Do the benefits of gratitude magnify when you’re grateful for your hardships?
Perhaps you’ve heard of the research studies that show that there are scientifically proven benefits to practicing gratitude. If not, then just briefly here are some of those:
- Gratitude makes you healthier.
- Grateful people sleep better.
- Gratitude reduces depression.
- Gratitude improves self esteem.
- Gratitude increases mental strength.
When most people think of creating a gratitude practice, or feeing grateful, they naturally reflect on the good things in their life — good friends, a roof over your head, a good job, pets, love. These are things that we certainly should be grateful for. But it’s easy to be feel gratitude for these types of blessings in your life.
What about feeling gratitude for the hardships? For the things that suck out loud when you’re going through them?
Can you be grateful for the suffering in your life?
This is what I woke up pondering today (yeah, that kind of stuff happens to me).
As I thought about it more, I realized that I really not only could be grateful for the “disasters” that have happened in my life, but that I really AM grateful for them.
I’m sharing these with you in the hopes that you will reflect on your own “life disasters” differently — reframe them, as we would say in NLP terms. Because when you do so, you build psychological resilience (one of my favorite topics!). Psychological resilience is the ability to go through tough times and bounce back. It’s one of the skills that I focus on with my clients very often, because it goes beyond resolving the immediate “pain” or issue and creates the foundation for a lifelong skill. A skill that helps people to create perspective more quickly so that they don’t need my services, or anyone else’s.
Working my way out of a job, huh? Well, hopefully!
- I am grateful for living through a challenging and sometimes frightening marriage to an alcoholic, because it taught me to stand up for myself and that I can survive through very difficult times.
- I am grateful for losing both of my parents so close together, because it taught me that love transcends death.
- I am grateful for being bullied as a kid, because it taught me to have greater empathy for others.
- I am grateful for losing my job when I was 7 months pregnant, because it taught me to focus on and prioritize what really matters in my life.
- I am grateful for having a staff member embezzle from my company and betray me, because it taught me to value my true friends even more dearly.
- I am grateful for my daughter’s constellation of issues (autism, ADHD, all of that), because it taught me that love has nothing to do with expectations.
- I am grateful for my overbooked client schedule, because it teaches me how peaceful I feel when I am focused on other people.
- I am grateful for the lean times I’ve had in my life, because those times taught me that enjoyment doesn’t have to cost money.
- I am grateful for taking on way too much in my life, because it reminds me that I have choices.
- I am grateful for my own experiences with anxiety and depression, because they help me to understand what my clients are going through.
- I am grateful for the dark times because they’ve taught me that you can’t appreciate the light without the dark.
- I am grateful that I have released the negative energies associated with these challenges in my life, because it teaches me that my mind and heart know how to heal.
To be honest when the ideas for this article started flowing to me, I really did not know that I could experience actual gratitude for these things in my life. I knew that I’d “moved past them,” but that’s not the same thing.
Added bonuses to creating gratitude for hardships
For me, as I reflect on how I experience the feeling of gratitude for these types of things in my life, I realize that there are two other psychological processes that have happened in order to clear the way for gratitude: forgiveness and perspective.
Not all of these required forgiveness, but there are some that do. Forgiveness, of course, is not about condoning someone else’s behavior but about releasing yourself. Releasing yourself to move toward this experience of gratitude, of being able to take the lessons and use the experience to create a stronger, more flexible, more resilient you.
And of course perspective, which is such a gift. When I work with teens and young people, I tell them lots of stories from my life and from other clients, because they don’t have the years and experience to bring perspective to what’s happening to them today. Always be grateful for your mind’s ability to create perspective on the events of your life. Sometimes that needs a nudge and when it does, Timeline Therapy is a great tool (that will have to wait for a future post!).
Your turn! What personal hardships are you grateful for, and why?
I would love to hear from you in the comments below! (I will be grateful for your comments, too!)
For more resources on the benefits of gratitude, you may enjoy my Gratitude Teleseminar or this article on the scientifically proven benefits of gratitude.
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