I know what does me good, I just don’t always do it. If I want to feel better, there are certain things that always work:
- Empowering music
- Eating nutritious food
- Communicating and connecting with others
When I start to feel good, I stop doing these things, expecting that I am now cured of ever feeling bad again. Of course, this isn’t true.
It’s essential to be persistent and consistent when it comes to doing what makes us feel happy. You can’t just do it once a week or once a month and hope to feel good forever. No, you must do what makes you happy every day if you can.
There’s one habit that all of us can do every day without fail, it doesn’t cost any money or involve any memberships, but it can feel like one of the most difficult. That’s why it takes practice.
I’m talking about practicing gratitude.
Why is practicing gratitude so hard?
Because let’s face it:
- All of us think we deserve more than what we have;
- We become desensitised to the things that we do have;
- We keep comparing what we have to what others have and inevitably feel short-changed;
- We may have gone through hard times and feel there is no good around us.
We feel we deserve more than what we have
All of us feel we deserve more than what we get. We deserve love, lots of money, big houses, holidays, great jobs, well-behaved children and good health. If you’ve always played by the rules and been a good, kind person, you will be even more likely to believe that you deserve all of life’s good things, and be even more disappointed if you find yourself single, cheated on, ill, poor, lost, neglected or rejected. It feels unfair, and as if you’ve been conned.
The point is, life doesn’t automatically reward us because we are nice. That’s not the point of being nice. We should be good people simply because we should want to behave in a way that is in line with our core values. That doesn’t mean that everyone will respond in kind, it’s what helps you sleep at night, not them!
If we start to think that the world owes us or that people should behave a certain way, we can never find fulfilment. We will always be left feeling disappointed. Instead of thinking about what else you feel you deserve and feeling resentful or envious, start putting the work into areas where you want to see greater results, whilst being appreciative of what you do have and what you have experienced so far.
We become desensitised to what we do have
Anything that we once wanted with fire and passion, whether it be a person, a home, a job or an object, can lose its lustre. It’s not because the person or thing changed, it’s because we have.
Think about your first Christmas, your first kiss, your first pay check…
Now think about your 20th Christmas, 150th kiss and 1000th pay check. Chances are they don’t fill you with the same sense of excitement.
It is natural that we become familiar with what is in our life. We adapt to both the good and the bad. It is very easy to forget to be appreciative of the wonderful things we have and to take them for granted.
We also tend to expect that the good things we have will keep us happy, rather than acknowledging that we actively have to keep giving. Consider relationships. If you give 100% and your partner gives 100%, you are operating on 200%. If you give 50% and your partner gives 50%, you are operating on 100%. If you give 25% and they give 25%, you drop down to 50%. It is not your partners job to make you happy. Think of your relationships as a place you come to give. Give love, give trust, give loyalty, give thanks, give gifts, give affection. If your partner embraces the same mindset, you will enjoy a far stronger union.
Look around at the people in your life and the things in your life with fresh eyes. Ask a question you never have, do something new, consider what you give and not what you hope to get.
We keep comparing what we have to others
The comparison trap is so insidious because you can never win. There will always be someone or something to compare to. With social media, this is emphasised to a deafening degree.
There is always someone richer, more beautiful, more handsome, stronger, fitter, happier, luckier, funnier, smarter or any other quality you may wish to measure.
There is also always someone who is less so. There are also plenty of people at your same level.
Even if someone is richer, if they lose their money, they may suddenly be poorer than you. The man who seems happily loved up, may find out that his partner has cheated on him. The person who always make you laugh may be secretly depressed. Even when comparisons seem fixed (“she will always be more beautiful than me”) the sands shift. Comparisons are a sliding scale. One person may be more beautiful for example, but less secure in their skin. Isn’t beauty subjective anyway?
Getting stuck in comparisons is unhelpful because it continues to put the focus on how we measure up, which keeps us stuck in competing constantly to be better, a game that can never be won. There is no better, only different. Often, we are only comparing to what we think we know about a person or situation. We can’t know if that person is truly happier than us.
Start counting your own blessings. You do not have to be better or more of anything than anyone else to deserve to be happy in life. You are enough as you are right now.
We have gone through hard times
This is the hardest of all and can be triggered throughout our lifetime’s. There are many horrible things that can and do happen to people. If you have experienced a traumatic life event or a series of traumatic life events, it can feel impossible to feel grateful.
Why should I be grateful! Life has been awful to me.
This mindset makes perfect sense, but it is also a defensive mindset. It ironically stops us from experiencing or expecting or enjoying good things, because we are unable to let it in. We begin to feel unworthy of the good. We want to prove that we are unlovable, worthless and that nothing good could possibly happen to us. We shut it out, self-sabotage or self-destruct.
There are many people who have gone through awful experiences who have been able to go on, and who are perhaps even more grateful for the little things because they have felt the big pains and losses of life. Suffering can lead to strength, but we may need to ask for help to get there.
How to practice gratitude:
- Write a list of ten things you are grateful for each day;
- When something good happens, write it down;
- Give before you expect to get;
- Call or message someone in your life to tell them you are grateful for them and why;
- Write a letter of gratitude to someone you care for;
- Write a letter of gratitude to yourself;
- Write down three things you are thankful for;
- Be a source of love or kindness for someone else. It is easier to believe in the good when we act from a place of good intentions. What we see in the world is often a mirror of what we feel inside.
- Go easy on yourself. Some days finding things to be grateful for will feel more difficult, or perhaps irritating! There will always be at least one good thing. You just have to look for it.
- Say thank you! These two little words are the very definition of gratitude.
- Keep practicing! Don’t let a day go by when you don’t show your gratitude in some way. The more you appreciate, the more you’ll find to be grateful for.
All my love