Gratitude is Not Just Another Nine Letter Word, Right?

Published on: 28 May 2015
Gratitude is Not Just Another Nine Letter Word, RIGHT?

Practicing gratitude in action is a lot easier said than done; in fact, I would assert that gratitude is the path of a true emotional warrior.

– by Blythe Landry, LCSW, M.Ed / Talkspace Therapist

Life is a strange conundrum, isn’t it? It appears to me that we are on this planet to laugh and cry, make music and clean houses, launch rockets and engage in toe tickling. We are born to experience things like love and confusion, blinding rage, abandonment, the tragic loss of loved ones, or even infidelity – possibly committed by your husband with your best friend.

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And what does it all mean?

I don’t really have a definitive answer for that, but I certainly have some ideas.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about finding balance in life. I don’t mean the kind of balance involved in juggling work, fun, friendships, alone time, family commitments, spirituality, or managing health and fitness. I am talking about something completely different. I am referring to the fine line that exists between reality and fiction; candy coated expressions of happiness and authentic experiences of joy and positivity; the kind of balance one finds between pain and pleasure. And the word that keeps coming back to me is gratitude.

Yes, I know that gratitude is the buzzword of the decade. We are constantly asked to make gratitude lists, which we can supposedly use to find freedom and happiness, as if gratitude can make the world bend to our will. I think the popular and often shortsighted focus on gratitude in the media puts a lot of pressure on a person. And much like with everything else, I believe that even with gratitude, there is a yin and a yang.

Let me explain:

Pain is inevitable in life. It’s not easy to recover from personal setbacks, unfortunate events, and severed relationships. But when life seems impossible to deal with, you still have the opportunity to practice gratitude. The first thing you have to do is accept yourself and your ability to handle and respond to your circumstances. The process can be gut-wrenching and not so pretty, but it will help you free yourself from the negativity of those experiences, and allow you to practice gratitude.

In my quiet moments, I believe that gratitude really stands for recognizing the good in all aspects of one’s life. It helps people expand their wings and accept themselves and their power to change if they chose to. THAT, my friends, is the leaning in we talk about in therapy. THAT is what I long to find in my own life, and the lives of everyone I encounter. True, life is hard, but it’s beautiful, challenging, and worth living to the fullest. And we have the choice to face it, or to run away from it. But gratitude and understanding how much our lives are worth go hand in hand.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I think practicing gratitude for EVERYTHING – even when things don’t go as we would like – is the true path to that reflexive joy we are all seeking to find.

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