How to Find Gratitude in Your Hardest Moments
By Tris Thorp
One of the main pillars of today’s mindfulness-based practices is the art of cultivating gratitude. You may hear it as a theme in yoga class, read about it in self-help books, hear about it in seminars and retreats, or see it every day in your social media feeds. Cultivating gratitude every day can be a powerful catalyst for creating a more positive mindset.
You may know from experience that steeping yourself in gratitude can be a feel-good practice of bringing to mind the things you feel blessed to have in your life. You may know that sharing your gratitude with others creates a ripple effect and has a positive impact on those around you. Meditating on or making daily lists of the things you are thankful for on a regular basis is a great way to focus on what is good in the world, especially during times when there is so much uncertainty, anger, and fear swirling about.
Gratitude comes in many forms and how you experience it can vary a great deal, depending on your intention. It’s easy to hone in on the things you are grateful for when life is going well. A good economy, a happy family, a loving relationship, a successful career, and good physical health are laced with blessings. Your happiness stems from positivity, and its usually times like these that you may take your success, your relationships, your happiness, and your health for granted. Things are going so well that you may forget you are invulnerable to disharmony, loss, poor health, pain, and suffering—until it’s knocking on your door. It’s in your not-so-wonderful times that you may lose sight of the good that still exists around you.
Just like acknowledging all the amazing things you are thankful for in your life, there can also be a great deal of insight and healing available (http://www.chopra.com/articles/cultivate-the-healing-power-of-gratitude) when you can feel gratitude in your hardest moments. Remembering how difficult things once were and how far you’ve come since then creates a significant contrast in your mindset that can be highly productive.
Can you remember a time in your life when you felt the heartache from a breakup with someone you cared for deeply? Now, all these years later, are you able to look back on the situation and be thankful in some way that things ended when they did? Maybe you wouldn’t be married to your current spouse or have the children you have today. Can you think of a time in your life when you were overlooked for a job promotion only to realize down the road that it would have been the worst job ever? Looking back on your life, you may find times when something happened that seemed awful in the moment and, had it not happened, you wouldn’t have something even better in its place today. There is so much to be learned from your past painful experiences and turned into gold if you’re willing to shift your perception just a bit.
Likewise, you may have something difficult happening in your life today—an important life decision, an impending breakup, confusion about what you’re supposed to be doing with your life—and if you settle into a space of being completely honest with yourself (even when it’s unpleasant), odds are that you know there is something bigger, better, grander awaiting you on the other end. This is where finding gratitude comes in. You may be thankful for your own courage and determination or appreciative of your health as you are healing from a physical, emotional, or mental challenge. Perhaps you can find gratitude for your humility and grace in how you handled a difficult conversation, or appreciation for the fact that you have a roof over your head.
Ok, I need to lighten up, right here, right now. Just because these last few weeks I’ve been thrown curve balls when I’m used to, and grateful, for a calm, peaceful, uneventful life. Thank goodness I have tools such as these articles and my AA toolbox to get me through a bit of “real life”.
I’m gonna spew here for just a bit, to take the power out of what ails me, so bypass, here if it makes you nuts. During the Thanksgiving holiday my family came to visit. While brushing my teeth one morning my crown just fell out. Negative Dee: “Shit. I’ve had nothing but problems with my teeth. More money. More time. More pain. Whah. Whah. Whah.” Positive Dee: Call the dentist. He gets me in right away. Ok. Not just the crown fell out but my tooth was still in it. Extraction. Not a big deal. I’ve had plenty. The offer of pain meds. NO. I can’t go there. Not again. Remember, Dee, that you have a high tolerance to pain and, PLEASE, remember the relapse that came from pain meds a few years ago. Gratefully since then, I’ve stayed close to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and didn’t allow myself to get complacent…again.
