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Short and Sweet Summary: Sometimes you just don’t feel very grateful for things that are happening in your life right now and that’s perfectly normal. You’d rather stick a hot needle in your eye than try to write out a much-lauded gratitude list. When you’re ready to stop feeling bad about feeling bad it might be time to write an alternative to a gratitude list instead.
You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an Instagram feed, website, podcast, magazine cover, or Starbucks barista evangelizing the benefits of gratitude.
We’re told, nonstop, the key to happiness is to be grateful.
“Focus on the positive!”
“Be grateful for what you have!”
“Look on the bright side!”
And, according to the health and wellness experts, it’s a bonus if you can acknowledge your gratitude in lists or journals.
It goes something like this…set your alarm for 5:00 am, make yourself a nice cup of whatever the new-age, woo-woo, expensive elixir of the day is (mushroom coffee…wtf?) and meditate about how grateful you are while listening to chakra drumming and chanting Sanskrit.
When you’re all heart-centered and woozy from inhaling calming citrus scents from your essential oil diffuser, write down three things you’re grateful for before you even start your day.
And then go and get your Stuart Smalley on and repeat your daily affirmations in the mirror.
WHEN YOU’RE NOT FEELING VERY GRATEFUL
Wait, what? You’re not feeling very grateful these days?
And you’d like to throat punch the next person who tries to put a positive spin on the clusterfuck that is your life right now?
I have an idea.
When you’re pissed at the world, go ahead and feel that shit in your bones. It’s just as important to acknowledge your lousy feelings as it is to acknowledge the grateful ones. You don’t have to dwell in the shit storm, but you can’t start digging yourself out of it until you acknowledge and feel ALL the feelings. Not just the good ones.
Oh, and by the way, you’re not a bad person if gratitude lists make you want to hurl right now. Giving yourself permission to feel good, bad, or indifferent helps you recognize and accept your emotions instead of pushing them down and suffocating them.
I’d call that pretty damn brave.
Brave, not bad.
You’ll get even more bravery bonus points if you listen to what your emotions are trying to tell you. Heed the message about what’s going on around you or within you.
You’re mad for a reason.
If you listen real close you might hear a friendly reminder that joy and pain have coexisted since the dawn of time. Yin and Yang. Light and darkness. Whatever you want to call it, you can’t have the good without the bad.
Let the bad feelings have their say, too.
Are you ready to stop feeling bad for feeling bad?
Let the gratitude journal list-makers have their affirmations.
We’re going to create a new list. Kind of like an ingratitude list but with a much better name.
SOMETIMES THINGS ARE CRAPPY
Before you start thinking I’m the worst kind of pessimist, let me be clear.
I’m not ungrateful. Or a defeatist.
I like to think of my view as more of a realist. I really think things are crappy sometimes.
But, I’m also grateful for a ton of wonderful things in my life. So, while I poke fun at gratitude lists, I do recognize their impact on shifting the way your brain processes good things.
I’m aware that when you think of good things your brain releases serotonin and dopamine to help you feel good. And your mood changes.
I totally get that. And I’m on board.
Chakra drumming and all.
But I’m also on board with actively acknowledging bad feelings to lessen their emotional grip. The bad feelings automatically become less burdensome the minute you identify them and say, “Oh hey. You’re back. Can’t say I’m glad to see you, but…what the hell…c’mon in.”
I’m not saying the bad feelings disappear. Far from it. I’m just sayin’ the brute force intensity softens a little bit.
LET’S CREATE A THIS SUCKS ASS LIST INSTEAD
You’re mad, and you know it will eventually get better. But, you’re not in good emotional place to make a gratitude list.
So, let’s create a This Sucks Ass list instead. Kind of like an alternative to a gratitude list. This list is for the problems that piss you off the most. Those I’ve-had-it-up-to-my-eyeballs-dealing-with-this-shit kind of problems.
Write down everything that’s making you mad right now. No filters. Who’s going to see it anyway?
You can choose whether each item is something you’re willing to consider letting to or whether you’re far too angry about it to think straight.
Totally up to you.
Once you’ve decided on the items you’re willing to consider letting go, come up with three action items that can help you release the anger.
Here’s an example:
Things that piss me off:
- I’m basically an unpaid Uber driver for my ungrateful teenagers
- My self-employed health insurance is off-the-charts expensive
- I can’t reconcile my checking account that I messed up
I’m willing to consider letting go of: I’m basically an unpaid Uber driver for my ungrateful teenagers.
I have to drive my teens around. I can’t really get out of that job because there isn’t any public transportation where I live and they don’t have their driver’s licenses yet.
So, I can get mad about it or I can do something about it. I’m willing to let that anger go by completing the following action items:
- Say no when I can’t be in two places at once
- Place a priority on my schedule, not theirs
- Don’t offer justification or rationalizations for my decisions
I’m too mad to consider dealing with health insurance (bureaucratic bullshit) or my checking account (math…ugh) right now, but I can put a moratorium on carting ungrateful teenagers all over God’s green Earth.
I’ve been saying “yes” too often to rides here and there (and everywhere) and changing my own schedule to accommodate theirs. I don’t want to do that anymore. I need to make my schedule the priority. Sometimes I have to say no to a ride request and that’s just going to have to be OK. I don’t need to justify or rationalize my decision.
Whew. I feel better already. I get to say no. Really, I do!
What’s on your list?
WIDOW WRAP UP
It’s OK to write an anti-gratitude list when you’re ready to stop feeling bad about feeling bad. Sometimes you just don’t feel very grateful for things that are happening in your life right now and that’s perfectly normal.
Bad feelings get to have their say too. They come out one way or another anyway. You can either acknowledge the bad feelings and lessen their emotional impact or pretend to be happy and grateful and miss the messages your emotions are trying to reveal.
When you’re mad, write down why. Explore the feelings. Just because you’re peeved now doesn’t mean you’ll be that way forever.
Just because you’re looking for an alternative to a gratitude list right now doesn’t mean you can’t go back to being grateful whenever you want to.
And when you’ve had enough gloom and doom, head on back to your gratitude list.
Change it up and return to your feel-good affirmations any time you want.