Why Gratitude is So Stinkin' Hard and Three Ways to Start Feeling Grateful Right Now

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.”

Dalai Lama

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If you are like me, you find it impossible to always feel grateful. There are so many times when we just don't feel like being grateful, whether it's from a bad day, coming down with a cold or just one of those overall grumpy moods that you just can't shake. But practicing a little gratitude can go along way in improving our mood and overall happiness.

why is gratitude so hard?

Gratitude is hard because we are always searching for ways to better ourselves and your lives So, instead of focusing on the positive aspects of life, we tend to focus on the negative.What do I need to change? How can I make my life better?  There is a billion dollar self-help industry out there thriving on these questions! 

We not only are trying to improve our lives, but we have a tendency to compare our lives to others, to look at what others have and what we lack. 

why is gratitude so important?

A ton of  research shows that gratitude is linked to happiness—it can improve our energy, motivation, stress-levels, overall health and sense of purpose in life. 

Gratitude shifts our focus from what we lack or strive for to what we already have. It asks us to slow down, to be present before life flies by right before our eyes. 

Three ways to start feeling grateful,

and thus happier, right now!

Simply show up, Do the best you can, and know that that is enough.

There are days when I want to crawl under a blanket and just give up! I’m sure you can relate. But I find that if I set the tone for the day, dress the part (of course with a little Bird’s Tail!), show up and try my hardest, my day is always better. And sometimes my current day pales in comparison to the day before, but I am learning that’s ok! If your best today means getting dressed and getting one thing accomplished on your list, then celebrate those small victories. And don’t beat yourself up! Be careful of the words you say to yourself. Celebrate those small victories no matter how small they may seem.

Keep a gratitude journal

Studies have shown a number of wonderful benefits associated with writing down or saying aloud the things for which we are grateful—benefits including better sleep, and increased health and happiness.

These benefits can be seen in both kids and adults. In fact, I have started this practice with my family. Each day, we all share one thing about our day for which we are grateful and one thing that wasn’t so great (a highs and lows kinda deal). They haven’t started writing these thoughts down yet, but - GIFT IDEA - I have journals as one of the items on their holiday shopping list. My hope is that they will write down one to three things every day (or let’s be more realistic - every week) for which they are grateful. It doesn’t take a lot of time. It can be something small like, today I am grateful for my cozy bed, OR Today I am grateful for the clothes on my back.

This is the journal I currently have in my Amazon Cart (amongst many other things! Damn you Amazon…). It’s called the One-Minute Gratitude Journal.

Train your brain to see the good instead of the bad.

It is in our nature to fixate on the negative because bad experiences tend to leave stronger impressions than positive ones. This is why one negative comment from someone erases all of the positive ones from everyone else. We fixate on the negative and deem that experience as reality instead of all of the positive examples. Why do we do this? It seems silly, right? But, with a little practice, we can shift our perspective and instead focus on the positive.

Right now I am reading Buddha’s Brain which emphasizes the idea that “If you change your brain, you can change your life”. Sounds a little hokey—I know, but this book has helped me build more awareness to the moments when I start to focus on the negative and ignore the positive. Buddha’s Brain talks about how Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Mohammed and Gandhi were all born with brains built essentially just like our’s, but that they changed their brains by retraining their brains to focus on the positive. Now, I will warn you ahead of time, the book can get a bit technical at times—it really digs deep into the Neuroscience behind the brain, but it if you are ok with that, it offers a ton of practical insight on creating peace and happiness in your life.

Another good book that can help us retrain our brains is Outsmart Your Brain! by Marcia Reynolds, which focuses on the idea that if you change your thoughts, you can change your behavior. I haven’t read this one yet, but it has great reviews. Again—also in my Amazon cart!

So start practicing! Maybe you start with just one of these practices today or you just pick up one of these books, and that is perfect! That’s all it takes to start feeling a little more grateful, a little happier, one day at a time.