This time of year we are bombarded by that word, “grateful.” We are expected to be grateful. What happens when you don’t feel grateful but you are told that you should be? What if you feel guilt or pain about not feeling grateful? What if the pain that you feel prevents you from noticing those things for which you are inherently grateful?
David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar gave a TED Talk about the “gentle power of gratefulness.” (For the entire TED Talk, click here.)
He says that if we can “stop, look and go,” we will be ok.
It takes a lot of practice to do this but if we can stop the negative thoughts, look around at the gifts that we do have and go forward, we can be happy. It is gratefulness that makes us happy. There are many ways to build these muscles. One way is through meditation. Another way is through neurofeedback. Neurofeedback trains the brain to be more present- like meditation- it can stop the ruminating negative thoughts, which enables us to look at what we do have so that we may move forward.
Steindl-Rast says that we all want to be happy and in that, we are all connected. In order to live gratefully, not just this time of year, we need to be aware that every moment is a given moment and is therefore, a gift. He says, “If we didn’t have this present moment, we could have any opportunity to do anything or experience anything. The gift within the gift is the opportunity. What you are really grateful for is the opportunity, not the thing that has been given to you. We can avail ourselves of this opportunity, or we can miss it, and if we avail ourselves of the opportunity, it is the key to happiness. Behold the master key to our own happiness is in our own hands. Moment by moment, we can be grateful for this gift.”
The power of gratefulness can literally change the world. Steindl-Rast says that, …”if you are grateful, you’re not fearful, and if you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. If you’re grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people, and you are respectful to everybody, and that changes this power pyramid under which we live.” In order to be happy, we must be grateful.
So how can we be grateful, especially during challenging times? Start simply.
An example of being grateful when it’s not easy
A client of mine who was in a terrible depression told me that if she could find five things for which to be grateful for everyday, she felt hopeful that she would be happy again. Her depression occurred during the holidays. The weather was cold where she lived but she felt grateful for her warm home. She thought about her friends and family and how much each person loved her- she was grateful for them. She noticed that she could follow her breath as she tried to meditate. She was grateful for that. It was also a dark time of year but she had lights in her home- she could illuminate the darkness within her home and that gave her hope that her life too could be brighter again. She felt a twinge of hunger and was grateful that she had food to eat.
Eventually this client’s depression lifted but she continued to find things for which to be grateful. Spending a few minutes everyday thinking about that for which you are grateful will have a profound impact on your life. It will also become a habit and you will be able to notice little things that make you happy throughout your day. Start small. I am grateful if this article gives you even a little bit of hope that things will get better.
3 inspirational sites to help you feel grateful right now:
Guest post by Emily S. Rosen, LCSW. Emily is a licensed clinical social worker, with a private practice in New York City. To learn more about her, you can access her website here: http://emilysrosenlcsw.comby