Holiday Doldrums? Not Feeling so Grateful?

‘Tis the Season for Counting our Blessings, but Maybe You’re just Not Feeling it

It’s the holiday season, but maybe gratitude is the last thing you’re feeling.  Maybe you or your family is going through a really rough time right now, like the aftermath of Newton, Hurricane Sandy or other tragedy. Maybe you’re alone, or even more ironic, feeling lonely in the middle of family and friends.

What can you do?  Start being grateful.  If this seems foreign or you can’t relate to the idea of being grateful because you’re overwhelmed or bouncing back and forth between complaining and endless wanting, it may be a little tougher to find something in your life to celebrate right now. 

But you probably can find some basic gratitude somewhere.  Like for the basic elements of life itself, for example. You might try this simple exercise of “Elemental Gratitude.” It’s a practice that can be traced back over 2000 years to many spiritual traditions, including Native American, Buddhist, Yogic and Taoist philosophies.

The basic idea is that through expressing gratitude for the simple elements of existence -- things like the air, water, fire and earth, and electrons that make us up -- it becomes easier  to develop and feel real gratitude for everything, life, all of existence. “And then it can become easier to find real gratitude in your own personal life situation,” says Olivia Rosewood, who regularly practices this ancient art. 

She simply carves out a few minutes of quiet time, breathing and saying out loud or to herself,  "The air is good. The air within me is good. I am grateful for air… The earth is good. The earth within me is good. I am grateful for earth…  The water is good. The water within me is good. I am grateful for water…. The fire is good. The fire within me is good. I am grateful for fire."

Other simple keys. The practice of meditation, which Olivia also recommends in the Huffington Post article about her, is similar to this. When you get out of your head and into your heart, gratitude can more spontaneously burst into flames.

The simple, Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono is another great example.  Simply repeating the phrase  “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.” over and over again, especially applying it to agonizing, frustrating situations you can’t control (like your partner or irritating family members) creates a mysterious, transformative flow of energy that you don’t have to understand to employ.  

It shifts things and takes on a life of its own.  And it heals, too. Do a little research and read my YourTango Straight Talk about What You’re Seeing in the Mirror article about the literal miracles this simple practice has created. 

Gratitude in action.   When I was first married to my kids’ father in Florida, I had trouble with the heat and really missed the changing seasons of the Midwest. I started saying this phrase silently, over and over to myself in my head:  “I’m grateful for being with you, but let’s move from here.”  I never once said it aloud, for over a year. Then one day out of the blue, HE voluntarily, spontaneously burst forth with “Hey, let’s move from here.”  OMG, tell me it doesn’t work.

This holiday season of gratitude is a natural time to start, even if it takes a little effort. While you may have to jumpstart or prime the pump on your own gratitude, once the flow gets started, it creates more, and you’ll feel it more.  You know, inertia and all that.  Hint, hint.   If you start more actively expressing appreciation to your partner, your family, and friends—and mean it – they’re much more likely to catch the bug and return it back to you.

Why is it important to have gratitude, especially when things are tough?  

Of course, it’s much easier to feel gratitude when things are positive.  That’s true, but what about when you’re feeling miserable?  You might not be able to change the circumstances in your life right now, but you can change your attitude about it.” 

The bottomline here is this, “Whatever you focus on, whatever you put your energy into, you naturally get more of.  It’s part of the laws of the Universe, the physics of momentum.”   Focus on your misery, and you’re bound to stay stuck in it.  Focus on any scrap of goodness you can possibly find in your life and you are taking a step toward your freedom out of it.

Furthermore, from my How Gratitude Helps Your Relationship article picked up by the Huffington Post:  “Sometimes it’s all you can do.  Feeling gratitude for what you DO have, even if it’s little, actually shifts your mindset and your energy.  It gets you out of yourself and your “poor me” state, it opens your heart and creates a new momentum that continues and amplifies, producing some truly amazing results.”

The New Science of Gratitude. You not only will feel better and more energetic, but calmer, as well, which are just some of the benefits reported in the scientific studies on gratitude. Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, one of the foremost authorities and guru of the “New Science of Gratitude,”  found that people who view life as a gift and consciously acquire an “attitude of gratitude” will experience multiple advantages, including improved emotional and physical health.

Emphasizing that gratitude is not merely a positive emotion and backing up his claims with eight years of intensive research in his best-selling book, “Thanks! How The New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier,” Emmons says, “Without gratitude, life can be lonely, depressing and impoverished. Gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms.”

He also explains how gratitude – if cultivated by also consciously letting go of  “victim mentality” and sense of entitlement – can not only improve health, but produce significant improvements in several areas of life, including stronger academics, relationships, and communities, as well as higher energy levels and even greater ability to deal with tragedy and crisis.

The point is not just to wait for yourself to feel grateful, like when you’re receiving gifts, but to actively start practicing gratitude for no reason, for what you do have, for everything.  It can grease the wheels of your life.  And when you get them going, waves of joy and gratitude can water your dreams.

Hey, for starters, how about being thankful for the misinterpretations of the end of the Mayan calendar, “end of the world 2012”  that didn’t happen…

Gratitude heals.  And sometimes, it can open doors that nothing else can.