Gratitude: Being grateful when you don’t feel it!
I’m not feeling it!
Sometimes life, or rather our perception of life can get us down. I say perception here because it is our minds that determine our experience of life if we allow it to.
And gratitude and particularly being grateful when you don’t feel it can seem impossible.
You might be thinking ‘I am dissatisfied with my life”, “I’m not satisfied with my life” or even “how can I be grateful when life is so bad?”. Maybe you just want to know how to develop an attitude of gratitude or are asking “is gratitude the key to happiness?”. Or perhaps you just want to learn a little more about it.
I’m here to help you with that and to explain the transformative impact that gratitude can have on your life.
The Mind’s Trap and Becoming Free
Our ego (mind) tells us all types of stories about ourselves, who we are, what others think of us and how we are doing in life. This may be good or bad and so will determine our state/mood and consequently our actions and what we bring towards us.
If our minds get away with us in a negative sense and we start to identify (believe) the stories the mind tells us then we will spiral down.
Our mind essentially is controlling us and we need to become familiar with and ‘watch’ the mind.
Most times we are oblivious to what is going on inside us, either because we distract ourselves or push it aside. Or, we get caught up in it and it snowballs. The mind will gather momentum until we believe all sorts of things about ourselves and our lives, what we need to do, what we should have done, what we should be doing and basically that we’re just not good enough and nothing is ever good enough. Is it any wonder we feel terrible? No. Is it any wonder that we are then not motivated? No. And, it is any wonder that if we do action from this space that we will basically be ultimately dissatisfied again? No.
We need to remind ourselves that beliefs about who we are or anything else we’ve learnt about how we should be are just ‘thoughts’ (the mind) and these are not the truth of who we are at our essence.
One way to begin to become free of the shackles of the mind is through gratitude.
Now, I know (because I’ve been there) that sometimes this can be extremely difficult. When we are extremely low, we can feel we have nothing to be grateful for, no reason to get up in the morning.
I want to share a bit about my own experience here. Perhaps you might be able to relate so please humour me as there is a link to how gratitude can help here.
Surrender and death of the ego
Some time ago I was in an extremely negative mindset. I was in a place of ‘what’s the point?’. My work situation (or lack of) was not great, I felt nothing was working and I felt totally disconnected and isolated from friends and family (my perception). Essentially, I felt alone and hopeless.
I also was aware however that my focus was very much on the external (what I didn’t have and needed to get), the past (and all the mistakes or things that didn’t work out, or did work out but I had somehow managed to mess up) and the future.
Now, thinking of the future was probably most painful of all. Because, I couldn’t see how it could improve.
But my other dawning was that even if it did, I would end up back where I was – unhappy and with my perception that I had nothing. Because historically this had been the pattern.
Well, where do you go with that?
I had the realisation that peace was not going to come from thinking about the past or future or from anything outside of me whether it be people or things. And I knew that it wouldn’t matter what I achieved or gained that fundamentally it would never bring sustained happiness.
Peace, joy and a sense of wholeness where there is nothing to fix (not me, anyone else or my life situation) can only occur if we become present.
This realisation meant that I had to surrender and accept. Now, I knew this intellectually. I knew it was the only way. Because, if I couldn’t go back in time and the future was hopeless where did that leave me? I had no drive – why would I with a perceived outcome of more of the same?
The only available path was ‘death of the ego’. That is to say death to believing that my mind is who I am and that the thoughts I have are who I am.
Now, this might sound a little out there but to truly be free of suffering one has to know this, one has to watch the mind, see it for what it is and therefore create the space to really begin to know who you are and sense your beingness.
In that place there is nothing to fix, you are perfect, whole and complete.
From this place, true transformation takes place both of your inner and outer worlds.
There will be an ease from within which you live and thus you will attract wonderful experiences and people. Paradoxically though you will no longer be dependent on things or people for your general sense of wellbeing.
So, why do I mention this? Because, one of the gentler and simpler ways we can improve how we feel and our experience of life is to introduce gratitude. When there is nothing else we can do right now, we can do this now rather than wait on something external to us to change how we feel. We could be waiting a while if we are dependent on this.
And, it’s what I did. Living from a place of surrender will help you. Click here to learn how to surrender.
How to develop an attitude of gratitude!
Now, as mentioned, this can be difficult (we might struggle to be able to find one thing) depending on our state, but I promise you that it will become easier and you will find that you will be able to find many many things to be grateful for.
This will have the impact of changing our experience of life, how and what we think of ourselves and others.
I’m going to give you a list of activities that you can do.
I think this is the best place to start.
Often if we can’t see anything about ourselves to be grateful for, we will not find it in others or in other things around us. I would encourage you to try but if you are unable at this point, perhaps try one of the following suggestions.
Now, you might use different language, that is fine, you might use ‘thankful’ or ‘appreciate’. Work with what is comfortable for you.
Here we go. First get yourself a journal and label it ‘gratitude journal’ (this is not essential but it is a nice approach and less likely to be cast aside than a writing pad).
