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  • Gratitude. Are You Doing It Wrong?


    It’s really easy to let the challenges and negative experiences of your life overshadow the positive. It’s easy to let them permeate your gratitude, as well. Too easy. Today I’m going to let you in on the 2 most common mistakes people make with gratitude and how to remedy them.

    Riding The Gratitude Wave

    One of the biggest ways that negativity overshadows the positives in most people’s life is what I call the gratitude wave. With the gratitude wave, you ride the gratitude high until something comes along and knocks you over. I know you’ve been there and it just happened to me.  But you can beat the gratitude wave… if you’re paying attention.

    Knocked Off My Wave

    I recently had an amazing 3 day weekend that included a class reunion, a festival, and lots of time spent with family. Any one of these could have easily put the fun in dysfunctional, but they didn’t. Instead, everyone behaved and kept the atmosphere charged with fun and positivity. We got good parking for all of the festival events, and every event we attended was at least enjoyable if not downright FUN. We even got some amazing deals shopping at festival vendors. My husband and I talked about what an awesome weekend it had been for the whole 2 hour drive home.

    A couple hours after getting home, my husband came to me very soberly to ask about the clothes we’d worn to the reunion. I hadn’t brought them in and I didn’t remember taking them out to the car when we checked out of the hotel. Neither did he. Turns out we’d left them hanging in our hotel room. Included were 2 brand new shirts that I had only worn once – to the reunion. [insert expletive] I called the hotel and the guy who answered said that there were no notes from housekeeping and that all the rooms had been double checked that day per routine. [insert several expletives] Suddenly the entire weekend was forgotten and our moods had turned sour and ornery in a matter of seconds.

    My mind started the “poor me” routine. You know the one. You start thinking things like, “Why can’t I just have one amazing experience that doesn’t get ruined,” and “Oh sure, we have a great weekend and something has to go and ruin it. It figures.”

    Thankfully, I caught myself before I got too out of hand. I told myself that no, it didn’t figure. We’ve had plenty of great days, weekends, and vacations that weren’t marred by anything negative. This problem didn’t negate the rest of the weekend, we still had a lot to be grateful for. We reviewed everything we had to be grateful for and that helped. I started imagining all the positives that might come out of this: the clothes we’d find to replace the lost ones would be even better than the ones we’d left behind, we’d be able to find the same or similar clothes on clearance, someone would call us and tell us that they’d found our clothes. That helped a little more. By the time I got up the next day, I was feeling a little sad about the clothes, but it was no longer the end of the world and I was well on my way back to my normal self.

    That morning I finally put all the things from the weekend that I was grateful for in our gratitude jar using a separate piece of paper for each one and was surprised to find I had a hand full of gratitude, and THAT made me even more grateful. At that point, I was feeling good enough that I decided to try the hotel again and see if maybe the guy from the night before had missed something. He had. Our clothes were there. Woo Hoo!! Now, I’m not saying that all that gratitude got our clothes back, but I am saying that it put me in a good enough mood to call the hotel again, and that allowed me to find out that our clothes were still there.

    Beating the gratitude wave is like surfing; it’s an active endeavor. When you wipe out, climb back on your board and find another wave to ride.

    Diluting Gratitude

    Ungrateful gratitude is the other way we let negativity permeate our positive experiences. This one happens far more often than you’d think and often involves justifying or explaining your gratitude to others… or even yourself.

    A great example of this comes from the older generation: “I’m so grateful that this old, worn out body that’s falling apart actually let me get something done today before I had to take a pain pill.” Now, doesn’t that just lift your spirits and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Of course not. That’s just complaining wrapped in a thin pretense of gratitude. On social media it would be followed by the hashtag #GratefulNotGrateful.

    Instead, it’s much more effective to say, “I’m so grateful that I was able to get tasks A, B, and C done today.” Period. End of story. No comparison to what you wanted to do or what you think you should have been able to do. That does nothing but dilute your gratitude, and that defeats the purpose.

    Newsflash: You don’t even have to consciously or rationally know WHY you’re grateful for something. Just be grateful and leave it at that.

    Just Be Grateful.

    It’s not easy to just be grateful. In fact, it’s downright difficult. In some situations it seems d*mn near impossible. It takes a lot of work, but it can be done, and it is sooooo worth it.

    I’d love to hear about a time that you were able to let the negativity go and just be grateful. Tell me about it in the comments below.

    And I’d be ever so grateful if you’d share this post with your peeps on social media. Thanks.

2 Responsesso far.

  1. Hey Michelle,

    This is such a meaty post for folks who are working with gratitude practice. I especially appreciate how you did a kind of gratitude review so that you could still savour the gratitude at the same time as you acknowledged the hassle about the clothes.

    One thing you can add to gratitude reviews like the one you suggested is to scan the body as you do the review. As you think about the things you’re grateful for, you can say something to yourself like, “I’m noticing what sensations are present, what’s happening, in my body.” This helps you re-experience, holistically, and really revs up the juiciness.

    I’m curious to hear what you or others think of this, because conversations enhance my learning 🙂

  2. I’m primarily a kinesthetic person so I do part of your exercise unconsciously most of the time. it’s my bodily sensations that often trigger my awareness of one emotion or other. I agree that it would be helpful to consciously acknowledge the sensation and the gratitude simultaneously to tie them together.