It’s Thanksgiving week in America, which means that EVERYONE is telling us how grateful we should be.

Moment of truth: I’m just not feeling it.

It’s not that I don’t feel very thankful for my life, my experiences, my people, and my privilege – it’s just that I don’t like being told how I should feel and I don’t like feeling like a failure when I can’t access that warm, gooey place of gratitude all the time.

My main issue with gratitude is that it’s often framed in a way where you need to focus on what you’re grateful for exclusively… and ignore everything that isn’t going so hot right now.

And let’s be honest – there are some years,days, moments, when life just sucks.

One of my favorite articles about this is from Good Housekeeping – Gratitude Lists Are B.S. — It Was an “Ingratitude” List That Saved Me by Liz Brown.
 
In it, she describes an experience with her therapist where he affirms to her that her life sucks (isn’t that freeing to hear sometimes??) and instead of telling her push it all down and focus on the “bright side,” he prescribes a “This Sucks Ass” list:
 
“Screw that,” he said. “Stop doing that immediately. It’s [the] last thing you need. You need to make an Ingratitude List. You should be PISSED. Your life’s honestly kind of sh*tty right now. I’m not saying there’s no bright spots, but you need to stop trying to pretend you’re not in pain. You need to make a “This Sucks Ass” list.”
Preach   ?
 
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is “You’ve gotta feel it to heal it” so I LOVE the idea of leaning into that and acknowledging for a moment those things that we want to change.  Now, I’m not recommending hanging out in that place exclusively, but it’s always surprised me how quickly I can actually move through the emotions attached to a situation when I give myself permission to feel them.
 
A piece of advice Gretchen Rubin often gives is schedule time to worry.  I use the same tip with feeling feelings that I would rather not deal with.  Sometimes, I just need a good cry or temper tantrum to move the emotion through my body, and by creating a set space and time to do that, I’m able to detach the emotion from the facts and start to see the situation for what it really is.
 
Now Suck Ass List aside, there is actually some really strong research about the positive benefits of developing a gratitude practice.  In my opinion though, the crux of the matter and the research isn’t so much on the focus on gratitude, however, but on mindfulness. It’s about noticing and acknowledging versus feeling happy and thankful. 
 
And as icky as the thought of a gratitude practice makes me feel, I am ALL ABOUT mindfulness.  I live for those moments when the world slows around you and you realize you are fully present in whatever you are experiencing.  It’s often in that place where I do feel gratitude – even if I’m not feeling something exceptionally pleasant, I’m grateful for the moment of clarity and potentially the opportunity to use that moment to begin again.  
 
As we embark on this week of gratitude overload, I would encourage you to think about what being grateful means to you (stay with me here – how it really feels to you, not how it “should” feel to you) and how you could create more moments in your life to experience it.
 
If you’re looking for a place to start, here are some easy ideas:
 
  • Create a Mindfulness Ritual: This is one of my favorites.  I have signs and symbols that I use throughout the day to remind me to be present in the moment.  For example, when a certain time comes on the clock (I use angel numbers – 111, 222, 333, etc.), I use it as a reminder to take a big, deep breath, notice what’s happening around me, and say a word of thanks.  Some others I’ve heard are creating a ritual when you walk into your front door or when a phone rings. The sign or symbol is whatever feels right to you – set an intention that you’ll be looking for it and follow through when you see it.  
  • Use Your Computer Password: Make your passwords phrases that are meaningful.  Maybe it’s a reminder about the way you want to act or something that triggers a moment of reflection for you. 
  • Write it Down: Whether is a grateful or ingrateful list (or maybe a mix of both!), the act of writing down things can provide a great opportunity to reflect.  It’s also nice to be able to look back over the months and see what’s changed.
  • High, Low, Buffalo: My friend Lauren shared this great game with me that’s easy to play around the dinner table with kids or at work with your team.  Every person has a chance to share a high point, a low point, and anything else they want to (a “buffalo”).  
 
I’d love to know how you feel about gratitude and if you’ve developed any practices in your life that help you be more mindful.  Share with me on Instagram or Facebook, or send me an email.

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