by Michelle Wahlder, MS, LPC, PCC
Have you ever felt so tired, beat-down and stressed out that conjuring feelings of gratitude seemed downright ridiculous, and perhaps even a little infuriating? If so, you are not alone. The truth is, most of us have been raised in an environment where negativity trumps gratitude. Like all things we want to be better at, adopting a perspective of gratitude is something we must practice. Through cultivating a practice of gratitude, we are able to be more deliberate in holding a positive mindset – even when it does not come naturally.
Six Solutions to Common Obstacles:
1. Obstacle: You don’t feel grateful.
We take a shower when we aren’t in the mood, just as we brush our teeth, go to work, prepare dinner and even exercise. Somehow when it comes to spiritual or personal development practices, we let ourselves off the hook if we “don’t feel like it.” We may not realize that even though spiritual self-care is less tangible, it is just as important as physical self-care.
Solution: “Fake it” till you make it.
Getting your gratitude in motion (i.e. taking action) is one of the most important aspects of shifting from a negative to a positive, grateful paradigm. Choosing to “fake it” – choosing gratitude even when you are not feeling particularly grateful – is the first step to actually becoming grateful. Just as uplifting or upbeat music can lift our mood, so does a conscious choice to express gratitude elevate our state of mind.
2. Obstacle: Lack of peer pressure.
Who will know, and frankly who will care, if you neglect to list the people and things for which you are grateful? There is no peer pressure, and little support, to encourage creating and sustaining a practice of gratitude.
Solution: Optimal self-care and support.
You are the main beneficiary of having a practice of gratitude, and others will benefit from your change in attitude. Establish your own sense of personal accountability and responsibility, and if this doesn’t work, form a supportive gratitude partnership with a friend or a life coach.
3. Obstacle: Unaware of benefits.
Gratitude seems like a great spiritual practice and a virtuous concept in theory. However, unless you practice it consistently, the cumulative effects and benefits are not readily apparent.
Solution: Record the advantages.
If you are unaware of the benefits or advantages of a new behavior, it is difficult to motivate yourself to begin it. By keeping track of the positive changes in your mood, behavior and overall sense of well-being, you will accumulate evidence of how the practice of gratitude is favorably affecting your life.
4. Obstacle: Practice becomes rote.
Most of us are enthusiastic when we start a new program, but gradually the initial zeal wears off and our practice can become repetitive. Routine and boredom set in, and perhaps we even think we have exhausted our list of gratitudes.
Solution: Introduce creative alternatives.
Keep it fresh and dynamic. Try practicing gratitude alphabetically, either aloud or in writing. Beginning with “A,” express what you are grateful for that starts with the corresponding letter, continue until you have reached “Z.” You can even create a fun, interactive game with friends or family members in which you randomly call out letters and attempt to be first in naming your gratitude.
Verbally tell a friend how significant her friendship is to you. Give out spontaneous tokens of appreciation. Speak your gratitude out loud in your car.
5. Obstacle: Sleepiness sets in.
If you practice gratitude in the evening, you may find that it lulls you to sleep. You may have good intentions, but they seem to fade as tiredness takes over.
Solution: Get grateful at various times of day.
No specific time of day is better than another for gratitude. Simply making a point to be conscious of what you have to be grateful for during the day is all that matters.
6. Obstacle: Takes too much time.
You might be thinking that you don’t have time to add one more thing to your already hectic life.
Solution: Keep it brief.
Expressing gratitude can be as short as 10 seconds. If your only two words are “Thank you,” that will be enough. And if you feel inspired, you can add specifics such as “Thank you for my life, my ability to breathe, walk, talk, love.” Just be sincere, not necessarily lengthy.
Gratitude brings light into our hearts, spreads loving warmth throughout our bodies and radiates positive energy into the world. The more we consciously and consistently grow in our practice of gratitude, the more benefits we will experience.