When I meet with clients, they often express how they know practicing gratitude is helpful. But, they reveal how sometimes it's hard to feel grateful when things aren't going the way they hoped. The truth is that I can relate. When I've gone through tough times in my life, I've held on to my positive nature and appreciation for the process of life. But, I've also felt moments of defeat during those times. And, I know it's important to feel all of my feelings - the ones we'd identify as positive and negative. So, I do so while really aiming to practice gratitude for even the negative feelings. But, I've questioned...how is my positive attitude and gratitude really paying off?! It doesn't always feel better.
What It Looks Like During Tough Times
That is when I catch myself. I notice that in those moments of feeling deflated, I'm worrying about what will happen in the future and generally coming from a place of fear. So, I recover and remind myself that gratitude is a choice and to practice it again in every moment I need to do so. (I call it "practice" for a reason:-)
In fact, scientific studies show that practicing gratitude DAILY improves your emotional and physical well-being. It makes you 25% happier! So, it's especially important to be appreciative of life during tough times when you really want to feel happier.
4 Key Principles
Below are the FOUR keys I discovered for practicing gratitude during the toughest time in my life. It was when my Dad was diagnosed with ALS 4 years ago, and my family and I had to think about my parents' overall healthcare needs. Each principle provided me a sense of comfort opening my heart to really experience the benefits of gratitude:
Live in the Moment
When I first heard the diagnosis, I chose to focus on the fact that my parents were still with us and my family was spending more time together than ever.
Notice the Blessing(s)
I've always known that my nieces and nephews are funny, loving, and interesting people. But after seeing how they were going above and beyond expectations to show my parents how much they were deeply loved, I found them even more admirable and respectable. I was prouder and happier than ever to know these young adults and to have them in my life.
Choose an Empowering Perspective
I chose to focus on the perspective that we were afforded the gift of time...the opportunity to help my parents think about how they'd like to live the rest of their lives while we supported them every step of the way like they supported us (their children and grandchildren).
Feel the Feelings
I also took time to feel the feelings associated with what I was appreciative about in my life. Beyond writing or thinking about what you're grateful for, it's important to really feel these feelings. At that time, I remember feeling overwhelmed with love by being with my parents, my extended family, and my supportive friends. I couldn't help but be grateful for all of this love that came my way.
How can you put these 4 principles in to play in your life? What is a nugget of positive truth in this very moment? Hold on to an empowering perspective. And, immerse yourself in any good feelings that arise and let the upward spiral begin.