Practicing gratitude is not toxic positivity, but it can be...
We’ve heard a lot about the power of gratitude. It’s not a new idea. It’s been studied extensively by psychologists and proven to be effective for improving well-being.
Now, we’re hearing a lot about toxic positivity. Practicing gratitude is not toxic positivity.
But… it can be.
That’s why I can’t stand simple catchphrases like “Choose happiness” and “Be grateful.” That can be damaging and does not honor the human experience of dealing with emotional pain.
That does not help the people who are battling depression and cannot get out of bed. Oh, if choosing happiness were that easy.
That does not help people who are experiencing acute grief and are experiencing such deep despair that they’ve lost their appetite and have to be reminded to eat.
Gratitude is not a method of stuffing our emotional pain. That is “toxic positivity” that you see all over social media.
Gratitude comes after you’ve allowed yourself to feel sad, betrayed, disappointed, grief-stricken. Gratitude comes after you’ve given yourself the time and space to process emotional pain. In fact, it’s crucial for your well-being that feeling, and not stuffing, emotional pain comes first.
Gratitude is a daily practice that you can utilize so that you don’t get stuck there. Then when you experience the benefits of practicing gratitude, it makes you want to do it even more.
And behind the scenes, your brain is helping you in two ways:
1) By releasing serotonin and dopamine in your brain to help you feel good in the moment when you’re thinking about what you’re grateful for
2) By forming new neural pathways in your brain to be a more positive thinker and see the world through a different lens.
This is never at the expense of ignoring your emotional pain. Please do not listen to the social media influencers who say, “Don’t be sad. Be grateful.”
I know it might sound strange, but I’m encouraging you to feel sad. Process your sadness. Talk about your grief. Cry. Weep.
Then when you’re ready, gratitude can help you move forward through your sadness or grief.
Not around it. Through it.
This is what exercise #4 in my Five Daily Exercises in Gratitude is all about.
These five exercises came together after delivering hundreds of gratitude presentations. I’ve taken the feedback from participants, my own experiences in discovering the power of gratitude while grieving, and the research and brain science related to gratitude, and I carefully crafted these 5 exercises to bring you from your first waking moments, to when your head hits the pillow at the end of the day.
It’s actually those two times when people feel the heaviness of sadness and grief the most – upon wakening, and upon going to bed. So it was important to me that I include those specific times in these 5 Daily Exercises.
And of course, I had to address processing your emotional pain in crafting these 5 exercises. Because we simply cannot heal what we don’t feel. Thankfully, the fulness of joy is on the other side. It may take time, but it’s there.
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