expand, do you feel that warmth inside? Don’t you already feel lighter, maybe even a little happier? That’s the power of gratitude my friend, life’s most awesome gift.