Photo found here: Lack of Gratitude
By Crabby McSlacker
Seriously, a blog post dissing Gratitude? Have I gone completely bonkers?
It's hard to think of a more ridiculous target for complaint. Gratitude is pretty much universally acknowledged to be the most healthy, positive, healing, transformative, awesomest mental state we can possibly cultivate. Right?
Gratitude practice is a Thing now, backed by libraries full of gratitude research. Short of advocating that we step up our efforts to club more baby seals, or start tossing crippled old people out of their wheelchairs for sport, or convert all our national parks into nuclear testing sites, it's hard to imagine a less defensible position than one griping about gratitude.
But hell, I'm up for it!
I was actually gonna run this on Thanksgiving, just to make it even more obnoxious, but heck, the whole holiday season is one big chorus in praise of the Glories of Gratitude. So there is still plenty of time left to offend legions of gratitude junkies.
(If fact, if you are irate at this horrible awful post, please leave lots of blistering critical comments and share this reprehensible post on all your social media channels so your friends can be alerted to this anti-gratitude outrage!)
Here's my crazy-ass anti-gratitude stance. (In list form. 'Cause I'm weird like that).
1. Sometimes, for some people, gratitude is just not a realistic feeling, whether due to life circumstances or psychological issues.
2. Constant admonitions to feel more grateful just make these people feel crappier! They feel badly already, and then feel worse for having lost the ability to emotionally respond to things that "should" make them feel grateful. Adding a sense of failure or guilt or frustration doesn't help.
3. So I think there needs to be some slack-cutting around the whole gratitude business. Be grateful if you can Be Grateful, but try to be compassionate towards those who are having a tough time getting there.
4. All that said, gratitude is a lovely state of mind to be able to feel. Efforts to move towards a place where that happens more easily really pay off and should be encouraged. The whole brain-rewiring thing really works! But unfortunately, it can take a crapload of time and effort to get there, which sucks.
This is actually strange timing for me to write this post. Lately I am nauseatingly full of gratitude myself. I would be nutty not to be, as I am blessed with more unearned Good Stuff in Life than any human has a right to even dream about.
But, both personally and professionally, I know a lot of people who are down or depressed or struggling right now. And I also know what it's like to appreciate something intellectually, but not be able to feel an emotion deemed "appropriate" on demand.
cartoon: natalie dee
A Few Suggestions if You Just Ain't Feeling It:
1. Lower your expectations of your ability to feel grateful. "OK-itude" is a terrible name, but try practicing it when you can. A state of mild contentment or even perfectly acceptable boring neutrality? Both are actually worth cultivating if you've been feeling down.
But you need to be watchful, because moments of "OK-ness" are easily overlooked. They're just not as sexy as outright gratitude--let alone joy or bliss or compassion or love or other feelings people tend to trumpet this time of year.
Are you indoors, sheltered from bad weather? Do you have the prospect of a pleasant dinner to look forward to tonight? Is there anyone who cares about you, even if they are sometimes infuriatingly inept at expressing it? Is there something that used to be awful in your life that's gotten better?
"OK-itude" is a small and subtle feeling; it ain't going to knock you over. But then it doesn't require a huge heaping serving of shiny sparkly good fortune, either. "Things Not Totally Sucking This Very Second" may be sufficient to generate "OK-itude" if you practice and get good at it.
Note: Here's a good place to mention Rick Hanson's books, audios, and online programs once again, as he is master of explaining and showing how to "take in the good" and rewire your brain to feel happier.
My poor regular readers have to put up with my periodic pimping of his stuff, sorry, but I've just been informed that if you want to check out the Foundations of Wellness Program, there is a new free 3-day “tour pass” that will let you sample stuff, and there's a $50 discount if you get crackin' before December 31. (Christmas presents and/or New Years resolutions helpers, anyone?). And no worries about not starting at the very beginning; it's self-paced and all of the content is available for download through December 2015.
The Foundations of Well-Being program: Holiday Discount and Free Tour Pass
And yes, I do get a kickback if you go through me, so if that's too annoying just proceed directly Rick's site and he can keep more of the cash which he will no doubt spend more sensibly than I will.
2. Look to the Present Moment To See if There's Anything Worth Noticing. It may be that many of the things hampering your ability to feel contentment are mental preoccupations about the past of future: little films you're playing in your head featuring regrets, resentments, worries, or outright panic.
uploaded by James Vaughan
Well, screw that! Turn off the freakin' projector and come out into the light of day!
What if you are in extreme physical pain? Well, that's a bigger challenge than I can address here at the moment. But short of that, there is probably something around you that you can feel some mild "OK-itude" about.
Note: Training your brain to find little moments of "OK"-ness in the present can be hard and it's a huge pain in the ass to keep trying and succeeding only fleetingly. It's that whole mindfulness thing that takes boatloads of practice and persistence. But--it's worth it!
3. Use your thinky brain to help out your feely brain. Many people who struggle with #2 above are highly intelligent people who sometimes over-rely on cognition. There may be a tendency to over-think things and dwell upon them, especially anything that is scary or annoying or kinda sad.
But guess what? Having this sort of clever, scheming, over-active brain means you have an excellent resource.
Over-Thinkers? You Know Who You Are.
uploaded by James Vaughan
You can employ your freakishly large and over-active brain to figure out exactly what leads to more positive moods, and then devise ways to expose yourself to more of those situations. Often, we are so busy devising ways to DO things better that we don't put enough planning into tweaking our lives to bring about triggers for FEELING better.
Are there people or places or things or events, whether small or large, that help you feel glad or at least "OK?" How could you expose yourself to some today? How could you plan so you there are more this coming week? And even more the coming month?
Hell, if you're as immature as I am, something as doofy as a couple of gratuitous beefcake bath-towel advertisements from the 40's might be enough to boost you into "OK" territory.
(Just one more reason I freakin' adore x-ray delta one).
4. Watch the self-talk and the out-loud talk and don't make things worse on yourself or innocent bystanders. Cranky Fitness, your authoritative world-renowned health and wellness website (in some as yet undiscovered alternate universe) hereby grants you a Free Pass on having to feel gratitude. You're are now officially off the hook if you don't feel all that grateful!
However, this does not give you license to make yourself, and those around you, feel crummy.
found at Into The Beautiful New
You can acknowledge that you feel crappy, sure. But don't start marshalling evidence and looking for even more justification for feeling bad. And especially, lay off the blaming and victimization talk, even if you really truly are totally an unfortunate blameless victim. It's mighty hard to be around for long, and you may end up alienating the very people who could help cheer you up.
Bottom line: even if there are big honking looming ominous steaming piles of Bad Shit on the horizon, don't be talking constantly about how awful and unfair those piles are; it doesn't help.
If you feel compelled to go visit them, do so with the intention of embarking on some clean-up. (And remember, break any oppressive task down into tiny, itsy-bitsy chunks.) Otherwise, detour way way the hell around them.
5. If you are depressed or confused, don't tough it out. Consider getting help. If lack of gratitude is part of a more painful, bigger picture, and it isn't going away by itself, GET SOME SUPPORT. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has depression resources and FAQ's and a Helpline, and your local city or county may have resources, and there are groups and counselors that have helped many people in your situation find hope again. Your friends or family or co-workers may have ideas, or your doctor may have some helpful pills to tide you through until you can get your brain chemicals back to a happier place, or she may be able to supply a referral to a good therapist. Even your blog friends may want to reach out with some encouragement or thoughts or virtual hugs.
Seriously. Don't suffer alone.
Have you or anyone you know ever struggled with the whole gratitude thing?