On my way home from the dentist I stop to visit a friend. When I go to leave the car doesn’t start. I’m told the starter motor is faulty. Negative Dee: “Damn. We just replaced the starter a few warranty months ago. More money. More time. More pain. Whah. Whah. Whah.” Positive Dee: We’ll order another starter motor because we can. We have the money. We’ll get the car in up and running properly again. Not a big deal. I wasn’t stuck in the middle of commuter traffic during rush hour. And even if, I’ve got AAA.
I’m gonna pick these papayas before the birds and geckos eat them all. I’ll just step on this branch like I’ve done many times (not realizing how big the fruit now is, and how plentiful). “Down will go baby, cradle and all.” The branch breaks off. I’m about 10 feet above the ground, lava rock. I stop. Upright. I gather my thoughts. The barbed-wire fence next to the tree has stopped me from breaking any bones had I hit the ground. Negative Dee: “I hurt. I’m stuck down here in lava rock and tall California grass bare-foot. How am I going to get back up to the house? Whah. Whah. Whah.” Positive Dee: I’ll climb up the rock wall up to the house like American Ninja Warrior. Hey, Dee, that barbed-wire fence saved you from breaking your bones. And when your foot stopped you at the bottom of the fence, it stopped you just in time so the barbs didn’t rip into your cherished private parts. Ok. So a few scratches and just five stitches. Get over it. You know you’ll climb that tree again. It’s fun.”
This past weekend was crazy crunch time for this stained glass/mosaic artist. More shows and more work than what I’m used to. I get to the art fair, set up my display, and realize I’ve set it up back to front. Stupid. Negative Dee: Why would everyone else around me have their displays set up toward the grass while I thought setting up toward the parking lot made sense? Really? I’ve got to take everything down and start over when this is the one time I had it together to be set up on time? Why am I never set up on time? Why am I always the last one to tear down and go home? Why do I always have some much breakage of stained glass and mosaic pieces? Whah. Whah. Whah.” Positive Dee: What a beautiful place at this old Hawaiian Church to get to turn my display around (and my attitude). You know, Dee, being a little more mindful and in the moment wouldn’t hurt you a bit. You know, everything is perfect right here, right now.”
Yesterday’s show “I“planned to go smoothly. After the back-assward show the day before I strived to be totally prepared to get the day off on the right foot. Premade my lunch. Car with new starter was loaded up. Clothes were laid out. Went to bed early. Set the alarm so I could even have some quiet time before going to the show. When I awaken my alarm hadn’t gone off. My phone, my alarm, had powered itself off even though it was 100% charged. I should be at the show setting up right now and I’m just getting out of bed. Negative Dee: For real, God? I’m doing my best to turn my will and my life over to you. You know I hate surprises and do my best to avoid them. I’m going to call in and say I’m not going to make the show. But some of the people I met at yesterday’s show are expecting me to be there today. And yesterday was a profitable show and today could be the same. What am I going to do? Whah. Whah. Whah.” Positive Dee: Shut up and suit up. Everything happens for a reason. Be grateful. You’re never set up on time anyway. Just get your tent up, take your time, enjoy the moment. I pray a a lot while driving to the show. The radio is not working and just works when it wants. I sing. I pray to get out of self-will. My car veers to the side of the road to pick up a hitchhiker and her dog, “Toto”. I never pick up hitchhikers. What gives? But she and Toto got me out of my stinking thinking. We had a mellow enjoyable ride to the green market where I set up, or tried to, and made plenty of sales. I turned my attitude around, or my Higher Power did.
As human beings, we all run into various situations and circumstances that range from slight annoyances to overwhelming tragedies. Even in the most difficult times, if you can slow things down in your mind just long enough to connect with your heart, you will be able to find something, even if it’s just a small shred of appreciation, that will pull you through.
