How Do You Practice Gratitude in the Midst of Disappointment?

If you are experiencing disappointment as we enter the holiday season and we close out 2020, you are not alone.

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tommaso79 / Shutterstock
tommaso79 / Shutterstock

You may be wondering if it is possible to practice gratitude in the midst of disappointment. You may feel torn between feelings of sadness and loneliness and the belief that you should be happy and grateful in your life right now. I want to encourage you to allow yourself to feel both your disappointment and your gratitude and in this post I share practices to help you do just that.

If you are experiencing disappointment as we enter the holiday season and we close out 2020, you are not alone. So much has been disappointing this year: You may have lost a loved one and been unable to grieve them like you wanted because of the pandemic; you may have lost a job that you really enjoyed and counted on for financial stability; you may have lost access to physical touch which helps you to feel calm and safe; you may have had to cancel trips or other plans that you were looking forward to. Whatever you have lost this year, I encourage you to give yourself space to grieve those losses. 

So often, we push ourselves to get over our pain by telling ourselves that someone else has it worse. While I think it is helpful to have perspective, we don’t want to invalidate our feelings by comparing them to what other people are going through. If we were only able to feel upset when no one else had something worse happen to them, we would never be able to feel hurt. When we judge ourselves for feeling the way we feel, we end up suppressing our feelings and they usually come back at a later time and in an unhealthy way. 

Feel your feelings

So what should you do instead? I suggest you start by allowing yourself to feel your hurt, pain, and disappointment. Allowing yourself to feel your emotions is not ruminating about what caused the disappointment, but instead involves paying attention to the physical sensations associated with the emotion and allowing the feelings to be there without fighting them or pushing them away. As you pay attention to the physical sensations, see if you can offer yourself some comfort and love for the discomfort and pain you are experiencing. You may find that accepting your emotions actually helps them to pass more quickly than resisting them. Also, it is helpful to remember that our feelings show us that we are human and care about things, and the difficult emotions we experience reflect the the gap between what we hoped would happen and what actually happened.

Acknowledge what you are grateful for

Once you have allowed yourself to feel your feelings, the next step is to intentionally look for things that you are grateful for in your life. There is ample evidence on the power of gratitude; it helps us to feel happier, it can soothe anxiety, and it can help to lift a depressed mood. When we practice gratitude, we shift our attention from what is wrong to what is going well. Our minds are naturally drawn to negative things, and gratitude helps us to counteract this tendency.

Identifying what you are grateful for is not intended to invalidate your feelings — the aim is to hold the disappointment and the gratitude together. For me, this looks like allowing myself to feel disappointed and frustrated about having had to postpone my wedding and cancel trips this year while also acknowledging that I am grateful to have a partner who I know I want to marry, I am grateful that my parents and family members are healthy and safe, and that I’m excited about some things that I’m working on professionally. I hold all of these things together because they are all true for me and they do not invalidate or override each other. 

What would it look like for you to acknowledge your disappointments and your appreciations? What has been hard for you this year? And what are you grateful for right now? I encourage you take the time to reflect on these things and allow yourself to sit with the sadness and joy that may arise for you.

I hope this practice of holding your disappointments and gratitude together helps to bring you some peace in the midst of a turbulent year. I’d love for you to stay in touch by following me on Instagram @dradiagooden and signing up to receive my free e-book on overcoming low self-worth and more messages like this from me.

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