It’s a significant time of year right now with Thanksgiving kicking off in the U.S. which means that more so than usual we will see yet another quote, or social post talking about gratitude. It seems that everyone is telling us to feel grateful, that we should be thankful, or that we need to express gratitude. And don’t get me wrong…..the practice of gratitude is amazing and definitely has a place in everyone’s lives. The science of gratitude is fascinating and the benefits it can bring to your life are well worth exploring further in another post. But what if it’s not what you need to hear right now?
You may be finding that gratitude isn’t coming easily to you at the moment. Is the word itself a trigger because you find it hard to feel grateful given current circumstances. Do you feel guilt associated with gratitude as you find yourself comparing your situation to others? Or perhaps the mere thought or reminder to be grateful is actually causing you to feel stressed and anxious, as you feel it’s yet another thing you’re just not doing “properly”. Is gratitude grating on you?
So what can you do when the sight of the word “Gratitude” makes you want to run and hide, or is making you feel worse than you already do? Here are some things for you to try…..
- Be Kind to Yourself
The crux here is that we don’t have to feel happy or grateful all of the time. It’s perfectly ok to have our big feelings, we’re allowed to experience and feel pain, overwhelm, sorrow and frustration. Remember to treat yourself with kindness and grace. Grant yourself space to feel these feelings. Don’t just dismiss them and try to force gratitude to take their place. Doing this is like telling your brain that you’re not entitled to your feelings and this can cause more harm to your mental health than good.
- Validate your feelings
Rather than running away from how you’re feeling, lean in instead. Take notice of what it is you’re feeling, how you’re feeling it, where you’re feeling it in your body and your automatic response. Is there something that triggers you to feel anxious, overwhelmed or angry? By recognising and acknowledging these things you’re able to allow yourself to feel and move through whatever it is you’re going through. Try not to resist your feelings and as you move through this process you can begin to incorporate gratitude into your life in a space that fits, rather than feel bullied into it.
- Make some space
Who says that you can’t have difficult feelings and positive ones at the same time? See if you have the capacity to feel gratitude alongside your big emotions. Usually there’s a way that gratitude can weave in amongst it all, helping to pull you forward. For example “I feel so overwhelmed with everything I have going on right now (recognition). I’m so grateful though that I have supportive friends who keep me sane.” Let gratitude live alongside all the crazy that’s going on, bring it on as an ally and this way there’s a lot less pressure to feel like everything is awesome.
- Sharing is caring
We all need to share the love these days. We also need to share the burdens. Even if this isn’t in a physical sense, we most definitely need to share the emotional load, and put it down for just a bit. One way to do this is to find someone to dump on…..someone you can talk to and let it all out, without fear of being judged, without fending off unwanted advice. Find someone to talk to, a relative or friend, coach or practitioner, or even your cat or dog.
If you don’t have anyone to talk to right now you could begin to journal how you’re feeling, express yourself on paper, no holding back. Get it out and make that space to move forward. There’s no judgement in a journal so go nuts. It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself and a situation by just writing with no agenda. Just write whatever pops into your head for about 10 minutes straight. Do this for a couple of days first thing when you wake up and see what it reveals :-).
- It’s ok not to be ok…….for now….
If you’re finding it particularly hard to let gratitude in on any given day, then that’s ok. Don’t force it. Sit with your feelings awhile longer and try again later, when your immediate situation recedes and things feel calmer. Start with appreciating the small things…..it’s amazing how many there if you begin to look for them. If you do feel like you’re really struggling, then seek professional help, even if at this stage it’s just to reach out and let someone know you’re struggling. That way you know you have someone watching over you, and that you’re not in this alone. Then, when you feel like taking that first step forward you have someone to hold on to if you need it.
Gratitude should be a positive thing, not something that we feel obligated to practice or guilted into. By embracing all of our feelings, the challenging ones and the positive together we can begin to better understand ourselves and move with more confidence into the next stages of our lives. As we start to find more balance in our lives then gratitude will begin to flow with ease and become a more permanent friend in your life xx
P.S. If you’re struggling to incorporate gratitude in your day to day and would like get back on track and find more balance in your life then be sure to download your free Life Planner here.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Natalie Waugh is a certified holistic health coach who has studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, as well as a certified Oola Life Coach. Her focus is to help women who are feeling overwhelmed and stressed find more balance in their lives, and take back control so they can start living their life with purpose, wellness, abundance and joy.