Finding Gratitude During Challenging Times

I’ve been in those places, and I’m sure you have too: where your mood is not the best, things just don’t seem to be going right, some other challenging aspect of life is meeting you head on, and somehow the world around you appears to be a stressful, depressive one.  Being with all of that, you wonder how will I overcome it, change my mood, or find a smile on my face?

I’ve combed through many types of “feel good” strategies over the years: mediation, yoga, journaling, dance, exercise, alcohol, friends, books, talks, affirmations, prayer, travel, nature. You name it, and I’ve probably tried it in effort to quell the storm that sat inside my head.  The thing that kept coming back as a practice to feel ok again, maybe even joyful or blissful in some circumstances, was the practice of gratitude.

When my heart was hard, it softened.

When I worried much, it brought me back to the present.

When I was self- absorbed with my troubles, I opened up to all sentient beings around me.

It has been difficult in the past when my mood was down   to sit and force a sense of gratitude for things in my life. During these times, it can be challenging to find a connection with a compassionate heart that emerges from gratitude.  So I figured out something, instead of naming off in my head life scenarios related to work, home, relationships, and health, I meditated on something a bit more simplistic.  I tapped into gratitude for the senses that come with being human and the nature on this planet that has stood the test of time. This became a gateway back to the heart softening that felt so familiar from other gratitude practices I’ve experienced in the past.

I began finding gratitude for the parts of my body that are in good working order.  I was grateful for my skin that warms and protects my body; my mouth for being able to eat delicious foods; my eye sight for seeing the beauty of a redwood forest; my breath that supplies and connects me with the air that surrounds us; my legs that are able to take me to all sorts of places.  I began being grateful for the the plants, animals, oceans, lakes, and rivers that nourish us on this planet.

All of these simple things we often take for granted are always there for us.  Taking a moment to recognize their impact in the middle of a stormy life could very possibly bring a smile inside your heart.  Gratitude is not just for when we are feeling good.  It’s actually one of the most useful tools we have when life is difficult.