Finding Gratitude in Unexpected Places

There have been times in my life when I’ve been anything but grateful. You, too, I’m sure, have probably experienced moments of fear or anxiety when a child could have died, doubt after a scary diagnosis, the death of a loved one, or the “blues” that obscure your gratitude. It can be tricky sometimes finding gratitude. In today’s blog, I’m excited to explore with you: Finding Gratitude in Unexpected Places.

A Scary Thing Happened to My Daughter

Recently, an incident occurred with my daughter that tested me. A shooting left her apartment riddled with bullets. Thank goodness she escaped the unfortunate incident unharmed.

When my husband delivered the news, he let me know what happened and told me not to worry. “Our daughter is safe and sound in a new apartment,” he said. Then he had to go into a long meeting.

Fear Caused My Pain to Increase

So I sat there for a while, alone, processing the information. I was okay at first. I told myself, “This is no big deal…she’s okay; she’s safe.” Then, my mind started to wander to a dark place.

What I remember clearly about learning that someone riddled my daughter’s apartment with bullets is the very real and scary sensation of my chest tightening. A few moments later, it became difficult to breathe. Even though I knew she was safe, I can tell you that I was anything but grateful for many long minutes. I was fearful — of where she lived, thinking about the the “next time” something like this happens…what if the outcome is worse? And so on.

As these thoughts started to race through my mind, I noticed my pain started to increase. Anxiety began to set in, and while I was tallying the alarm bells going off in my head and my body in terms of my increasing pain, a dear friend called.

Switching Gears To Finding Gratitude

I launched into sharing the story of what happened with my friend and I broke down and started to cry — it was a mixture of emotions. Reality began to wash over me. I kept saying to myself, “She wasn’t hurt. It’s okay.”

I felt relief and fear simultaneously. I was crying because I love my daughter so much that the possibility of losing her was agonizing. Again, I noticed my pain increased. But, instead of letting me stay in that deep emotional piece of it, my friend understood what was happening, and she said, “Wow! What a lot you have to be grateful for, Becky!” At THAT moment, I was grateful. My friend found a way to help me switch gears with my emotions and I found gratitude where I least expected it. It works…finding gratitude in unexpected places.

Moving Through Hard Emotions With Gratitude

We began going through the many things we both have to be grateful for and sharing our thoughts about those things. My pain started to decrease. Then, with my friend’s help, I moved through it. My anxiety passed, and my pain decreased.

Had my friend not called, it could have taken me many more hours or days to move through my fear and anxiety emotions. Talking to my friend at that moment helped me because she was there to remind me about all the reasons I have to be grateful. Support to help you through rough times via healthy friendships and other close relationships is very helpful.

Here’s the fascinating thing I re-discovered in the scary shooting incident involving my daughter. Usually, I can manage my pain just fine. But, as fear started to take root, my pain increased.  When I paused and found gratitude, at that moment, my pain came down a notch; then it went down another notch as I breathed deeper and relaxed, remembering all the things for which I am grateful.

Finding gratitude in unexpected places might look like a tiny bird

What unexpected places can you search for gratitude?

Searching For Gratitude

Let’s face it. Life isn’t always kind. We aren’t always happy and content. But finding even a tiny bit of any situation, a sliver, to be grateful for helps us in many ways:

  • spawns positive emotion, which produces less sensitivity to pain and greater pain tolerance, according to Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier.
  • improves alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and goal attainment.
  • reduces depression and stress and boosts self-esteem.
  • improves sleep, reduces blood pressure, and can lead to increased exercise frequency.
  • gets stronger over time, meaning the positive benefits continue to improve with consistent practice.

Good Places to Find and Practice Gratitude

Candace Pert, in her book, Molecules of Emotion, writes that emotions are not less valid than physical feelings. They are cellular signals “involved in the process of translating information into physical reality…” Indeed, our bodies do “listen” and respond to mental chatter and feelings.

Try keeping a gratitude journal and regularly posting or documenting life’s joyous moments. Remind yourself about the things for which you are thankful. If you need help getting started with a gratitude journal, here’s a helpful how-to article from Greater Good in Action.

Watch an inspiring video with Brené Brown, an expert researcher on vulnerability and shame. In this video, she shares how practicing gratitude helps us embrace and feel joy in life. Brené shares a personal story of a date night with her husband, Steve. They listened to a 1970s song called Reminiscing by Little River Band to allude to the importance of being grateful instead of being fearful and dress-rehearsing for tragedy. She has several key takeaways, mainly emphasizing the importance of “enoughness” and practicing gratefulness by saying to yourself: “I’m grateful.”

Thank you so much for joining me today. I am grateful that you took the time to read our blog “Finding Gratitude in Unexpected Places.” May you enjoy a Thanksgiving bountiful with health, hope, and gratitude.

Want or need more inspiration? Read Kendy Anderson, TCCU Director’s book review, “Happiness from the Inside Out” by Robert Mack.Or, read my post about patience: 5 Steps for Developing Patience.

About the Author: Becky Curtis

After a horrific car accident nearly took her life and her own long and complex recovery journey, Becky has assembled a vibrant team of specially-trained coaches—healthcare professionals who have gained proficiency in teaching and coaching, many who live successfully with chronic pain. Becky travels extensively to speak about the role of health coaching in pain management and has been a regular speaker at PAINWeek®, and many other conferences, in addition to coaching and managing TCC’s program. She lives in Utah with her husband and dog, Quigley.

Keep up to date with TCC’s blog.