Here’s a funny thing about gratitude…
Even if someone understands that being grateful brings more things to be thankful for into their life, sometimes they are resistant to it.
I met a woman named Beverly, who found herself in that position.
Every morning, when Beverly asked herself what she was grateful for, her body became tense, and her mind would go blank.
Even though she truly believed the more you focus on what is good in your life, the more good you will attract, a part of her just did not want to go there. And this went on for weeks.
So why was Beverly resistant?
She did some soul searching, and this is what she came up with…
Her relationship was no longer serving her. She was unhappy at work, and she was struggling to get a business she was excited about off the ground. Beverly had also stopped going out to dinner with her friends every other week—she kept telling herself she was just too busy.
For the most part, Beverly had stopped doing everything that she loved, including painting and writing—her favorite creative outlets.
And when Beverly thought about her day-to-day life, she realized she was angry at every person, car, and story she heard on the news. She complained about her job, nagged her husband, and made excuses about why she hadn’t started her business.
She realized she had started watching a lot more television to drown out the voice inside her head that was telling her it was time to change her life.
Beverly’s resistance to gratitude reflected her feeling that she was not living up to highest good, and so she was reluctant to allow herself to experience any happiness.
When Beverly brought all this to light, she started taking steps to allow her to live a life that was more authentic and joyful to her, including quitting her job, starting her business, and she started painting again.
Before long, she found she was able to embrace and express gratitude again.
What’s holding you back?
Your life may not feel as dark as Beverly’s.
Still, for whatever reason, you may find yourself resistant to gratitude from time to time.
Don’t beat yourself up about it; it happens to most of us.
The problem is, when you’re resistant to gratitude, you resist good things coming into your life.
What you resist persists
When you’re happy and joyful, you are expansive, open, energized, and optimistic, which usually translates into trying new things, taking risks and being adventurous.
However, when you’re unhappy or in a negative spiral (as Beverly was), the idea of taking risks and being adventurous can be daunting and makes you feel vulnerable. So, it can feel safer to stay where you are than to open yourself to possible pain and failure.
But here’s the thing…
When you express gratitude, you’re giving thanks for what is working in your life, not ignoring the things you want to improve.
Trying to ignore the things you aren’t happy about won’t do you any good because what you resist persists. It won’t go away, and in fact, it may get worse because by trying to not pay attention to it, you are actually feeding it.
So, instead of trying to ignore something that bothers you, give it your attention in a constructive way. Here are a few things you can do to focus on the negative so that you can make way for the positive.
1. Acknowledge It.
Acknowledge the areas of your life you’re not happy about. It could be as simple as saying out loud, “I am not happy about a, b, c, etc.”
2. Purge It.
Get a notebook or journal and a pen. Sit down and start writing about whatever is disturbing your peace. Get it all out. All your worries, fears, grievances, petty complaints—everything until you run out of steam.
3. Don’t Judge It.
Instead of judging them, honor your feelings and your current results. It is healthy self-expression to let your negative feelings go instead of repressing them. Applaud yourself for providing yourself an outlet.
4. Let It Go.
When you’re finished, do not read over what you’ve written. And resist any urge to think or talk about the topic further. To go over it again would be to re-infect yourself with negative energy.
5. Be Observant.
Once you’ve taken the steps above, observe what happens. You’ll feel stillness and openness, which usually means there is room for hope, positivity, wonder, joy – and being grateful!
And here’s one more thing that can make you more open to gratitude…
A change in perspective can be magical
Sometimes all it takes to make you more grateful is to look at situations in your life differently.
Every day, we experience blessings that are opportunities for feeling grateful. However, sometimes, we turn them into our burdens.
Here’s how things might play out in your mind…
“I just got home from a long, busy day at work. As soon as I walk in the door, my children rush up to me to tell me about what they did at school today. All I want to do is get out of these clothes and put my feet up for 15 minutes. Oh well, I guess I have to spend a little time with my kids instead.”
“I really want to read a book, drink a cup of coffee, and then watch the movie I’ve been waiting to see all week. My husband wants to take me to breakfast and then go for a ride on the bike trail. Why can’t I just have a Saturday morning to do what I want to do? I suppose I should get dressed and go with my husband, but then I’ll have to change my clothes to ride my bike. I hate riding on the trail on the weekend—it’s always so crowded.”
We often lose perspective about what is important and precious in life and allow a veil of negativity to fall over our eyes:
Children that are happy and healthy and want to talk to you is a tremendous blessing, not a burden. Having a husband that wants to spend time with you on his day off is also a blessing. And having a bike, the appropriate clothes to wear, and a trail to ride on that is free of cars are also blessings.
Are you willing to start looking at the people, places, things, and experiences in your life differently so you can appreciate all that they bring to your life?
Which do you prefer?
Gratitude is one of the most positive emotions we have.
Start today to move out of the cycle of focusing with anxiety and resentment on what you don’t have or want and instead focus on what you do have and what you want with gratitude, excitement, and joy.
When you feel good, it not only elevates your life, but it also elevates everyone around you, so we’d love to also hear from you.
What’s the biggest insight you’re taking away, or share things that have helped you be more open to gratitude in the past?
Leave a comment below and let us know. Your story, thoughts, and ideas may be just what someone needs to see things from a fresh perspective.
To more and better,