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Reframe Difficulty with Gratitude

As I’ve said before, Gratitude is a Force in my life.

But I’ll be honest: I don’t keep an ongoing gratitude journal. I don’t use a gratitude jar. Gratitude is something that is much more of an organic ritual in my life than a strict practice. When we gather for a meal, my friends and I join hands and say what we’re thankful for. I make a point to look my partner in the eye to say thank you when I am appreciative.

What I’ve noticed is that gratitude is a useful tool to reframe situations.

Thankfulness is my methodology for replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Personally, this has been deeply helpful. Because I would rather be someone who is oriented around gratitude than disaster. It’s not always linear for me, but I’m committed.

Here are some of the ways that you can reframe through gratitude:

Taking for granted vs. Acknowledgment

The irony of many relationships is that the people closest to us get the least of us. After a decade or two of friendship or partnership, it’s easy to let things slide. Maybe you show up late or forget important details, because you’re comfortable in the relationship.

Maybe you take for granted that this person will always be there to do the dishes, pick you up from the airport, or know you as well as they do.

But because all things end, and no one gets out alive (boy, that got dark fast!) – there is no time like today to acknowledge the people who are most precious to us. It might seem awkward at first to tell close friends what they mean to us.

Trust me when I say it, though, everyone likes to be acknowledged for being their fabulous selves. Over time, acknowledgment – gratitude – builds a deeper level of trust and intimacy in a relationship.

People want you to see them. Choose to see them through the lens of gratitude.

Wishing it away vs. Being present

If you find yourself wanting to fast forward through parts of your life, it may be time to pause. Slow down. Take a few deep breaths. It may be time to cultivate gratitude for what is, rather than wishing it away.

By bringing ourselves into a space of gratitude, we are able to be more present – and content – in this moment, right now.

When we’re thankful, even for the smallest blessings of our everyday, we can stay in mindful awareness.

It’s easy to be nostalgic for the past – to cast in a golden light what came before. It’s even easier sometimes to feel anxiety or anticipation about the future and what’s to come. To stay in the present, we remind ourselves of gratitude for what’s around us now.

Then, we can stay here in this moment with less drama and more appreciation.

Comparison vs. Appreciation

Ah, the comparison trap. You’ve heard that phrase, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” yes? Well, in my experience, it’s entirely true. You might be content with what you have… until you see your neighbor’s fancier version of whatever it was.

And frankly, I think that’s thrown us all into a tizzy at one time or another.

Again. Pause for a few moments, and remember your gratitude.

Thankfulness for what we already have is worth far more than whatever that fancier thing is. When we practice gratitude for what we do have, instead of seeking what we don’t, we’re able to live in contentment and joy. When we spin out into craving the next better and better things, we fall into what Buddhism calls delusion.

When we are stuck in comparison, there is never enough. Someone will always have something fancier. Without gratitude, we remain stuck there. When we cultivate gratitude, we reframe what we have as “enough.” Perhaps we are even able to truly appreciate it.

Attachment vs. Contentment

Using the Buddhist concept of attachment, we can use gratitude to reframe our situation, from a negative to a positive. When attachment arrises, it is because we want the situation to be something other than what it is. This is the root of suffering: this craving.

So rather than beating ourselves up for having these attachments – or allowing us to succumb to them, we can use gratitude to lift us up again.

There are, of course, instances where we truly wish for things to be different: in situations of injustice, in the loss of a loved one… But bear with me. Even in those situations, there can be gratitude to be found. Perhaps not right away – it may take some healing time before that’s possible.

Ultimately, situations of great attachment (or aversion) can reveal themselves to be fertile ground for gratitude.

When we remember the good memories, when we feel the strength of our community around us, when we recognize what we do have… those are moments for gratitude. They do not discount our pain, but allow there to be comfort, even contentment, rather than pure grasping.

Isolation vs. Interconnection

Modern life can feel very isolating. Many of us work office jobs in cubicles. We live far from home. We see our friends in rushed moments of connection in between all of the “busy.” We spend a large percentage of our time in front of our computers, rather than interacting with other people.

This kind of isolation can feel exhausting.

When we remember gratitude, however, we have the opportunity to reconnect. Our gratitude may inspire us to reach out: to write a letter, make a call, send an email. Our gratitude may be the impetus for reconnecting.

Instead of loneliness, you might choose gratitude: to remember who in your life you can count on. Who makes you laugh, who deserves your recognition. When we learn to speak up with words of thanks, we reclaim our interconnection.

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