Have you had that experience where you just don’t want to be grateful?
Maybe it feels like a little voice inside you that rebels, throws a tantrum, and says, “But I don’t want to be grateful!”
That was me about a month ago.
Which was odd as gratitude has been a daily practice for me for a long time now.
But for a few weeks I would lay there at night or in the morning and when I asked myself what I was grateful for my body would tighten up and my mind would go blank.
A part of me just did not want to go there.
I truly believe the more you focus on what is good in your life, the more good you will attract in. It’s a technique that works and for me helps keep my happiness levels on the up.
So why was I resistant all of a sudden?
After a little digging, here are the two things I uncovered…
Staying miserable made me feel safe.
When you’re happy and joyful you are expansive, open, energised and optimistic, which usually translates into trying new things, taking risks and being adventurous. But when you’re in a negative spiral (as I was at the time), the idea of taking risks and being adventurous can be daunting and makes you feel vulnerable. So it felt safer to stay in a not happy place than to open myself to possible pain and failure. (It’s all in the perspective!)
Practising gratitude when you’re not happy can feel like pretending.
This was the bigger issue. When I asked myself why I didn’t want to be grateful, the answer came back, “Because there is shit I am not happy about!”
Somewhere I obviously believed that if I was focusing on all the positive in my life, then I was ignoring the negative and by default saying it was OK for it to be that way.
But that, I finally realised, was where I was getting it wrong.
[Tweet “Gratitude is not ignoring what’s not working in your life, it’s giving thanks for what is.”]
So rather than feel like I shouldn’t pay any attention to the things I wasn’t happy about (à la Law of Attraction) I realised it was necessary in order for me to be able to be grateful.
But that attention had to be constructive.
So here are a few ideas for focusing on the negative so that you can make way for the positive.
1. Acknowledge to yourself that there are areas in your life you are not happy about.
It could be as simple as saying out loud, I am not happy about x, y and z.
2. Give yourself permission to go negative.
And I mean go to town. Get it all out. All your worries, fears, grievances, petty complains. The lot. Don’t worry, you will run out of steam eventually! Try a journal, talk into a voice recorder or your phone, type it on the computer (and delete it when you’re done).
3. Do not judge your feelings.
Honour your feelings by giving them constructive airtime. It is healthy self-expression, so applaud yourself for giving yourself what you need (an outlet). No judgement required.
4. Be curious
Once you’ve shut your journal or closed your computer or finished your conversation, resist any urge to think or talk about the topic further. Hopefully, you will have poured everything out so there will be nothing left for your brain to grab onto! Then, I want you to watch and see what happens. When I do this exercise, I feel stillness afterwards (it’s like I was a vessel full of mental and emotional turmoil but I emptied it outside of me). Which usually means there is room again for hope, positivity, wonder, joy – and being grateful!
Have you struggled with gratitude? What did you do to overcome your resistance? I’d love to hear your techniques in the comments below.
Feel like you could use some help with your gratitude practice? Then take advantage of my free half-hour Feelgood Booster sessions. I’ve got four spots open for the month of February. To claim a spot email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS. Only a few days left to grab the latest issue of Psychologies magazine where you can find out what I had to say about cultivating joy and happiness (it’s the one with Emma Stone on the cover).
PPS. Did you find this blog just a teensy bit useful? If so, then sign up below to receive my weekly missives on how to increase your everyday joy.