Attention those who “know you should practice gratitude” and are resistant, resentful, bad at it, skeptical, stubborn, or downright haters: This article is for you. Here are some suggestions for muddling through this season of giving and gratitude.
You’re Not Alone
It is grateful when you don’t feel like it is agonizing. Nothing worse than the low-level panic or resentment that sets in upon being asked at the Thanksgiving dinner table to say what you’re grateful for.
Because not only can’t you find something to be grateful for, but you are also beating yourself up for your perceived shortcoming.
So, you make something up, typically in the negative and about something that doesn’t usually happen. “I didn’t get food poisoning today.”
Whew, you came up with something. You move on with your life.
You may be skeptical about the benefits of gratitude, or you may just be plain stubborn and resistant to change. You are not alone.
Chances are pretty good; you have a family member or friend with the same affliction, and you’ve created a secret club where that misery has relished the company—nothing like the Airing of Grievances during Festivus.
You’re probably pretty happy on some days not to do the seemingly ubiquitous suggested enumeration of at least three things that you’re grateful for today. “One less thing to do,” you think, without (ironically) even being thankful for that.
But some little voice nudges you to give it a try. (Damn, that voice!)
Gratitude is a natural emotion and happens naturally in life. You have probably experienced it before. It might have even felt good. (Dammit.)
You’ve probably read or heard why gratitude is good for you a million times. It has been linked to better physical, emotional, and mental health. Your relationships may improve your sleep and your stress reduction.
Grateful people lead fuller lives, tend to have more satisfying relationships, make better decisions, have more resilience, and tend to make and have more money.
Blah, blah, blah. You’ve heard it before. It never worked for you. Why start now?
Only one reason: Because you’re kinda curious, and yeah, it would be nice if you enjoyed life a little more.
Tips for the Ungrateful
If you find yourself in this camp, try these tips:
Expect nothing tip #1. In our Newtonian world of cause and effect, we often expect a shift in behavior to create an immediate result. Assume it won’t happen.
Related expects nothing tip #2. Don’t expect some wash of love, sparkles, or nirvana to wash over you at the moment. You can experience a lift in mood and the benefits it conveys without it being orgasmic or a tear-jerker experience.
Stop using the word “grateful.” While it hasn’t made it to my list of words that should be banned from the planet (yes, I have such a thing), gratitude is overused and has become the purview of the Pollyannas out there that you don’t want to be associated with. Don’t go there.
Instead, try these:
Something/someone that made me happy.
Something/someone that made me laugh.
Something/someone that lifted my mood.
Someone I can thank.
Someone I can appreciate.
Big secret and spoiler alert: Visiting and revisiting positive things in your mind has the same effects as experiencing gratitude.
Take away the “should.” When you think, “oh, I should be grateful,” first take out the “should” and decide to choose. You can always choose not to. Give yourself a break.
Start small. If you do decide to find something good in your day, give yourself permission to find only one thing. The manageable and mundane qualify — a good cup of coffee or just the fact that it was hot. That counts.
Reach out. Send a thank you note or express appreciation for something small your loved one did for you. Email counts.
If you’ve decided you’re willing to give this a chance, do this:
- Crawl into bed.
- Close your eyes.
- Scan your day for something good. Anything.
- Think about the good thing for five seconds.
Seriously. That’s it.
If you decide to expand on this process, that’s your business. Careful. You might like it.
I’ve been a long-term hater of the “write down five things you’re grateful for daily” suggestion. Please reach out if you want to brainstorm your way out of it.
About the Author:
Jessica Lanning JD, CFP® brings focus and perspective to your individual financial needs to identify your opportunities for investment and wealth. Regardless of what you’ve done before or what “mistakes” you think you’ve made, Jessica can help get you back on track quickly and safely. As a former practicing lawyer, she brings a comprehensive approach to legal, tax, and financial challenges so that her clients can enjoy peace of mind. A huge proponent of conscious decision-making, Jessica makes sure her clients are educated and informed so that they make sound decisions with clarity and confidence.
Lanning Financial Inc. is a registered investment adviser. The information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.