We all know about the importance of gratitude, right? Even in your darkest moments, you’ve probably found things to be thankful for. A tiny flower bursting through a crack in the pavement, a smile from a stranger, the perfect cup of tea, a roof over your head… you know the drill. But what if there was a problem with gratitude? Could our obsession with putting a positive spin on things actually be causing us harm?
At One of many, we love to celebrate the joy in life – big and small. In fact, one of our most powerful tools is the very simple but VERY effective one we call “Thinking and thanking”. By consciously taking time each day to feel gratitude for what’s gone well, we allow ourselves to welcome that idea of receiving into our lives.
So what’s the problem?
When there’s a problem with gratitude
The trouble with focusing exclusively on what we’re grateful for, is that we can inadvertently begin to feel that anything outside of that experience is wrong.
Our brains begin to pipe up, as soon as we feel a pang of sadness, or anger, or fear.
“Hey – you can’t be disappointed that your holiday was cancelled because of Coronavirus. Think of all the people mourning loved ones they’ve lost right now!”
“Devastated by your boss’s cruel comments at work today? You’re lucky to even have a job!”
“Struggling with parenting? Think of all the people on their fertility journey right now – they would do anything to be in your shoes.”
And so on, in an endless succession.
The problem with gratitude is that it can lead us to the suffering Olympics – where nobody ever wins.
What to do with “negative” emotions
Our challenge, then, is what to do with these emotions we’re often tempted to label as “negative”.
Take a moment to think about the emotions you find hardest to express.
(Hint: They may well be the ones you feel most annoyed by when you notice them in someone else!)
And then, before rushing back to feel grateful – try these 3 steps.
#1 Don’t apologise
Just recently, in our private Facebook Group, one of the women on our Lead the Change leadership programme apologised for “bringing down the mood” of the group whe n she shared how she’s been struggling recently. After all, she told me, nothing terrible had happened to her family. There was just a lot going on – and she was the glue in the middle, holding everyone else together.
You’d better believe I was onto that like a shot.
You see, this community is absolutely a place to share all the amazing, joyful, wonderful things in life. I love how our coaches, Living the Change and Lead the Change members celebrate and uplift each other. Our famous #bragbaby hashtag was designed to encourage us to share our wins – something many of us don’t do enough.
Just as importantly, the One of many community is a space to talk about all the difficult, challenging, frustrating, heartbreaking things in life. Especially if you’re someone who tends to “hold it together” for everyone else around you – your partner, friends, colleagues, mates…
You take care of them. We’re here to hold YOU up when you need it.
#2 Let it out
So you’ve acknowledged how you’re feeling. Now it’s time to really let it out.
- If you’re on one of our programs, pop into the group and share what’s going on.
- Tell a friend when they ask you how you are.
- Journal, by writing down how you feel or getting creative and expressing yourself through art.
- Dance it out – we often think of dancing as being joyful, but it can express any other emotion.
- Tell your coach – if you don’t have one, use our coaching directory to find one near you.
Remember, in the immortal words of our Head Coach Annie Stoker “Nobody ever died of an emotion.”
In other words – trying to bottle up how you’re feeling, or replace it with something like gratitude – won’t really help in the long term.
Let it out, and trust that when you’ve done so, you’ll find more space there for other emotions and experiences. Including, yes… gratitude!
#3 Invite others to share with you
Some recent research into our collective level of emotional exhaustion has revealed that many of us are retreating or isolating ourselves. Which means that many of the people around you – yes, even the ones who seem to be living “perfect” lives – might also be struggling inside.
Try opening up a bit to people you close to you. Be honest if you’re having a tough day, or if you’re needing a bit more support, and invite them to do the same.
For now – remember, you’re not alone.
The problem with gratitude only emerges when we don’t allow ourselves to feel everything else as well. Leave us a comment and let us know how you’re getting on. And share this post with your friends – let’s open up a conversation about how we’re feeling, so that we can support each other.
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