When times are difficult, it can be very difficult for us to find gratitude in our hearts. Of course, when times are tough is when we need it most. I am not referring to the saccharine admonishments we have all heard from others, like “Cheer up! It could be worse!” Nor am I referring to Gratitude used as a deterrent to grieving – doing that can keep us as stuck as wallowing in self-pity. Gratitude is more like taking an inventory of what we still have on stock, which can be heartening and energizing, and easier to do as shock and grief begin to subside.When times got hard in the past, I would get down to the basics. I would name at least 10 things for which I was grateful. Naming my six senses got me over halfway there, and my senses were always abilities I could be truly grateful for possessing. For you it might be something different.
For me, being alive meant there was a second chance. I had myself and something new could happen. I might not have a specific something or someone that I desired, but, I could create something different. There was a world of possibilities available.
Gratitude can be antidote for anxiety or even the panic that can fuel desperate acts or freezing inactivity. I have been told that “A grateful heart will have great things show up.” What I do know is that whether events are pleasant or unpleasant, if I take what I have for granted, it has a way of eroding. Corrosive anger wrecks havoc and creates new losses. For some, the anger may be more subtle and mixed with anxiety, but it can still be corrosive, like not getting things done, which also creates new losses. These loses may be harder to identify; the loses are what you could have experienced if you faced the anger and anxiety directly.
Gratitude is an antidote to fear. I have also learned that Reminding myself of inner and outer resources that I possess is good stress management. Outer resources can be relational, environmental, material, cultural and organizational. Inner resources are character traits, skills, ideas, memories, knowledge, emotional vibrancy, and constructive attitudes. Taking a positive inventory improves my perception of having enough resources to handle whatever situation has arisen.
Gratitude is calming. Like many abuse survivors, for years I had trouble going to sleep. I noticed that if my mind got stuck on a problem, it could keep me up for even longer with the mild anxiety it generated. That was when I started saying prayers of gratitude at night. In time, I decreased the time it took to fall asleep to less than 15 minutes.
Gratitude makes a great gift. When times are rough, we need each other even more, but that is when we are also most likely to lose patience. Gratitude can be a way of mending ties and building connections to each other. There are many ways, large and small, that one can show appreciation and ask “forgiveness.” As the word “forgiveness” directs us, forgiveness is a gift involving remembering what we appreciate about another and giving the gift of releasing the grievance for misdeeds.