How do we cultivate gratitude when things are not working out? Or when we are dealing with an illness? Or even loss? Learn my 5 tips to still practice gratitude when you don’t feel like it without feeling fake about it.
Photo creds: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
“Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.” – Conan O’Brien
“Miriam, I don’t feel like being grateful today. It was a really hard day for me and I don’t feel like practicing. Any suggestions?” – a DM I got yesterday on my Instagram.
I don’t always feel like being grateful either. Sometimes I am cranky, sad, frustrated, or depressed and being grateful and looking for the good, at that moment, does not really feel right. So instead of faking practicing gratitude, I practice kindness. I show kindness to myself as I would to a cranky, sad, frustrated and depressed friend.
I accept and honor my feelings because I know that feelings are temporary and I am NOT my feelings. I understand that I need a moment to process them in order to be able to regain balance sooner and with less difficulty.
Forcing ourselves into being grateful when we just don’t feel like it can cause stress, anxiety, and even depression, because we may think we are not good people.
So, how do I do it?
Here are my 5 tips to practice gratitude when you don’t feel like it:
1. I accept and sit with my feelings
I don’t ignore my feelings. I know this will only numb them temporarily but they will come back, with a vengeance. Ignoring our feelings can actually cause more pain and suffering by triggering other painful memories and feelings. So, I let them be with me. I let them take the floor. I let the thoughts come and go. I don’t judge them nor force them out. Rather, I listen to them. But I do not act on them!
2. Look for the good within myself
Then I get up, look at myself in the mirror, take a deep breath and look for the good within me. I tell myself that I am a good person. Then I remind myself of the great skills I have, the good things I’ve done for myself and others, how I care for people, my determination and motivation in life. Then I finish that personal conversation with myself by appreciating something in my physical body. Even if I don’t like anything that day, I force myself to find something to appreciate.
3. 3 things I am grateful for
Then I look for 3 things I can be grateful for in that moment. I start by being grateful for my children and move on from there.
4. Give generously
Giving doesn’t just make someone else happy, but it helps you feel good about yourself too. So, I think of someone I care about and am grateful for and send them a message: “I’ve been thinking of you, lately. Thank you for being in my life” or something more specific such as “I love that you are in my life. Your smile always makes me happy.” It truly makes me feel better as soon as I click send. I make donations: The Salvation Army, The Red Cross, local foundations. I also like to pay it forward. So, I go to the coffee shop and pay for the coffee for the person behind me. It immediately makes me feel better.
5. Celebrate tiny wins
I look around me and celebrate any milestone, any victory, even the tiniest one. The fact that I got out of bed and accomplished something when I felt like being in bed all day, that’s a win. In general, doing something when we don’t feel like doing it. That’s a win.
I repeat these 5 steps until I feel an honest attitude of gratitude. Then I go to the store and by myself flowers. I will get peonies when they are in season as they are my favorite, but they are really rare around here, so my second option is tulips. Looking at them in my kitchen reminds me to be kind to myself.
It’s not easy to practice gratitude when you don’t feel like it. As we work towards cultivating our gratitude practice, let’s remember to show kindness to ourselves as we would to our loved ones when we feel less than grateful. Remember that our feelings are temporary and that we are NOT our feelings. We can be sad, frustrated or disappointed about the problems we are facing and yet feel grateful for the things that are going well in our lives at the same time. In fact, positive feelings like thankfulness can help you deal better with the inevitable negative ones.
Gratitude is a practice we can cultivate. It does not have to be a once a year thing, it can be an everyday habit. In fact, once cultivated and put to practice, gratitude can make us happier, healthier and more successful. That’s why I created The Gratitude Week Project, a FREE 7-day project created to help us cultivate this practice. I hope you will join me and dozens of grateful folks.
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Focusing on what matters most, let’s improve our communication and transform our interactions one conversation at a time.