How to Find Gratitude When You Just Don't Feel It | David Couper Consulting

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How to Find Gratitude When You Just Don’t Feel It

Posted by Sarah Hunt on December 05, 2019 11:41 AM
How to Find Gratitude When You Just Don’t Feel It

Gratitude. It's the word of the season, and it's a frequent buzzword among the self-help community. But it sounds like a lot of hooey when you're not feeling great.  

 

Sometimes you can almost double down on feeling bad with the wrong terminology around this idea. I used to hate hearing, "gratitude is the attitude" or "fake it till you make it." While good points, they're meant for either a cross-stitch or like you're being told to "put up or shut up." The way this idea is displayed matters.

 

I think of the physicians and administrators we support. Try telling someone who just lost a patient to look at the glass half full. Attempt to change a CEO's attitudes when they just got a negative review of their hospital. If we introduce the idea of gratitude at the wrong moment, the real point disappears.

 

Science has shown that gratitude has a multitude of benefits, from physical to emotional to spiritual well-being. It helps you from being sick, improves sleep, and connects you to others. It's a miraculous cure-all!  (Ref. 1)

 

Then why does it sometimes elude us? 

 

The truth is that we're looking at gratitude entirely the wrong way. Strong-arming yourself into a positive outlook is temporary or even impossible. It's not a filter you can slap on a photograph. It's a muscle you must train.

 

Like any athletic event, the following applies:

  • You must train to improve.

  • Genes have a say in how well-conditioned you are.

  • Your physical brain and personality traits can help or hinder your performance.

 

Just like some of us are more golfers than marathon-runners, gratitude comes more natural to some of us, and others we'll have to work a bit harder sometimes to feel it.  Here's how to get your gratitude groove back, even if you're over it right now.

 

Be truthful.

Pollyanna doesn't have it all figured out. It does you no good to pretend that bad stuff isn't happening. Gratitude isn't a substitute for reality. Sometimes you have to accept what wrong is occurring, deal with the bad, then move in steps towards the good. Brene Brown says, "don't argue with reality." Ignoring your truth will slow down your process.

 

"Pain is unrelenting. It will get our attention. Despite our attempts to drown it in addiction, to physically beat it out of one another, to suffocate it with success and material trappings, or to strangle it with our hate, pain will find a way to make itself known." 

― Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

 

Write it down.

Yes, a gratitude list, but with a twist. Write down five things that you found enjoyable that day, whether that be a song you heard, a burger you ate, or a moment you had alone. When you're doing this, please don't edit. Anything goes.

Doing this once may help a little. Doing it for a week will help a lot. But doing it for a brief moment frequently will physically change your brain. Your stress responses will slow. Your ability to rebound faster from stress will increase. Add a post it to your desk, set a reminder on your phone, or create a ritual to do it at the same time every day.  

 

Go ahead and bah humbug… a little.  

The holiday shopping season can breed envy and materialism, which makes practicing gratitude harder. Keep that in mind if you start to feel those icky thoughts. Instead of buying into these feelings, observe them. Opt-out of some holiday events or traditions that make you feel bad, and for goodness sake, have sympathy for yourself for feeling this way due to the time of year.

 

If you can't do it for you, do it for someone else.

Gratitude for another person is the best possible kind. Try writing a thank you note to a friend or colleague. Telling someone else how grateful you are for them will, in turn, help you to feel more grateful. Win-win!

We can all feel like the Grinch or Scrooge from time-to-time. Instead of feeling bad about feeling that way, instead, look at who and what you do have. You might be surprised at what you find.

 

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Ref 1: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude
Ref 2: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_is_gratitude_so_hard_for_some_people
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