Are We Ungrateful?
We hear so much about gratitude lately. We should express our gratitude, keep a gratitude journal, write a letter of gratitude to someone…it’s easy to express gratitude when you’re feeling grateful. But what if you’re just not feelin’ it? I mean, how are you supposed to feel grateful when you just don’t? And if you don’t, does it mean you’re wrong? Does it mean you’re an ungrateful person? I don’t think so. Maybe you’re struggling with some aspect of your life; work, friendships, emotionally, or with family or partner issues. Maybe you struggle financially, and believe me I know how draining that can be. It’s Thanksgiving weekend. We’re supposed to be grateful right? We’re supposed to give thanks. Some of you wonder how to feel gratitude during a pandemic. Covid-19 is no joke. If you’re sad, depressed, angry, fed up, bored, feeling lost, anxious or overwhelmed, gratitude might just be the last thing on your list of available emotions. Expressing gratitude may not be easy for you. Hell, conjuring up gratitude may be almost impossible.
What Is Gratitude? How Can We Find It?
What is gratitude anyway? The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as “The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
I think that we do need to acknowledge the goodness in our lives. Not for someone else’s sake, but for our own. Don’t we all have something good in our lives? Hopefully. We should also acknowledge that while some people experience more goodness in life than bad, others have a more difficult time unearthing the good feelings, good memories and good experiences. I hate that that’s the truth, but that is the truth. Even so, I’m willing to bet that you can find at least one thing or one person that you can say is good in your life. Uncovering your gratitude may seem like too much to ask. If you’re just not feelin’ it, no worries. You can cultivate it.
The acknowledgment and expression of gratitude helps us feel connected to something larger than ourselves, whether that be other people, nature, or a higher power. Whether you believe in God, evolution or science, doesn’t matter. What matters is that you look outside of yourself. Really look around. See things. See people. See nature. Be mindful and purposeful in your thoughts. Go for a walk or just sit on your patio or balcony; observe without judgment. Focus on the warmth of the sun, the sound of falling leaves. Watch ants working diligently. Relish the sound of your purring cat. That is such an awesome sound! Or take pleasure in the fact that your dog is snoring in his sleep because he feels safe and loved.
Lie in the dark and listen to your favourite music. Appreciate the talent and energy of those who wrote and performed it. That’s gratitude. Maybe something conjures a memory of happy times or a sad time that you got through! You’ll get through this too.
Gratitude Is Good For Us
Studies have shown the simple act of acknowledging another person’s kindness is good for us. Just a simple “thank you for…” to our partner, our kid, our boss or employee creates a more postive feeling toward him or her and bonus- we then find it easier when we have to have a difficult conversation with that person. According to Greater Good Magazine https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/gratitude/definition#what-is-gratitude, “expressing gratitude is a relationship strengthening emotion because it requires us to recognize that we have been supported and affirmed by other people.” But what if you feel guilty for having been given that support? I remember feeling guilty when my parents helped me as I was raising my three beautiful daughters on my own. I had financial struggles galore, two jobs, I was attending college and felt a lot of pressure to keep life as normal as possible (more on that in a future post) for my girls. My sister once showed up to my house with a trunk full of groceries for my little family. I cried because before that moment I wasn’t sure how I was going to feed my sweet innocent children who trusted me to love and care for them. My sister showed up. She supported me emotionally and financially in that moment. When my car died, my parents gifted me their older car saying it was time for them to buy a new one anyway.
FOCUS ON THE FUTURE:
So, what do we do with all this new-found gratitude? Sometimes nothing; just relish in the fact that your cat loves you or the falling leaves signal the constant cycle of change that is life. If you’re feeling guilty because you can’t possibly return the favour or repay that person who has helped or supported you, then this is an excellent suggestion that will help you express your gratitude. I read an article by WFMY NEWS2 https://www.wfmynews2.com/ that suggests when a parent or boss (or sister or friend) has given to you, a great way to express gratitude to him or her is to let them know what you did with, or how you put their gift or help to good use. What did you do with what they gave you or did for you?
Sharon Martin, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) writes in her blog Happily Imperfect https://blogs.psychcentral.com/imperfect that “when you’re depressed, you tend to focus on the negatives. Gratitude reminds you what you still have left. Make a conscious effort to connect with others and focus on being present.”
When I start to grumble about doing the dishes, I quickly remind myself that the reason I have dirty dishes is because we are fortunate enough to have food. Gratitude.
Struggling in life, be it with financial concerns, work woes, or relationship strife, provides an opportunity to grow and learn. I know from personal experience that feeling and finding gratitude (let alone expressing it) is sometimes buried way down in the darkest hole, filled with anger, resentment or despair. Go for that walk, dig through some old pictures with the intention to find even just one memory that you feel grateful for. Speak that gratitude out loud- to the person, to God, the universe, or just to yourself. It’s a tiny seed, a small step, but I believe you can find a little something to smile about or to remember that will brighten your day. Happy Thanksgiving.
P.S. I’m pretty sure my sister helped MORE than once. Thanks Donna ♥
Thanks for reading. Check back every Saturday afternoon to read my next post.
Carol Paino~ Parts Of Ourselves