I've been thinking about gratitude lately. I have a friend who has been struggling. Actually a couple friends (I seem to collect them), but I recently had a long talk with one over text message (the preferred mode of communication for introverts!). I never thought I was the positive one, but I've been working hard for the past couple years to see the bright side of things.
We get what we focus on. Years ago I had a gratitude journal, but I worried I wasn't being grateful for the right things. As an introvert, I would list things like "alone time," then worry that I wasn't as social as society says we are supposed to be. I set the journal aside because it made me feel bad about myself.
I started up again about 18 months ago, with a phone app called Thanks Diary. Eventually I stopped caring what society thought. Some days I am grateful for the sunshine or my acupuncturist. Other days I am grateful that I can spend the day hiding under a rock with no one bothering me. And I'm okay with that :) Alone time allows me to keep my sanity, and that makes me a better person, which is ultimately better for the world.
Anyway, back to focus (which I apparently do not have!). Over time I've realized that focusing on something positive -- but in a negative way -- can be turned around so that you focus on the positive AND in a positive way. For example, if you are struggling with health issues, you could focus on no longer being sick. Or you could focus on being healthy. See the difference? It's slight but at the same time huge!
You get back what you put out into the world. So if you say, "I'll get over this illness," a positive statement in and of itself, you're still focusing on your illness and will ultimately stay stuck with it. If you say, "I'm getting healthier every day," there isn't anything to hold you back.
So my friend was really down. He's in a pretty bad way from what he describes. I reminded him about some of the things he had going for him. Actually a lot. I suggested that the struggles might be challenges that will teach him about himself and/or make him a stronger person. They may be difficult, but they are not impossible. He has a strong support network and is a pretty capable human being. If he can keep thinking about what's working rather than what isn't, I'm confident he'll find his way out the other side.
What are you grateful for?