When Gratitude Is a Struggle
Depending on circumstances, gratitude can sometimes be a struggle. Researchers say the best way to overcome this hurdle (which can trigger even more pessimism or guilt) is to find one tiny little thing to be grateful for, and to focus on that one thing.
Maybe you’ve lost your job and your car was repossessed but — thankfully — there’s a bus stop within easy walking distance. Over time, you’ll find it becomes easier to identify additional things to be thankful for.
Another way to flex your gratitude muscle when life events leave you uninspired is to identify and express gratitude for seemingly “useless” or insignificant things. It could be a certain smell in the air, the color of a flower, your child’s freckles or the curvature of a stone. Over time, you’ll find that doing this will help home your ability to identify “good” things in your life.
Two Common Blocks to Gratitude - Materialism and Entitlement
According to Robert Emmons, one of the leading scientific experts on gratitude, materialism and entitlement are two common stumbling blocks to gratitude, so if you cannot find anything to be thankful for, consider whether you might have fallen into one of these traps. As explained in a newsletter by Greater Good Science Center:
“Seen through the lens of buying and selling, relationships as well as things are viewed as disposable, and gratitude cannot survive this … Research has proven that gratitude is essential for happiness, but modern times have regressed gratitude into a mere feeling instead of retaining its historic value, a virtue that leads to action …
[G]ratitude is an action of returning a favor and is not just a sentiment. By the same token, ingratitude is the failure to both acknowledge receiving a favor and refusing to return or repay the favor … If we fail to choose [gratitude], by default we choose ingratitude …
Provision, whether supernatural or natural, becomes so commonplace that it is easily accepted for granted. We believe the universe owes us a living. We do not want to be beholden. Losing sight of protection, favors, benefits and blessings renders a person spiritually and morally bankrupt …
People who are ungrateful tend to be characterized by an excessive sense of self-importance, arrogance, vanity and an unquenchable need for admiration and approval.
Narcissists reject the ties that bind people into relationships of reciprocity. They expect special favors and feel no need to pay back or pay forward … Without empathy, they cannot appreciate an altruistic gift because they cannot identify with the mental state of the gift-giver.”
If entitlement is the hallmark of narcissism, then humility is the antidote and the answer when you struggle with gratitude.
As noted by Emmons, “The humble person says that life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed. Humility ushers in a grateful response to life.”
So, gratitude isn’t a response to receiving “your due,” but rather the recognition that life owes you nothing, yet provided you with everything you have anyway — a place to live, family, friends, work, your eyesight, your breath, indeed your very life. When you start seeing everything as a gift, opposed to things you’ve deserved (for better or worse), your sense of gratitude will begin to swell.
Source & References: Dr. Mercola