There is a big difference between understanding the meaning of the word “gratitude” and feeling grateful. I know there are plenty of reasons to be grateful; I’m loved, I have a home and food to eat. My family is relatively healthy and I have a great job.
But, some days, I find it hard to feel grateful. In fact, I feel like the world is trying to guilt me into feeling something I just don’t feel. I want to be angry sometimes. I know I sound dramatic. Giving people free rent in my head and all that. But, for today, I want to hold onto my anger. What’s that phrase, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” (Now, I am actually mad at myself for not attributing that quote to a great movie, Network.)
When I really think about it, I might be more sad than angry. Feeling sorry for myself. I wish I could release my sadness by having a good cry, instead of stuffing it down deep with a chocolate chip cookie chaser.
But, today’s society has a different answer. We are told repeatedly to feel grateful for what we have rather than upset about what we don’t. In my opinion, forcing gratitude does nothing but promote inner guilt. And, that makes me feel anxious and overwhelmed. So, trying to force me to be grateful actually creates more drama. That’s not what I want.
If you can relate to my challenge, the inability to generate gratitude on a dime, I want you to know it’s OK. While many experts, including gratitude coach Matt O’Grady, founder of Matt O’Grady Coaching, would tell you that practising gratitude can be life-changing, I think it’s OK to feel angry, too.
I’m a work in progress. A cake in the oven that needs a bit more time.
We all have a right to our emotions and anger is surely one of them. I guess the key is finding a way to release anger appropriately. And, by “appropriately” I actually mean being able to recognize what you shouldn’t do when you are angry. We’ve all had those days when the wrong words spilt out of our mouths before we could stop them.
Take a beat. You don’t have to feel grateful to appreciate how gratitude can help you release anger and embrace the emotion you really want to tap into — self-love. So, on days when things feel overwhelming and you can’t muster an attitude of gratitude, try the following:
- Just be. Feel your feelings. If you understand and know how badly anger feels, you can better appreciate happiness. Let the anger run its course. Check-in with yourself in an hour. And, remember, tomorrow is another day.
- Write it out. I’m doing that right now and I’m actually feeling my heartbeat slow down. I’m feeling less angry because I’m allowing my mind to let go of the words and the emotions that go with them. You don’t have to keep a daily journal. The thought of that stresses some people out: me included and I’m a writer!
Just take a minute to write or type out how you are feeling. Seeing your thoughts on paper (or the screen) makes them real, gives validity to the feelings. Maybe even allows you to loosen your grip on negativity. Even a little.
- Listen to a podcast. Listening to a recording gets me out of my own head. It focuses me on someone else’s voice and this is especially valuable when I can’t stand the sound of my own. Ever feel that way?
Got two minutes? Try this one.
Have a bit more time? Try this one.
One important tip, though: leave your expectations at the door. Tune into the message and out of your current state of mind. Make room for the new information without judgment. Allow for the possibility that taking your mind off your own stuff for a few minutes may be exactly what you need to find your footing.
The truth is, there is room inside of you for both anger and gratitude. They aren’t mutually exclusive emotions. I might just suggest that while you are fighting to hold onto the anger, try to fight a bit harder to find the corner of your heart where gratitude is hiding today.
And, maybe, just maybe, call a friend and share something you feel grateful about. Thank them for answering the phone when you needed to hear their voice. Listen to their reply and really hear the “thank you” and the joy in their voice.
- Try, try again. If you still find gratitude to be elusive, take solace in the fact that it’s still within you. With a bit of time, you’ll feel more calm and you can unlock more positive emotions.
And, you know what? It’s going to be OK. You’re OK. I’m OK. Some days, that’s plenty to be grateful for. In fact, today, it’s enough.
If you could use a strong shoulder to lean on and a kind ear to listen, get to know Matt a bit. Request a free mini-coaching session and find out if he might be the right sounding board for you.
Bari Faye Siegle