Gratitude is one of the most powerful spiritual emotions we as humans are capable of. It can heal, cement good mental health and support physical health in the process.
And it costs absolutely nothing!
Yet, we often misunderstand gratitude, and seldom fall into a pattern of practicing gratitude as a way of life.
But why is gratitude often so damn difficult?
This is all a matter of focus, and a general misunderstanding of what life’s perceived problems are all about.
The great adventure of life is all about choice. Everything has been geared to give us optimal choices to design and construct every aspect of this incredible experience each of us is having.
We have control! We just tend to forget it.
When we stumble across unwanted experiences or seemingly unasked for events in our lives, it’s really easy to forget that we have choices. It’s a lot simpler and seemingly more soothing to believe that people are against us, the world is against us, the deck has been stacked against us, and that even the Universe is out to get us!
When we do this, we focus on the issue at hand, we give it more power than it really deserves, and we get caught in the emotional quicksand of woe is me!
And to find real gratitude once woe is me comes into play, is virtually impossible.
The cycle of a problem in our lives
When we hit a perceived snag in our lives and things don’t go as planned or as we believe they should, we all fall into a set pattern. See if you recognize this.
We believe we have a problem
This is the first step. Here, belief comes into play. And it does so really quickly. We BELIEVE we have a problem.
We look for evidence that proves we have that problem
So, we’ve hit a snag. We believe we have a problem. From this moment on, we collect all the evidence we can find that we actually have that problem. We carry on as if we have an upcoming court case! Everything we see around us is suddenly evidence of that problem, and we can focus on nothing else.
We justify and defend that problem
What happens when anybody dares to suggest that this problem is perhaps not as serious as it seems? Or if someone suggests there is a simple way out of the conundrum? We come out guns blazing, right? It’s like we want to defend our right and privilege to have that problem to the death. Scorched earth, if necessary!
We reject ourselves and the problem
And here we get to the woe is me bit. We start rejecting ourselves for being so weak, and unaccomplished, and unintelligent, and emotionally stupid, to have that problem in the first place. And it’s all downhill from there.
We believe we have a problem
And then everything comes full circle. We believe we have a problem, and that belief is now amplified. Because, after all, in the previous cycle we’ve collected all the evidence for that problem, we’ve justified the problem to ourselves and others, we’ve determined we’re weak and lesser-than for having that problem, so – we have a problem. And we jump straight to step one again!
Interrupting this train of thought
If you interrupt this train of thought at ANY stage in the process, you defang it completely. If you break ANY of the links, your whole perception of the problem turns, and as a consequence, your whole perspective changes.
The quickest way to do this, the simplest way to change the dynamics of ANY perceived negativity in your life, is to shift your focus to gratitude.
Gratitude and negativity cannot occupy the same space in your mind or emotions! It’s not possible. They’re like water and oil.
Recognize the choice
Life is all about what you choose to focus on. The word choose in that sentence is key, because the choice is the greatest gift, and the primary tool we received when we were gifted life.
There are SO many things in this life to experience. SO many things, be they emotional, physical, intellectual, or spiritual. You’ll need lifetime upon lifetime, upon lifetime to do it all and to have it all!
And these things are ALL yours. You just have to choose them.
Now, we perceive a problem or an unwanted situation as the end of the road. If a relationship ends, or when financial difficulties hit, or when something bad happens that we seem to have no control over, we throw our hands up in the air and toss the towel into the ring.
All that is actually happening, is that life is allowing us to choose something else. It is placing us front and center before the buffet and saying: All of this is yours. What do you want next?!
And all we have to do is choose! Just thinking about this kind of gift makes me overflow with gratitude!
Responsibility and choice
Life is NOT something that happens TO us. We co-create every moment of time and every emotional and physical event in our lives. When you look at a disaster on the news, and you have an emotional reaction to the events playing out, that is a choice you made. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just a choice. And that choice is your responsibility.
And that choice enriched you. It brought something into your life that wasn’t there before! It added something to your experience!
The same thing if you sit quietly and stare at a sunrise over the ocean. Your choice to do so triggers an inner response. And, likewise, that response brings something into your life that wasn’t there before.
See how this works?
You’re creating your life because life doesn’t happen to you, it happens in you!
But why is this important when we want to generate gratitude in our lives?
Responsibility is simply reminding yourself of the choice you have, that ANY choice you make adds to your life, and doing so with deep gratitude that you have the choice!
Gratitude is the understanding that this choice you suddenly have allows you to embark on one of life’s new and great adventures – YET AGAIN!
Because we’re so problem-centric, we have to actively work to get ourselves in a place of gratitude. And this is like changing any other part of our perception or paradigm – it takes a bit of effort until it becomes a habit.
Keeping a gratitude journal is the simplest, purest way to get in touch with the soul-level gratitude that is always in you anyway, and to bring that to the surface.
Once you start, and once this deep gratitude that is inside you anyway starts coming to the surface, it will be like a snowball. Unstoppable!
If you’re like me, you may need a prompt to help get you on your way. Here are a collection of thoughts and prompts to help you focus when you sit down to write.
Gratitude Journal Prompts
These will get you started, and you’ll see, that which is inside you already will take over in no time.
- What am I looking forward to?
- What did I taste today?
- What did I see today?
- What did I hear today?
- What is my happiest memory ever?
- What is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to?
- What is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen?
- What is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard?
- What do I own that I REALLY like?
- What is the best gift I ever received?
- Who gave me the best hug I ever got?
- Where and with who do I feel REALLY safe?
- Who is my favorite musician?
- Who taught me the best thing I know?
- Which mistake or failure in my life is REALLY funny?
- What am I really good at?
- Which three things that happened today are the best?
How to keep a gratitude journal
A gratitude journal is like any other journal. It’s your private time with the deepest parts of you, those parts you often don’t acknowledge or the parts you don’t give the time and attention they deserve.
It’s by you, for you, and from you.
The most important part of keeping a gratitude journal is to do it every day. Just like you brush your teeth before leaving the house, spend time with your journal before you go to bed. It will be a conscious decision when you start, but within a couple of weeks, it will be a habit.
Let the feelings inside you translate themselves into words. Remember, this is not a hunt for literary perfection! Deep feelings are hard to put into words at the best of times! Scratch and scribble when you want. Have fun!
This new habit will help you discover a new way to feel, a new way to attract good things into your life, and a new way to view problems as choices!
A touch of inspiration
If you’re curious about anything in this article – how you interact with the Universe, how the Universe rejoices in the choices it gives you and the adventures you have with those, or if you just want to know what the path you’re on looks like, you can pop over to the link below. It will give you an accurate reading that will undoubtedly put a great many things into perspective for you!