We’ve all heard about the benefits of having gratitude for things; the benefits it has on our emotional and mental well-being, the perspective shifts it creates. And when we think about having gratitude for things and people in our life, it’s easy to focus on being grateful for what’s going well, or what’s awesome.
Let me just say, right here, there is nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, I think that having a gratitude practice is a great thing. So go on being grateful for the amazing things in your life, like warm clean sheets, or a Starbucks salted caramel hot chocolate.
But what I’d like to offer here is a different perspective on gratitude. I propose a different spin on your gratitude practice. What if you could have gratitude for the experiences and things in your life that are NOT awesome? What if you felt grateful for the things that suck, the things that didn’t go according to plan, things that created heartbreak, pain, fear, and doubt? What if you were able to feel grateful in the present for an experience that felt like a nightmare to live through in the past?
I know, right now you’re possibly thinking this idea is strange, and I get it. Believe me, if someone had told me this a few years ago, I would’ve felt the same. But today, I know that gratitude for the sucky moments in life can and actually SHOULD be found. Because when we do this, we find a deeper level of appreciation for where life has lead us, and for where we’re going as a result. And, it helps us have a different relationship with our past pains.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Imagine you’re in a relationship that recently ended. You’re feeling sad, miserable, heartbroken, and wondering what the heck happened. Maybe you became more unhappy over time, you lost connection with your partner and you found yourself feeling miserable for months or years. Or, maybe the relationship ended abruptly because the other person betrayed you in some way. In either circumstance, it’s possible to find gratitude for these experiences.
I bet that right about now you’re thinking I’m nuts for making this assertion, but stay with me. Gratitude can be found in these experiences after an exploration of questions such as “what was this trying to teach me?” or “what have I learned about myself, and relationships from these experiences?”, or “where am I at in life right now, as a result of what happened there?”
Going back to the example of that breakup, you can be grateful that because of it, you have better boundaries with other people. From this experience, you can have gratitude for the clarity you now have around the importance of prioritizing your happiness over others’. You can have gratitude for the insight that you should trust your instincts when you feel something isn’t quite right in your relationship. Or, you can simply have gratitude for the happy times you had when you were together.
Sometimes, if we’re willing to take a look, there can be beautiful gifts and lessons life provides to us when things don’t work out the way we want them to. I encourage you to take some time, reflect on one or two negative experiences in your life, and find some gratitude for them. I bet you’ll be amazed at what you discover.