November 21, 2014

How to Become a Gratitude Junkie.

Let’s get real, life can be freaking hard and a lot of us need (or think we need) a vice.

Our days can be mundane, relationships can be tragic, our jobs can be toxic and we find things to help us get by. We find little vices in life that get us from one day to the next, from one relationship to another and from random job to random job.  Oh yes, there is always happy hours, online shopping, French fries, dark chocolate with sea salt and many other socially acceptable (or not) indulgences—we use as stepping stones to avoid really diving into the experiences that life has to offer.

If you are reading this, you are likely aware enough to know that, no, that is not how you want to live, and you know that life is about so much more than those superficial indulgences, yet you still struggle with just how to get there.

How do we fall in love with our lives so that we no longer need these stepping stones?

If you’re a person who gets annoyed by happy people, then this one’s for you.

I used to be that person—the one who got annoyed with the happy people. I was comically gifted at being the sarcastic pessimist. I moved 24 times during my 20s then survived life events that required me to finally face myself and make very real, intentional decisions about how I wanted to proceed.

About a year ago, I listened to a trusted friend who advised me to begin a gratitude practice. Initially, I was annoyed at how unbelievably cheesy that sounded—I sighed, likely rolled my eyes—yet did it anyhow. Because Iucky me, Ieven though I was a pessimist, I had an open mind—thrived on trying anything new and frankly did not have a lot to lose.

And, so it began.

My gratitude practice involved writing down, every day, a list of specific areas in my life for which I was grateful. This involved my health, my car, the rain, sunshine, clean water, smiles from strangers. Making these lists got easier every day. Most importantly, what this involved, was feeling the gratitude. Realizing gratitude, rather than just intellectualizing, is the key.

If you’re anything like me, you’re instantly thinking, “Oh, but I am a grateful person. I am thankful for so much in my life.” Right? I thought this as well, but that was the problem. I was thinking this. I wasn’t feeling it, nor was I realizing it. I was not using gratitude as a means of intentionally creating positivity in my life.

This is the difference.

You see, when your relationship fails, when you lose that job, when your tire goes flat during a snowstorm—we feel it. Right? And it is okay to feel these emotions. I would not recommend using gratitude as an avoidance mechanism as we do with other vices.

First, be present for what is happening. Label it if you need to, acknowledge it for what it is.

Real empowerment is being able to make a choice—to make a decision in these moments and to create a shift in your perspective. It can be so powerful that gratitude can dwarf whatever circumstance you are facing. From what I have experienced, gratitude plants a seed that can grow into every facet of our lives.

I learned that being intentional with our lives does not just pertain to the bigger life goals such as family, career, and all of those other shiny representative images that you would glue to your vision boards.

When being intentional really counts are those moments when we wish we had that cigarette, or that glass of wine. When things crumble, and overwhelm and even threaten to pull you under. When you are tired of crying or being angry or bitter and finally realize that you were only annoyed by those happy people because you believe that, deep down, you’re not one of them.

Practicing gratitude gets easier and becomes more natural until eventually you find yourself swimming and flowing through life and realize that you’ve become the happy person at which you once would have scoffed.


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Author: Katie Vessel

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

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