Don't Tell Me to Be Grateful

Can we take a moment to acknowledge how hard it is to feel grateful?

Across the board, scientists and self-help gurus alike say that “cultivating a sense of gratitude” improves your mental health and/or radically changes your life. In my experience, gratitude makes me feel more happy, calm, and connected to the present moment - it makes me feel alive.

But it’s really hard to start feeling grateful after an affluent, respected expert (or “expert”) tells you what to do. That person has a great job, best-selling books, TED Talks, and a supportive family, not to mention they’re so good looking they’ve plastered their smiling face all over their book covers and website. They have a lot to be grateful for.

It would be nice if the experts gave equal weight to individual practice and societal structures, recognizing that it’s difficult for marginalized people to suddenly ignore their hardships because Science. Since they’ve already discovered this amazing secret, could the experts also devote some time to working towards social justice - for the sake of happiness? Give a TED Talk about the oppressions that keep people from feeling grateful instead of implicitly blaming us for not doing it right.

Until that happens, we’re still flailing around trying to feel better. But we do have the choice of where we put our attention.

Photo credit:  Fabrizio Conti

Photo credit: Fabrizio Conti

Starting small is how I move around my resistance. I absolutely don’t ignore what sucks about my life - I honor my anger, grief, and jealousy - but I try to feel gratitude fully whenever it pops up, especially when it involves Nature and Body. Snow sparkling in the sunlight. Squirrels playing outside. The scent of rain on the breeze. Sometimes it’s depressing, like I made it through the workday without getting a migraine. But it brings me back to the present moment, where I am safe.

I hope you can find things to be grateful for, and I hope one day it’s easier for all of us to feel happy.