How to Give thanks When gratitude is the last thing you feel

Every year, around this time, I've written a post on gratitude. For the past two years I've written posts on how to practice gratitude here and here. What about those times when you are in such a negative space mentally and emotionally that all your mind can focus on is what's wrong? Sometimes, it feels pretty impossible to practice gratitude and I've been there. I've had those days. How do you get back to a space where you can begin to see through the clouds of negativity to realize how much you do have? Below are 4 ideas for getting you out of the dark side and into a place where you can then begin your own gratitude practice:

  1. Feel your feelings. Sometimes you just have to allow yourself those days to feel like crap. Life is hard, and the more you grow, the more life throws at you. Sometimes what you fight you strengthen, especially when what you fight is within. Honoring and acknowledging your feelings gives them the attention they need to move along. Some days, you just need to give yourself time to mourn, cry, scream, talk it out, etc. 
  2. Think of simple pleasures. When I work at the hospital, instead of gratitude lists, I sometimes facilitate groups about simple pleasures. Thinking of simple pleasures can be easier and less emotionally complicated than gratitude lists. Make a list using words or a picture with images, of the simple things/experiences you love (e.g. avocado, the smell after it rains, a walk outdoors, sunsets). Generating a list like this can flip the positivity switch in the brain and get you over the negativity hump. 
  3. Move your body. It's all energy. I believe negative energy can be moved through and out with movement. Yoga, dance, walking, are all great ways to move out of a place of deep negative. Studies show that exercise in moderation can release feel-good chemicals in the brain and decrease cortisol (the stress hormone). Sometimes negative feelings get stuck in the body, preventing us from moving forward so moving the body is the perfect way to discharge that negative energy. 
  4. Figure out the root cause. Often, we think we're upset about one thing, when we're really upset about something else. Taking pause to dig a little deeper, in search of the true cause of your negative feelings can help to liberate you from their control. Many times, the feelings we're unaware of have the most power over us. I can often feel when we've gotten to the root cause of an issue with a client when the energy suddenly gets calm. There's almost like a psychological/emotional sigh with relief when we realize what we're truly feeling upset about. Figuring out the root cause can get you to a place of calm, a calm that's necessary for any type of gratitude practice.

These are just a few ideas. Try them next time you find yourself in a place of pure negativity. It happens to all of us, and I've definitely been there. If you feel negative, sad, and/or depressed for multiple days in a row, or if your mood begins to negatively affect your biological functioning (e.g. sleep, appetite), that may be an indication to consult a professional (e.g. doctor, psychiatrist, therapist). Hopefully at least one of these strategies will help to pull you out of your funk and get you to a place where you can begin to practice gratitude.