It’s takes guts to feel grateful when the world is upside down. It takes self control. And it takes intention.
It might even take some time. Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, so get started now. Start feeling grateful.
Sure, a lot of things are going on right now. People have lost their jobs; some are sick. They may be people who you know and maybe even love. Be grateful that they are in your life. Be grateful for the opportunity to help them through it. Be grateful that you’re healthy enough to be there for them.
Yes, everyone is getting tired of working at home and meeting clients, colleagues and bosses on Zoom most days. Be grateful that you have a job. Nearly 8 million people have lost theirs because of the pandemic. If you’re one of them, be grateful that you were smart enough to save for a rainy day. Be grateful if your spouse is still working. Be grateful if you can still afford to pay your rent or mortgage.
Of course you’re disappointed that the winter holidays won’t be as full of people, parties and presents as they usually are. Be grateful that you have family and friends to give gifts to, even if they’re just small gestures or cards or phone calls this time around.
And who isn’t over the whole take-out routine? Be grateful that you’re not hungry. Be grateful that you can afford to buy food. Be grateful that you have choices.
It takes intention to be grateful. That means you have to decide to feel gratitude. You have to want it. You have to catch yourself feeling ungrateful and turn yourself around—every time. You have to train yourself to remember, every time you feel disappointed or angry with the new rules for staying healthy, that you’re one of the lucky ones.
In short, you have to focus on what you do have, not on what you don’t. Here are five ways to find the gratitude within when your good luck isn’t so obvious.
Set aside 10 minutes every day—in the morning is ideal—to conjure up a mental list of the things you truly are grateful for: your significant other who loves you; your family who knows you so well; your job that pays the bills and will put a big turkey on your table in a few weeks; your home; your pets; your neighbors.
Give that mental list a voice. Find a place to be alone and talk out loud to nobody:
“I’m grateful for my boss, who saw something in me when I wasn’t even sure of myself.”
“I’m grateful for the food in my refrigerator, and especially for the ingredients that will become the big chef’s salad I’m having for lunch.”
“I’m grateful for the closet full of clothes that I haven’t worn in nine months; I’m so lucky that I’ll have nice outfits to wear once I start going out again.”
“I’m grateful for the electricity and the internet connection that are allowing me to stay connected to my friends and relatives and read this article today.”
Be as cheesy as you want; nobody’s listening but you. Listen to yourself as you rattle off your list, though. The more things you say—the more gratitude you express—the better you’ll feel when your 10 minutes are up.
Find the silver lining
Look for it as hard as you can. Every problem has one.
If you’re annoyed because the space bar on your keyboard is sticking and you can’t afford to buy a new one right now, be grateful that you have a reason to type: a job that requires it or a friend you owe an email to. Do a little online shopping and find just the right replacement and put it on your wish list. Wishing is always a positive exercise.
If you’re frantic because you’re still furloughed, be grateful for the time you have to find an even better job, indulge in your hobbies, work on your health and fitness, or learn a new skill.
This really takes intention. Be conscious about your choice to look for what’s good instead of wallowing in what isn’t.
The unfortunate circumstances of this pandemic can take control of you, or you can take control of them. You might not be able to control the virus, or the boss who furloughed you, or the rule that says you have to telework. But you surely can control what you do in response.
If you, like so many others, have gained the Quarantine 15 and really wish you hadn’t, be grateful that you have the time to start walking around your neighborhood every morning. Be grateful that you’re able to choose which groceries you bring into your house. Be grateful for every ounce your scale tells you that you’ve lost—every single ounce.
If you’re suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder because on top of the pandemic and all of its restrictions, it’s getting dark earlier and making you feel down in the dumps, do what you need to do to kick it. Go outside every day and get 10 minutes of direct sunlight. Wake up a little earlier in the mornings and go bed earlier so you can take advantage of as much daylight as possible.
If you don’t feel like you have anything fun to fill the time you used to spend commuting and working overtime, reach deep inside and remember what used to make you happy before computers and mobile phones stole your attention away from it. Did you like putting together jigsaw puzzles? Playing board games? Crocheting? Painting by numbers? Do it again. After all, you didn’t stop having that kind of fun because you didn’t want to have fun. You stopped because you didn’t have time. Now you do.
Decide for yourself how your day will go. Let a little gratitude in and you’ll not only feel happier, you’ll also be more in control of your mood.
Last time someone asked, “How are you?” how long did you spend complaining?
Did the person smile and nod and say, “Me, too?” or “Yes, we’re all going through it?”
Nobody needs to hear about how the pandemic is affecting your life or ruining your plans. It’s ruining theirs, too, and listening to you complain isn’t helping them feel any better than you do.
Next time someone asks, “How are you?” say something positive: “I just finished a big project! I’m going to reward myself with a new jacket that just went on sale at my favorite online store.”
If you can’t think of anything positive, say, “I’m great! How are you?”
No matter what, don’t complain. That the pandemic is old, tiring, limiting and unwelcome isn’t news to anyone. And talking about how horrible your life is won’t make it any better.
Do your friends and yourself a favor and say only positive things in response to even a sincere “How are you?” Even if you have to fake a positive attitude, stay positive. Before you know it, you’ll feel positive and will easily find positive things to talk about.
Share your gratitude
The nicest gift you can give to anyone isn’t material; it’s verbal. It’s a “thank you.”
It’s Thanksgiving time. How about saying “thank you” to the people in your life who have helped you along the way? Start with folks who have shown you kindness in the past year. Then, dig back and remember your favorite teachers; an old neighbor who moved away years ago; a favorite aunt; a friend you’ve lost touch with.
A simple “hello” via email can brighten someone’s day—and yours, once you get a response. A hand-written letter has even more impact. A homemade card is something the recipient will keep forever. A small gift, like flowers or delivery of some fancy cupcakes will be so unexpected and so very appreciated.
Gratitude means more when you demonstrate it. As you find ways to be grateful in a temporarily unforgiving world, don’t keep it to yourself. Gratitude is a gift. Gifts are meant to be shared.
Dr. Cindy McGovern, known as the “First Lady of Sales,” speaks and consults internationally on sales, interpersonal communication and leadership. She is the author of Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work. Dr. Cindy is the CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, a sales management and consulting firm. For more information, please visit, www.drcindy.com and connect with her on Twitter @1stladyofsales and on LinkedIn.