You may have heard this before: In all things give thanks. Sounds simple, but it’s not easy. That’s because this includes giving thanks for even the most painful, treacherous times, those times when you find yourself curled into the fetal position in your bed just trying to remember to breathe. This is especially the time to be grateful for what you are going through. Don’t roll your eyes, it’s true. Just because you can’t fathom how this gut-wrenching moment is going to help you out in life doesn’t mean that that’s not exactly what will happen. Sometimes it just takes a while for the blessing part to show itself, but it always does.
There are two ways to use gratitude along your journey. The first, as described above, is to use it moment by moment, to remind yourself that everything is a blessing. Just give thanks, either to yourself or out loud (it’s more powerful to write it down or say it out loud, and even better to tell someone else about your gratitude for that specific moment).
The second way to be grateful is to look at the bigger picture of your life and list as many things that you are grateful for on a regular basis. When going through a rough patch, it is helpful to remember that there is always something that is going good in your life, no matter how insignificant you may think it is. I have a friend who kept a gratitude journal when going through her divorce. She noted that bananas were on sale for 39 cents a pound and that happened to be her daughter’s favorite breakfast food, so she could make her food budget stretch that week. In my own situation, I was grateful (eventually) that my ex cheated on me, because that was an absolute ending for me–no waffling about should we try to work it out or give a second chance (he wasn’t saying he wanted to work it out, but it still helped me to move forward). Now, this particular bit of gratitude only came about later, after the shock wore off that he left me for another woman. It was several months before I saw it as the gift that it was.
That’s my point, though. Even the worst moments are really blessings in some way, at some point. On a grander scale, I am grateful for my divorce because it showed me how much my family and true friends love me, it allowed me to discover my mental and emotional strength, revealed my true purpose in life as a divorce coach, and best of all, opened up my heart to meet my soul mate. None of this would have happened if my ex had not betrayed me. I am grateful for having to move into a cozy (translation: small) apartment because it forced me to get rid of a ton of stuff that I didn’t need and can’t even remember anymore. I am grateful for carrots and hummus, the perfect dinner when I don’t feel like cooking (so pretty much every day). I am grateful for my complete loss of appetite when he first told me he was leaving because I lost a lot of weight and kickstarted my exercise routine that has kept it off. I am grateful for the few obviously wrong guys I dated right after my divorce because they helped me to recognize Mr. Right when he showed up. I’m grateful that my ex moved to Michigan to be with this other woman because I don’t have to worry about running into him or her around town. Today I am grateful that my friend Jeri set up my web site and wrote down the instructions on how to add blog posts…thanks, my friend! I am thankful that my apartment complex has $5 pizza night on Tuesdays because sometimes I get tired of carrots and hummus. And on and on I could go.
I highly suggest keeping a gratitude journal. Each day write down 5 things you are grateful for that day, and the more specific you can be, the better. So instead of listing your kids or your job, dig down and find a specific reason you are grateful for that person or thing. As you begin to look for things to be grateful for, a funny thing happens: You begin to notice all kinds of things to write down. Your filter changes and thus your world view changes as well. You begin to realize how rich and blessed you truly are. All because of two little words: Thank you.