Being Grateful When it Hurts

Gratitude – The quality of being thankful.

On my list of habits I wanted to build this month I included “gratitude.” While I could have been more specific on what that entails, I loosely defined it as, “A daily practice of finding at least three moments/people/things to be grateful for.”

I further constrained myself with one rule: No Repeats.

So if one day I said I was grateful for my fiancee, the next I could be grateful for the time we had together or a nice thing he did for me, but I could not get lazy and keep repeating day after day, “I am grateful for Matt.”

Now we’re halfway through the month and I am trying to keep up with my daily practice. A couple of days ago was a rough day for me. I had a headache. I was in a bad mood. I was feeling a lot of stress. I just wanted to crawl under a blanket and be miserable. I was well on my way to going home and throwing myself a pity party when I stopped at Starbucks.

The barista working the drive through had a wacky sense of humor. “Welcome to Starbucks, this is Angelina Jolie. What can I make for you?” he asked. I faltered for a second, then smiled when I ordered. He told me Marshall Mathers would take my money at the window. After he handed me my coffee he told me to “Have a grande!” as I drove away. Worst coffee joke ever.

I laughed anyway.

As I was driving home I made a mental list of my gratitude for three things that day. That day I was grateful for a Starbucks employee who made me laugh. This is not a story about how one person turned my day around or how the gratitude exercise made some massive improvement in my life. I went home to sleep off the headache. I woke up and did some reading. My day did improve. Massively? I’m not sure. But improvement is improvement.

Gratitude is supposed to have a lot of health benefits. It helps reduce stress, improves mood, and improves sleep quality. Just because it’s helpful doesn’t mean it’s easy. We all know the benefits of daily flossing, eating enough greens, and drinking enough water. That doesn’t mean we’re going to do those things daily without conscious effort.

After researching other people’s gratitude practices, these appeared to be the most popular options:

  • Gratitude journal (literally a notebook and a pen, nothing fancy)
  • Gratitude jar (Pinterest can help if you are into that sort of thing)
  • Several apps
  • Handwritten thank you notes

For my practice I just list what I am grateful for in my head. Another idea I had would work if you still keep a paper day planner or use a bullet journal. List your three things directly in a notebook you are using anyway. No extra materials needed.

Regardless of how you practice your gratitude, the most important part is actually feeling thankful for what you list. That is what gives you genuine thankfulness (and the benefits that go with it) rather than a halfhearted “thanks” and another item checked off on a never ending to do list.

What’s on your list to be grateful for today?

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2 thoughts on “Being Grateful When it Hurts

  1. Great post! I recently was given the advice to send up little thoughts of gratitude throughout the day, just as birds keep chirping small, cheery notes all day long. Easier said then done! Last week was a pretty crabby one, but here are my three points of gratitude.
    1) Phone calls with my sister! A great way to start every week!
    2) That my husband was able to home last week when our son had an asthma flare. Definitely needed his support.
    3) for fun, so grateful for being able to cast YouTube videos on the TV… Use it all the time!

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