Step 1. Each morning, list 3 things that you are grateful for or that you can appreciate about yourself and why (don’t forget the why).
For instance, you might write, I am grateful for:
- my eyes because I can watch the birds;
- my voice because I can sing;
- my hands because they allow me to write, paint, make something or stroke my dog;
- my intellect because it has allowed me to learn, to work, to earn money; or
- my humour because it makes me smile, and I can make others laugh and feel good.
There is a whole host of things you can include. Think about physical, emotional or mental attributes.
And, if there is something you hate or dislike about yourself, start to love it. For example, if you hate your nose, start to love it!
If you can feel these things (close your eyes, breathe in and picture or think of what you are grateful for) as you write them great, but if not, don’t worry, go through the process. If you can’t think of a why, don’t worry, go through the process.
Fake it till you make it and just go forth with ease and gentleness.
Step 2 Read what you have written before you go to bed.
Step 3 Do the same tomorrow. Add 3 more.
Step 4 Do this for 1 month. You will be amazed how you will feel at the end of 30 days and how many things you actually can appreciate about yourself.
2. Gratitude for others and what you have
Once you have finished the self-gratitude exercise (you could of course introduce it alongside the self-gratitude if you wanted to).
You can write this down or just think it.
I think it’s helpful if you can write it to solidify and re-read at night before bed but if this could potentially prevent you from doing it, just think them. We want to make this as stress-free and un-chore like as possible to minimise resistance.
Step 1. Ask yourself the question/s:
Who can I appreciate and why? You can include animals too as they can bring so much to us. For example, my dog because she brings me comfort and is always there or forces me to be active because I have to walk her.
What do I have that I can appreciate, be grateful or thankful for and why? For example, this might be your home or work environment. You might say, I am grateful for my job because it gives me money so that I can feed myself or my family.
Step 2. Do this every day for 1 to 2 weeks.
3. Appreciate the moment
My final suggestion to bring you in to presence is to ask yourself the following question.
Step 1. What can I appreciate or notice about this moment? It might be as simple as the sunshine, the soft breeze on your skin, the rustle of the trees, the beauty of a flower or the fact that you are able to walk down the street.
Step 2. Choose 3 things.
Step 3. Do this daily. You need not write it.
Choose gratitude – it has an immediate affect!
Practising gratitude will lift your spirits and improve your experience of life particularly if you do it regularly. You may only initially feel a little better (and in some cases not at all) but this will increase each day. Trust me in this.
So, I would encourage you to try it.
It brings you into the present moment, the now, which is all we have.
If you were to couple this with a meditation practice whether moving or sitting that would also improve your sense of wellbeing greatly and of course help you get in touch with who you really are, your true self.
Where from here?
I have many articles that might help you with practising meditation if you need a hand with this or if you wish to learn more about awareness, presence and mindfulness. Just click the articles tab.
I’ve also reviewed courses that I think you will find of value if you decide to delve a little deeper. Simply click here.
One in particular that is particularly relevant here is about surrender.
An understanding or awareness of these concepts and then an experience of them can truly change your inner life that will transform your outer world so I would encourage you to take the next step.
Please leave any questions or comments below. I’d love to read your thoughts.
I sincerely wish you a life of ease, peace and joy.
Go forth with ease and just be!
Enjoyed reading your post very inspiring better than reading a best seller. love the layout and all the photos.
So blessed to see this post cant wait to see more.
Oh, thank you so much Shaun. What great feedback for me. Thank you, Martine
I love this post.
I think being grateful for what you have right now is very important. A lot of people around the world are not happy or grateful with what they have at the moment because they are always looking forward to what they could have or might have.
I totally agree that practicing gratitude definitely lifts your spirits and ultimately you will become a happier person. I know this because I was one of those people who was never grateful for what I had. I always wanted and obsessed with something better.
Thanks for sharing, and I love your website.
All the best,
Yes, we are definitely conditioned to be dissatisfied with ourselves and our lot (well most of us anyway unless we have the influece of conscious people). Thankyou for your wonderful feedback on my site. Best wishes to you Tom. Martine
That was an awesome read! I can relate to this because I get caught up in stuff and procrastinate in the things that need doing. I will try these techniques and see what comes of it. God knows I have a bunch of notepads I can use… LOL
Haha, good luck with it. Thanks very much. Let me know how you get on.
Love, love love the post and Eckhart Tolle!
I read the Power of Now last year after my friend put me on to it. Thank you for the timely reminder of living in the now and all your other inspiring ideas.
All the best
Thanks for your positive feedback Jo. Yes, we need little reminders now and again. I’m glad you find my site inspiring.
Appreciate this article.
Human nature is somewhat entangled in confusion and its a life-long task to find ways to be happy and enjoy life which at most times ends sooner than expected.
Thanks Tammy, yes, the mind makes it difficult to be happy but we can be immediately if we know how and go beyond the mind and become present now.