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I know I should feel grateful, but honestly it isn’t always my “go to” state of mind. Recently as I was rushing through the airport to catch my second flight, my lungs felt a bit heavy from the cold I was still nursing, and I was a bit sore from the long flight I just took. I was on my way to visit my daughters in Los Angeles because one of them is due to have her second baby at any time. I was anxious that I wouldn’t make it to my next flight – and most of all to her birth. Everything felt overwhelming, and even though I know that gratitude is a state of mind, in that moment it was the farthest thing from my mind.

Being able to stay open to the small joys can require some very skilled awareness so we don’t bypass our difficult feelings

Gratitude often arises naturally when we are feeling joy. Yet, gratitude is not the natural state of our minds. It is a conscious pathway we choose. It takes some mind training to awaken our sense of gratitude along with a healthy dose of patience to let gratitude become a habit.

Appreciate The Small Moments of Joy

Letting our hearts be touched by the beauty and sweetness of life is the first step. This means shifting our awareness so we begin to notice the small things that spark joy and touch our hearts. We don’t have to look far to notice the gloriousness of a sunrise, the sweetness of a small child, the beauty of nature, or the gentleness of a stranger. These things are happening around us at all times. Almost every moment holds something remarkable if we slow down enough to notice. By letting our hearts be open and touched by these very special moments, we begin to create a mental pathway to let joy in. The more we notice, the more the mind begins to search for those small joys and we begin to cultivate a habit of noticing and being touched.

Smile, But Don’t Bypass Difficult Feelings

We have all noticed how focusing on the negative and our burdens feeds the experience of doom and gloom. When we go down that path, it can take a crane to pull us back out of the hole we dig for ourselves. This is not to say that we should fake our happiness or gratitude.  There is nothing more irritating than someone pretending to be happy about everything. Being authentic feels so much more integrated. Being able to stay open to the small joys and what is happening now at the same time can require some very skilled awareness so we don’t bypass our difficult feelings just to see the bright side. But we can do both.

We may notice that the more we take note of those precious moments, the more they sink in. In time, the mind begins to search for them. Even when things are difficult in our lives, if we are able to open our awareness to hold both the difficult situation and a more buoyant view of the moment we will experience a sense of gratitude.

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It’s always good to to integrate the practice of gratitude into our daily lives. This does not mean bypassing our difficult feelings (grief, overwhelm, or disappointments), but holding a space for the magical, beautiful, and extraordinary to touch our hearts and fill us with gratitude in the midst of everything else, even if only for a moment. We are still waiting for the arrival of the new baby and my daughter keeps saying, “I wish this baby would just come.” She’s uncomfortable and a bit grumpy. I get it; it’s hard to wait.

Even in the midst of all these feelings, my daughters and I are enjoying spending time together with my 3-year-old granddaughter. One day we went out for a meal at a delicious vegan restaurant and I truly appreciated each moment together. The sun was streaming in through the windows and the food was amazing. Little Freya was laughing and I thought to myself, I am so grateful for this moment.  We are lucky to be here and to have each other to share these moments together. P.S. yes, I was still a bit overwhelmed, but somehow that feels easier when I have a heart filled with gratitude.

How do you try to feel grateful even when you’re feeling overwhelmed, annoyed or disappointed?

Contributed by

Susi Amendola
Stress Management Specialist

What have you done to remind yourself of the things that have meaning for you?

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