There is so much in this world to be grateful for, and yet we are fundamentally built to focus on the negative. To protect ourselves, we focus our energy on what went wrong, what we don’t have, and what we wish were different. We are conditioned to have these negative mindsets, and yet, by doing so, we lose out on so much beauty and magic that the world has to offer.
Gratitude is how we bring magic back into our lives. For everything in your life you can complain about, I promise you–there are 100 things to be grateful for. I think about my apartment: a tiny studio on a very loud street, and yet I love this apartment so much. Yes, it is so small that my kitchen, bedroom, and living room are one. Yes, the kitchen is difficult to cook in because of the size. Yes, I can hear construction every morning and the neighborhood cats fighting every night. Yes, there are a bunch of other issues that I could easily complain about, but I don’t.
I don’t complain about it because I choose to focus on what I’m grateful for. I am so grateful that my apartment is small because it makes it so easy to clean. I am so grateful to be able to cook my own meals in my own space–even if that space is tight. I am so grateful to be a heavy sleeper, because once I’m asleep the noise doesn’t bother me. I am so grateful to have a place to live–a space that is entirely my own.
Sometimes, I can even find ways to laugh at the problems. Now, every night when I hear the cats, I imagine them having a meeting and discussing something “serious”. I really have no idea why I started doing this, but now instead of getting annoyed when I hear the cats, I simply laugh–and I’m grateful for them bringing me joy.
This is a relatively easy example, but the magic of gratitude is truly put to the test when facing problems that are much bigger or more difficult.
I often feel like there is a misunderstanding of what a life of gratitude means. Sure, sometimes living a life of gratitude means tearing up at the beauty of the sunset, or truly thanking loved ones, or saying a blessing over your food, or the apartment example I just mentioned; but what people often neglect is the bigger picture. Living life with gratitude isn’t just about acknowledging what you have; it’s also about finding meaning in the hard times.
Gratitude has taught me to look at challenges from a different perspective. Instead of thinking about how I wish things were different, I look at how a hardship can teach me an important lesson, make me stronger, or show me an opportunity I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. Often, when we are faced with something difficult, it is because of that challenge that new doors open, or we finally see things from a new perspective–propelling us forward. All of this is true, and yet, when we’re stuck in the moment, it’s difficult to practice gratitude in the traditional sense.
Sometimes it’s hard to be grateful for a challenge in the moment because we still don’t know what good will come of it. In order to get myself out of the negative headspace and into a place of gratitude, I think of something in the past that felt impossible. Something I never thought I could get through, or a challenge that seemed like no good could ever come of it.
I think of all the times I have felt so low, only for the light to come in shortly after. This is where I focus my gratitude–the light after the darkness. I have gratitude for the proof that good things come after hard things. It doesn’t mean you have to be glad something happened, because some tragedies are simply painful. It’s difficult to be grateful for those painful moments, but even in the deepest darkness, we can find a little glimmer of light if we try.
When I think back on the toughest challenges I’ve faced in my life, I have immense gratitude for them. They showed me who I am and who I want to be. They showed me that I can do hard things and come out better because of them. They brought me to where I am today.
Next time you are faced with something difficult, I challenge you to use gratitude to get through it. Gratitude for the strength your past has given you. Gratitude for this challenge–whatever it may be–because one day you will be able to look back and say, I didn’t think I could do it, but I did.
We are capable of so much more than we think we are. We just have to open our hearts and our minds to the magic of gratitude–and have a little faith that we are exactly where we’re meant to be.
I have to give a lot of credit to the book that opened my eyes to the magic of gratitude — The Magic by Rhonda Byrne. It changed my life (and it can change yours too).
Written by Jessica Bard.