Learning the balance of gratitude

Updated: Sep 18, 2021

Gratitude: what does it mean?

When I googled the word, I came across several definitions. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, gratitude is being appreciative of benefits received.

As humans, we make meaning of words, and we have our own experience with those words and meaning.

For me, gratitude – looking for things I appreciate – has not always been a good thing. In the past, I kept looking for things to be grateful for instead of seeing the reality of my life. Misplaced gratitude helped keep me stuck in a toxic environment.

Yet when I used gratitude in a balanced way I had a very different experience.


The exercise


We were set an exercise to think of three things we were grateful for before we went to bed every day, then write a blog about it.


Another part of the exercise was to write a letter to someone we were grateful to and read it to them.



Timing


I’m a bit of a rule follower, so I struggled with the timing of the exercise. I kept forgetting to do it at night.

My mind started running with: you’re not doing it right; you’re meant to do it every day, at night. I started getting anxious and it wasn’t a fun exercise.

So, I thought, I need to be kinder to myself and more flexible.

I began by just doing the exercise whenever I thought of it. That worked – and sometimes I thought of it at night. I had to change the rules to suit me.


Physical resistance


When I started trying to think of three things, I felt enormous resistance. My body would become heavy, and all I could feel was negative emotions. Wow, who thought such a simple exercise would be so hard?

I realised I was overthinking it.

Start easy: my dog, my car, my job. Okay, done. Breathe a sign of relief.

I did this for a few days, and it got easier.


Then one day I was hanging clothes on the line and I heard my adult daughter call out, “Mum!”


Suddenly and spontaneously, I felt gratitude completely fill my whole body and mind. My heart felt like it was swelling with gratitude for my amazing daughter. Wow, this is cool.





A gratitude letter



I found writing the gratitude letter surprisingly easy. I chose my husband – he’s a really good guy and deserves to be told how great he is.


I started thinking about what I would write, and realised how much I take for granted, and how I still keep him at arm’s length in some ways. I think after domestic violence it’s difficult to trust closeness, even with a worthy person.


The more I thought about how grateful I am to him and for him, the closer I felt to him. I could feel my heart swelling with gratitude for this “good” guy.

So now, after a shaky start, most days I think: what am I grateful for? I choose three things and move on.


It’s become easy, and I love that feeling when gratitude spontaneously appears and fills me up.


Read More Survivor Gratitude Blogs

Rebuilding After Domestic Violence

Letting Go of the Expectations of Practicing Gratitude

Learning the Balance of Gratitude

How Practicing Gratitude Changed My Life

A Shout Out to My Ex

Be Aware of Gratitude's Evil Twin

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