by Diane Linsley
We've all heard about the power of gratitude. Like forgiveness,
gratitude is one of those things that we know we should be doing,
but we may have some emotional blocks about it.
Having been raised as a Christian, I used to think of gratitude as
something that God expected me to do in order to be a good person.
So I prayed every day, rotely expressing my gratitude for the basic
blessings in my life like family, friends and food.
This is how my parents taught me to pray when I was a child, and
I was still saying the same prayer 40 years later. But if I was so
grateful, then why was I so unhappy with my life?
Part of the problem, of course, is that rote prayers lack feeling. The
other problem is that I was only being grateful for the good stuff.
I'd like to propose that one of the fastest ways to experience a shift
in your energy is to be grateful for the most painful and difficult things in your life.
Are you still here? If you're like me, you probably just felt a strong urge to leave this page! But if you are still here, then let's get to work. I'm going to teach you a process that shifted my energy around two very painful things in my life.
Gratitude Writing Exercise
Grab a pen and paper, and write at the top of the page a declaration of gratitude for one of the most painful things that is happening in your life right now. Then list 5 reasons why you are grateful for this condition. For example:
"I am grateful that I am single because...."
1. I am responsible for my own life and how I spend my time. I'm developing self-reliance.
2. I have no one else to blame for my problems. I'm breaking the habits of projecting and fighting.
3. I can eat, sleep, exercise, read, listen to music, and go places when I want to. I'm learning what I like and how to take care of myself.
4. I can focus on my work and hobbies with fewer distractions.
5. I have more time for friends, family and other people in my life.
Now, go back over the list, and read each statement out loud, expounding on it for several minutes. Go into detail about each thing. Speak as if you are talking to a good friend, explaining to them why these things are important to you.
Put some emotion into it. You might say something like, "Wow! I never realized how lucky I am to be single. I feel so free and open to new possibilities. I can do anything I want to! Sometimes it feels a little overwhelming to be so free, but I'm excited about the challenge. This is going to be the greatest year ever for my personal growth. I'm so grateful for this opportunity! I'm going to make the best of it."
Place your list somewhere where you can see it every day. Over the next few weeks, notice how feelings of gratitude begin to spontaneously arise as you go about your day, doing the things that you are now consciously grateful for.
How Gratitude Works
There are two sides to every story. If we are attached to believing that our current situation is bad, we tend to focus on the negative side of the story. But there is always a positive side, which we may be reluctant to acknowledge.
When I acknowledged the positive aspects of being single, I suddenly stopped feeling sad, lonely and fearful. It was quite a surprise because I had previously been trying to deal with these negative emotions by feeling them and releasing them.
There's nothing wrong with that approach, except that it isn't complete. I could clear the negative emotions, but I was left with a void inside, which filled up with more negative emotions the next time I thought about being single. Once I filled the void with feelings of gratitude, excitement and joy, the negative feelings stopped coming back.
It reminds me of when I was a gardener. I could weed my garden over and over, but the weeds kept coming back until I learned that "nature abhors a void." I needed to cover the bare dirt with mulch or, better yet, flowers - the plants I wanted to grow - in order to keep the weeds away. The occasional weed still appeared, but most weeds were displaced by the beautiful flowers that I intentionally planted.
You get what you focus on. Gratitude is a way of focusing the mind on what you want.
Gratitude for Suffering
There are far worse things than being single. Can gratitude work for the really hard stuff?
I experimented to see if gratitude would help me with my autoimmune disease. At the time of the experiment, I was having one of my periodic episodes of debilitating chronic fatigue, which sometimes puts me out of commission for several weeks. How could I be grateful for that?
Here are 5 reasons why I am grateful for having autoimmune disease:
1. It has helped me develop compassion for others, making me a better mother, friend and coach.
3. I've learned how to "stop and smell the roses." I appreciate the little things in life that most people don't notice. I'm very aware of how short life is, so I make an effort to enjoy something every day.
4. When I am sick, I get to spend more time reading and listening to music. Years ago, during a prolonged illness, I learned how to do energy work and how to lucid dream and OBE.
5. I chose a great career that I can do at home. I love being a life coach!
When I quit feeling sorry for myself and resisting my illness, I started feeling more energetic. The episode of fatigue passed sooner than it usually does. And I was grateful for that, too.
Gratitude and Grieving
I'm not a fan of forcing yourself to feel grateful for tragic events when you are still going through the grieving process. There are some things that you may never want to feel grateful for, and that's okay. Forcing gratitude takes us back to the original problem of feeling like it's a sin to not be grateful. That just creates guilt, which makes us feel worse.
My favorite teacher, Bill Harris, died recently. I was devasted when I got the news. No other teacher has influenced my life more than Bill has. The Holosync program he created literally saved my life, and his teachings changed my map of reality. He also encouraged me to become a life coach.
On the day that I learned of his death, as I sat crying in shock and grief, I suddenly felt an odd warmth in my heart, and I was overcome with a feeling of peace. I found myself thinking of all the things that Bill did for me and millions of other people. Even though I was still crying, I shifted from a feeling of deep loss to a feeling of profound gratitude.
It felt as if love, compassion and gratitude were pouring out of my broken heart. I made a resolution at that moment to be the best coach I can possibly be. I dedicated my life more fully to my spiritual practice and to serving other people, following my teacher's example.
Maybe this is why we give eulogies at funerals. Reflecting on the positive aspects of a person's life can help us shift our energy into the uplifting and inspiring vibration of gratitude.
Consider this quote by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances."
Here's a song that always inspires me with feelings of gratitude.
As a life coach, I use many different processes to help
people with their personal growth. Click here if you are
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