Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation for the people, places, and things in your life.
Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. - Oxford Languages
It is a feeling that doesn’t seem to fit well into the context of discomfort, heartbreak, or hardship. Yet it is at these moments when cultivating a gratitude attitude pays the most dividends!
Life is full of ups and downs. Some days everything seems great, other days it feels like an endless series of unfortunate events. Worse, sometimes, bad things happen, leaving a hole in our hearts, and a void in our lives.
Whether it's the loss of a job or the death of a loved one, moments like these could be soul-crushing, gut-wrenching, and even traumatizing. But none of those can ever be devastating unless we allow them to be.
True, it is not easy to ignore the bad times. This is because our brains are wired to obsess over the “negatives,” so as to keep us from ever repeating, or finding ourselves in such situations again.
It is also true that being asked to ignore these bad times feels like undermining our pains.
Another uncomfortable truth is that bad things will always happen (from time to time). We are all doomed to one day feel some form of pain – get injured, insulted, rejected, ignored, or lose someone we love, and our lives (ultimately).
Nevertheless, it is also true that you only see and experience more of what you focus on.
Just as bad things happen from time to time, good things also happen from time to time. Heck, miracles even happen from time to time! Miracles that we, most times, often fail to appreciate because we keep on obsessing about the hurt, disappointments, and “hard times."
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So, where does all of this leave us?
It leaves us in a world where we have to decide what to focus on. We get to decide how to see life, both in the best times and in the hardest moments.
Life is very complicated. Our lives are complex, and so also are the lives of others. This means things will happen that we didn't see coming. So really, it doesn't make sense to hope for a life without challenges.
The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them. – Unknown
Depending on how you look at things; your hard times make you better.
But it is hard to see this especially when life seems to just move, and you are left with the scars.
Hard times can be beneficial. They build character and make you stronger. They also teach you to appreciate the good times, and sometimes they are the truest “miracles” in disguise.
Sometimes, everything comes back to perspective. We don't always know what else is going on around us. And sometimes, when we feel the most ungrateful, we don't yet see what we have to be thankful for.
On a “normal” Tuesday morning; the city was waking up to another brilliant day. Kids were preparing for school, and the adults for work, but a certain man was having a terrible day.
He was running late for work because his car wouldn’t start for some unknown reason. After trying everything he could, he was growing increasingly frustrated with each second. “Why me? Why now? I need this job, I might lose my job, this sucks, everything sucks, my life is the worst," he thought to himself.
Unknown to him, not far away, there was:
One thing was common amongst all of those people – they were all having a terrible day. And to them, life must have sucked in a lot of ways.
What none of those people realize was that those delays had literally saved their lives.
It so happened that they all worked in the World Trade Center, and it would be on that “normal” Tuesday morning that the 9/11 attacks would occur. In fact, the planes had hit the very offices some of them would have been in if life hadn’t been hard on them that morning.
Sometimes it is hard to see the bright side of things, because, from our limited point of view, it may not just be within the scope. But we must learn to “think” beyond the scope.
We must learn to cultivate gratitude.
We must learn to be grateful at all times, both for the good times, as well as the hard moments because everything happens for a reason.
Everything has a role to play in our lives, and it is crucial that we stay attentive, humble, and grateful.
Cultivating a habit of gratitude is easier once you open your heart to see things for what they truly are. To see the miracle in everything – both big and small, both pleasant and unpleasant.
To remember that:
Gratitude is all about reminding yourself that you don’t know what is going on; but so far, so good.
It is about smiling and surrendering to the universe.
About letting go of the need to control everything.
It is the ability to learn to look at things with a sense of awe.
Thankfully, it has also been observed that intentionally practicing gratitude can lead to a happy and much more fulfilling life. This means appreciating every person, place, and thing.
Not judging them as bad, but accepting that they are all part of something greater, and better, just like you.
Practicing gratitude (in your hardest moments) aids you to avoid the victimhood mindset, helps you move on quickly, and enables you to “go through” the hard times “unburnt."
Without regrets, bitterness, or shame. It also enables you to relish the good times more and boost your mood during your darkest days.