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Gratitude: How to experience thankfulness amid pain

Updated: Mar 9

by Jodi Merritt, November 21, 2022

I think “gratitude” is a verb.

My husband, who was an English major, claims it’s a noun. I know he is technically right, but hear me out.

Gratitude is a conscious effort to notice the good in others and in the world around you. It takes ongoing work because human beings are not designed to see good in the world. Nature trained us long ago to look for threats, to prepare for the worst, to strive for more because what we have isn’t good enough.

That’s a great way to avoid hungry lions and move forward as a species. On an individual level, it kind of sucks.

So it’s up to us to fight our animal urges to be miserable and practice gratitude for our own sake.

Gratitude can be practiced out loud or silently. It can be practiced in writing, in movement, in stillness.

When done consistently, gratitude improves your health. It improves your relationships by increasing your connection to others. It strengthens your ability to cope with negative circumstances.

Being grateful doesn’t mean we disregard painful feelings or challenges in our lives. It isn’t used to cover up things we don’t like. We’re all beautiful messes, and practicing gratitude simply means we’re able to see the good that exists in the mess.

Tonight my daughter cried because her fish – Sapphire – died, and she laughed because she remembered that Sapphire would bonk around the tank when she came up for food. Her gratitude and her grief for Sapphire fit together.

I try to remember to stop from time to time and send my thoughts in a direction I choose, rather than letting them run wild towards negativity. When I do, I feel more content and at peace.

I hope you’re able to find time to practice gratitude during the holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving!

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