Deep appreciation

Using gratitude to overcome adversity

Everyone gets challenges to overcome in their lifetime. For some it’s health issues; for others, it’s relationship or financial troubles. Sometimes it’s multiple issues accumulating, like falling dominoes.

This post is about how you can turn things around when your world is falling apart.


As of this writing I'm in my late 40s and have already faced a healthy dose of adversity, which includes seriously considering suicide at age 14. (Read how I got past that here.) I was far down the hole and at the point just before taking action. Even though I couldn't see a way out, I made up my mind that I would "somehow make something of my life." That one decision forced me to consciously work on seeing things in a positive light in order to make good on that promise to myself. That tiny grain of belief in myself grew into something bigger, which allowed me to get through the subsequent challenges I faced.

What I have learned is that no matter what the issue, I can get through it and improve my situation, no matter how dire, as long as I maintain the right mindset. And that mindset is to find gratitude. By that I don’t mean to sit around meditating to reach a blissed-out state. No, I’m talking about the attitude of gratitude. In other words, appreciation for what you DO have. Finding gratitude in the face of adversity is how you lift yourself up.

Here's an example. If you’ve ever gone though a long spell of financial trouble with first and second notices piling up and not enough cash or credit to pay for tonight’s meal, you know it’s a big challenge to find gratitude. Stress spirals out of control. Health issues crop up from the stress. And shame can set in and cause you to isolate yourself, which makes it even worse. The situation can easily spiral out of control and leave you feeling helpless and impotent. Finding gratitude in that situation is not easy. What is easy to find is fear. I know because I've been there.

So let's cut straight to the chase. The predominant thought, repeated several times each day, that has gotten me through really difficult years of struggle is this:

“Right now, in this moment, I am okay. I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and enough food to eat for my next meal.”

Let's break that down.

"Right now, in this moment..." Emphasizing the words this moment keeps you in the present. Why is that important? Because fear is usually about some event happening in the future or past. When you stay focused on the present moment, you keep fear at bay. So every time fear creeps in, remind yourself that "Right now, in this moment, I am okay."

When you stay in the present moment by repeating this as a mantra throughout the day (and especially when fear hits), you will find those many moments add up to a day's worth of being okay. At the end of the day you can remind yourself that you survived yet another 24 hours. With that in mind, you can reason that if you survived today, then maybe you can survive tomorrow, too. This is how to project a positive expectation of the future to lessen fear.

Remember, every time fear rises its head, just repeat this mantra.

“Right now, in this moment, I am okay. I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and enough food to eat for my next meal.”

 

Next, by stating "I am okay" [because you have] "a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and enough food for your next meal", you are offering appreciation for what you have. (State whatever you have so that you are not lying to yourself.) Fear might tell you that you might not have these things tomorrow, so that's why it's important to begin with "Right now, in this moment..." to keep bringing yourself back into the present. In effect, you are creating a positive thought-loop that knocks fear on its ass.

To combat the feelings of shame from my situation, I made feeling good about myself my number one priority. And I tried to remember that the situation was temporary and that I could, indeed, change something: the situation as well as my attitude towards it.

Every day I took one action that might improve my situation. Sometimes that action was to research what I might need to do next. Taking actions, even if baby steps, helped combat the shame and gave me a greater sense of personal power.

As for changing my attitude, I realized that the root cause of my fear of not having money was a need to feel safe and secure. So that brings us back to my mantra, which validates the safety and security that I had in the present moment. Because hey, if you get more of what you focus upon, doesn't it make sense to focus on the good stuff you have?

“Right now, in this moment, I am okay. I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and enough food to eat for my next meal.”

 

Deep appreciation often is born out of lack of something. When the tides turn and your ship comes in, it's easy to find the appreciation. The hard part is to find the deep appreciation in the absence of something. This leads me to one of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given.

"It's not a matter IF you will achieve something, it's a question of WHEN."

 

In case you missed that, it's not IF but WHEN you will achieve something, turn a challenging situation around, find peace with a situation, or whatever it is that you're seeking.

By using the word WHEN, you claim the accomplishment for yourself and project a positive expectation into the future.

Here's the crux: when all you see is the lack of something, it's hard to believe in something you don't see. Especially if you keep focusing on the lack of it and reinforce the lack as your predominant vision of what your life looks like. Instead, picture yourself having the essence of what you desire. The essence of it, not the thing itself. In my case I imagined how good it feels to go to the grocery store and know my bank card will be accepted. I concentrated on that good feeling. On feeling safe and secure financially.

It took a lot of practice, but my financial situation did turn around and match the vision I held in my mind. Nowadays I can go to the grocery store, buy what's on my shopping list, and not worry if my bank card will be accepted. And every time the card-reader says"approved", I still mentally offer my gratitude. Deep gratitude.

"When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude." -- Gilbert K. Chesterton

 

The third predominant thought that has gotten me through challenges is this: "Everything always works out for me." And it always does. Sometimes it takes longer than I would prefer and sometimes it works out differently than I thought, but I always come through because I refuse to give up on myself. So don't you give up on yourself, either!

Here are those three important thoughts again:

  1. “Right now, in this moment, I am okay. I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and enough food to eat for my next meal.”
  2. "It's not a matter IF I will [get through this], it's only a question of WHEN."
  3. "Everything always works out for me."