I’m Grateful, Period

Posted on in On Our Radar by Amy Hall

Feel Gratitude, Feel Happier.
What Could Go Wrong?


Gratitude is the key to unlocking everyday joy. Joy isn’t just a once-in-a-while (or once-in-a-lifetime) experience; joy is literally at our fingertips every day no matter what is going on in our lives. Gratitude is what feeds everyday joy. Practice gratitude consistently and persistently, and watch joy start bubbling up in the funniest places and at the funniest times. You will be delighted at the surprising sources of this new joy.

What is it about gratitude that is so positively transformative? Gratitude is a particular kind of mindfulness: when you take a moment to be grateful, you are consciously recognizing the universe’s capacity to supply you with what you need. It’s a big step to pull your conscious awareness and your heart together in one spot: right here, right now.

If you’ve tried adopting an attitude of gratitude before, but you didn’t feel your experience change dramatically for the better, I can probably tell you what went wrong: there are common pitfalls that have a way of sneaking into the most well-intentioned gratitude practice, robbing gratitude of its power. The good news is that the solution is easy, and simply becoming aware of these pitfalls causes them to dissolve, like shining light on a shadow.

The most common pitfall of gratitude is, “I’m grateful but . . .” When you say you are grateful for something and follow that with something that is missing or something else that would make it better, you are actually complaining in disguise. You are giving yourself permission to bellyache by surrounding a complaint in a gratitude-like wrapper, but that’s not gratitude at all. You’re cheating yourself out of the benefits of gratitude.

Sometimes “I’m grateful but . . .” comes in subtle forms. Sometimes it’s the tiniest withholding of gratitude, so that your mind has hijacked an expression of gratitude and given it a whole new meaning: “I’ll really feel grateful as soon as I get what I want.”

Another blind spot that prevents us from truly feeling gratitude is, “Gratitude is easy for you.” This can happen when we look around at people who seem to have better lives or circumstances than we do. It’s gratitude FOMO (fear of missing out). Sure it’s easy for them (whoever they are) to feel grateful—they’ve got it made! Your mind is saying, “I’ll be happy like those people as soon as I get what I want. Until then, universe, no gratitude from me!”

These maneuvers are the mind’s sly (yet fruitless) attempt at deal-making with the universe. The mind thinks it can pout its way into getting what it wants. It’s the mind’s childish refusal to let you be happy until it gets everything it wants, and as you may have figured out by now, it will never get what it wants: it will always want more. So if you are holding back on really feeling grateful until your mind gets everything it wants, know that you will never, ever get there.

Another feeling that can get in the way of gratitude is a fear that if you start feeling grateful about what is, that means you’re closing the door on change. In other words, if I’m expressing gratitude about some aspect of my current situation, then aren’t I just giving the universe approval to keep giving me the same circumstances? The truth is, it’s quite the opposite; one of the beautiful secrets of gratitude is that by noticing and appreciating what is, you soften the mind’s white-knuckle grip on life, which opens up possibilities you never thought possible. And simply by practicing gratitude, you improve your ability to recognize possibilities when they arise.

So if you find yourself falling into any of these sneaky gratitude traps, simply try again, this time recognizing and appreciating something you are grateful for, full stop. No buts about it. That’s all you need to do. No need to feel guilty about falling for the mind’s tricks; just take it from the top. Recognize that in every moment, there are an infinite number of things to give your attention to: good things, “bad” things, neutral things. So give the power of your heart to the good things.

Start small. Sure, it’s easy to feel grateful when something big and fancy happens. It’s tuning into the little things that makes life pleasurable and satisfying. Kurt Vonnegut said, “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” Gratitude refocuses your lens for perceiving what is a big thing, what is a little thing—and what is a good thing, what is a “bad” thing. If you’re alive, you have things to be grateful for.

Feeling everyday joy through gratitude is a skill you’ll build through practice. In every moment there is something—and most likely very many things—to be grateful for, period. Gratitude isn’t about feeling grateful once, or once in a while. It’s about feeling grateful a lot. Most of the time, in fact.

At its essence, gratitude is about actively seeking out the good in life. Just by looking for the goodness, then acknowledging it and expressing gratitude for it, you will find more of it every day. Feel gratitude to the universe quietly inside your heart. Tell others thanks for what they do. Whether felt inside or expressed to others, the effect is the same: more everyday joy.

Amy Hall is creator of the Gratitude Attitude Builder. GratitudeAttitudeBuilder.com

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