Including a gratitude practice as part of our recovery can help us to connect with feelings of hopefulness and appreciation. When we focus on gratitude, we’re better able to think positively and optimistically. Gratitude can be a powerful antidote to depression and anxiety. How do we work our gratitude practice when we’re suffering? How can we feel grateful when we’re experiencing deep emotional pain? When we actively choose gratitude, we’re not presuming that we’ll be immune to pain. We’re choosing to believe that we can be grateful in the midst of our pain. Gratitude won’t erase our pain or solve every problem for us, but it can help shine a light on the darkness we’re feeling. Focusing on what we’re grateful for reminds us how blessed we truly are, despite our struggles. We turn our attention to things that make us feel lighter and more at peace, and this process can help relieve some of our pain. Our beliefs are informed by the thought patterns we perpetuate on a regular basis. If we’re constantly focused on our pain, we don’t make room for happiness. We start to believe that our pain is all there is. We believe we don’t actually have anything to be grateful for. We associate gratitude with being totally happy, assuming that to be grateful we can’t also be struggling. We forget that gratitude can help us find a way out of our suffering. It can provide us with the light at the end of the tunnel that we couldn’t see without it. Gratitude can help calm us down when we’re feeling anxious or panicked. It can help give us a glimmer of relief and hope when we’re feeling depressed and defeated. To cultivate feelings of gratitude when we’re struggling, it helps to make it a daily practice. If we make gratitude a sporadic thing, its effects won’t be as transformative, and its healing power won’t have a chance to take root. We won’t be able to make a real habit of it. Making it a practice means exactly that, we’re practicing. It won’t necessarily come easily to us, so we practice. Search deep within you for reasons to be grateful – for things that have gone well in your life, accomplishments you’re proud of, attributes about yourself you admire, things in your life and in your daily experience that are blessings, both big and small. When we’re unhappy, we tend to think in very negative and pessimistic ways. Our instinct might be to reject this practice, to convince ourselves that it won’t work and that nothing can help us. Keep practicing. Keep reaching for those thoughts of gratitude. The more we practice, the more gratitude can contribute to our wellness and happiness in profound and life-changing ways.
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