Practicing gratitude is important on your good days. It matters even more on the ones when things aren’t quite so rosy.
I want to be completely vulnerable with you. Over the past week I’ve had quite a few of these ‘not so great’ days. As someone who is usually known for being positive and helping others through difficult times, battling them myself has been an extremely difficult thing to wrestle with.
The part that I have found the hardest is knowing my situation is nothing when compared to what millions of others around the world are facing right now. What gives me the right to feel down in the dumps when there are doctors risking their lives every day on the front line, or families mourning the loss of those they love.
Deep down I know that I am one of the very lucky ones. But whilst it is healthy to acknowledge my situation in perspective, it doesn’t mean that my feelings are any less valid than anyone else’s. In order to move forward from negative emotions we must first give ourselves permission to feel them. If we bottle them up and pretend they're not there, they'll simply grow and manifest themselves into much bigger problems later down the line.
Feeling down is ok. Feeling lonely is ok. Feeling anxious is ok.
These emotions are all part of the human experience and would not exist if they did not serve us in some way. Allow yourself to feel them fully and without judgment. Emotions are energy in motion, so let them move freely through your body instead of suppressing them and leaving the energy to stagnate.
Cry if you need to. Scream into your pillow if you need to. Give yourself permission to release in any way that feels right to you. Then slowly, when you are ready, bring yourself back to the present moment. Breathe.
If you can allow yourself to feel ‘negative’ emotions like anger, sadness or fear; you can also allow yourself to feel positive ones at any moment. And one of the most important emotions that we can feel right now is gratitude. Having a strong gratitude practice has been an anchor for me during these difficult times, and at other moments of my life when I have been faced with a real challenge or struggle.
What is gratitude?
Being grateful doesn’t mean pretending that the bad stuff isn’t happening. Being grateful simply means shifting your focus onto all the good things that are also there.
Science has proven that humans have a built-in negativity bias, and this has served us in many ways from an evolutionary perspective. It meant that we were able to stay vigilant to the threats of our environment rather than stopping every few minutes to smell the flowers.
But these days we aren’t being chased by sabretooth tigers, and we have the mainstream media to remind us of the things we can be fearful of. Which is why we’re much better off when we focus on all the things we have to be grateful for instead. It is impossible to feel sadness and gratitude at the same time. The more we practice gratitude, the more we realise how much there is to be grateful for in every day.
Right now I’m practicing gratitude by doing the following three things:
#1. A list of things that I am grateful for
Every morning I write down 2-3 things that I am grateful for in the present moment. This reminds me of how much I have to be thankful for in my life right now.
Today it was the sunlight through my bedroom window, the warmth of my MAGIC turmeric latte, and the fact that my family are all safe and healthy.
#2. Things that haven't happened
Next, I write down 2-3 things I am grateful for that haven't happened yet. This reminds me how much I have to look forward to in the future once life begins to return back to normal.
Today it was having lunch with my best friends, swimming in the ocean, and going to visit my Grandad for an afternoon chat about the football.
#3. Pin the list on the fridge
Finally, I pin the list on my fridge and leave a pen strategically placed next to it. Throughout the day the list fills up, which makes me feel an even higher level of gratitude when I know that my family have things to be grateful for too.
If you are feeling lost or overwhelmed right now, give this gratitude practice a try. It might feel hard at first, but after just a few days you will notice how much easier it is to see all of the good things in your life.
If you live alone, try sharing your list in a group chat with friends or family instead of pinning it to the fridge. Come back to it at the end of the day and reflect collectively on all the things you have to be grateful for.
Over the next few weeks we will all likely experience a rollercoaster of emotions. This is ok. But when we turn our attention to gratitude, we will realise that everything we need to get through this time is already within us.
Stay positive. Stay healthy. And stay at home.
If you want more, check out one of my recent podcast episodes to hear my take on COVID-19 and the full experience I have had with it changing my life so far.