Gratitude is a practice of creating a state of emotional prosperity. It’s about focusing on the good things you have. It is as relevant to be grateful for the positive outcomes from your past negative experiences as it is to be thankful for the amazing things in your life. It’s not about pretending that things were okay when they weren’t, and it’s not about ignoring the way you’re feeling when things aren’t good. Rather, it’s a practice for reevaluating what is important for you to focus on at the end of the day to help you stay positive, calm, centered, and balanced.
Gratitude. Humility. Sobriety. Recovery. When I allow them to, when I shut off my head and live from my heart, when I remember I am not in control and turn my will and my life and me over to the care of God as I understand God, I’m in a good, loving, compassionate and peaceful place. Being a recovering alcoholic has given me this gift. Alcoholics Anonymous has given me this gift. The fellowship has given me this gift. Most importantly, my Higher Power has given me this gift. To share my experience, strength and hope with those who enter my “Dee Bubble”. To make positive out of negative. To have hope. To know we’re not in this alone. And then to have icing on the cake with articles and various tools such as this to help guide us and take us to the next level. Pretty sweet, yeah?
For those interested in Art with a Message of Aloha, Recovery, Inspiration, of “good stuff”, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com. Mahalo and have an awesome day!
Use this guided visualization to journey through an upsetting time, find something positive that came about as a result of what happened (or what’s happening), and cultivate gratitude (http://www.chopra.com/free- programs/attitude-of-gratitude) for it.
Find a nice, quiet space where you won’t be disturbed.
Silence your phone, close the door, and settle into a comfortable seat in your favorite spot.
With your eyes closed, begin to breathe slowly and deeply.
Feel your body begin to relax from the top of your head down through your shoulders, arms, torso, hips, and finally down through your legs.
Bring to mind a time in your life when things were not going so well—a time when something happened that caused you confusion, pain, or suffering of some kind.
As you think back on this time, take in what happened during this experience.
Now begin to travel forward in your mind observing as you navigated through this situation.
Put your awareness on the person you were then—doing the best you knew how at that time.
Next, notice that where you are currently at in your life is a very different time, space, and experience. See how far you have come and become aware of the different person you are today.
As you reflect back on what happened, ask yourself, “What is the gift, positive lesson, or wisdom I received from having had this experience?” This difficult time that happened has somehow provided you with insight or knowledge that it happened for some reason that you weren’t able to see at the time.
Ask yourself, “What are you grateful for now as a result of what happened back in your hardest moments?” When you’re ready, take a few more deep breaths and open your eyes.
Do some journaling if it calls to you.
If you’re new to personal growth and things aren’t exactly spectacular in your life, it’s sometimes easier to begin by focusing on the positive things you have to be thankful for—and why you’re grateful. When you’re down in the dumps it can be a real mood-killer to try finding the silver lining in a situation that just plain stinks. As things improve in your life and you’re feeling stronger (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically), looking back on the less-than-positive experiences you’ve had and finding the gifts from those times will become easier. The biggest thing to remember when practicing gratitude is to meet yourself where you are in the moment and work with what is most readily available to you while you journey on toward greater happiness and healing.
Get the resources you need to create positivity and fulfillment each day – no matter what is going on in your life – with The Chopra Center’s Discover Your Purpose Toolkit, which includes a free e-book, worksheet, 1:1 discovery session, and guided meditation. Get your free toolkit now. (https://www.chopra.com/free- programs/discover-your-purpose-toolkit).
About the Author
Vedic Educator and Lifestyle & Leadership Coach
Tris Thorp is one of today’s leading experts in the field of emotional healing. Having spent the last decade traveling the world, being trained by and sharing the stage with Dr. Deepak Chopra in the field of consciousness and mindfulness-based practices, Tris has a real gift for integrating the ancient spiritual teachings with modern-day mindfulness to help people all over the world let go of their past and create an empowered new future. You can learn more about Tris’s work at http://www.tristhorp.com (http://tristhorp.com). Tris is Board Certified by the Association of Integrative Psychology as a Trainer of NLP, Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming, Hypnosis,… Read more (/bios/tris-thorp)
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