Thanksgiving is here. We made it through the year to get to this very special week. And whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, it’s often nice to remind ourselves that practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be a big deal.
But have you ever felt that being thankful for things in your life almost feels like toxic positivity? Like you have to push away your depression or anxiety to “find” something that you are thankful for?
I’m raising my hand on this one.
I have attempted to keep a gratitude journal. I’ve reminded myself, in moments of pain or anger, that I’m thankful for my life. But sometimes, it just doesn’t seem to help. It almost feels fake.
Does this sound familiar to you?
What is the difference between gratitude and toxic positivity?
Toxic Positivity is the idea that, no matter how difficult a situation is, you must always have a positive mindset about it. This goes beyond being “optimistic” – it rejects all negative feelings. No room for that anxiety. And this can be a dangerous way to think. We need to process our emotions instead of pushing them away. We need to accept ourselves for the way we are and not force ourselves to think positively when in a difficult situation.
Gratitude, however, comes from a place of acceptance. We can acknowledge that we are depressed, that our baby is in the NICU, that it feels like we are doing this motherhood thing all alone. And at the same time, we can still find small things that we are thankful for.
What does gratitude look like?
This approach is a simple one. We can find gratitude in the warmth of our coffee while still being angry that our toddler made a mess of the clean living room. Maybe we acknowledge and appreciate our strength to get out of bed when we are debilitatingly depressed. Or we might even be thankful for the sound of our child’s babbling, but still acknowledge that we are suffering from a panic disorder.
So, I dare to say that each and every one of you has practiced this type of gratitude that I’m talking about. You can kind of think of it as the rollercoaster of motherhood that we ride on. The ups and downs. The good times and the bad times. This is what gratitude is. Remembering, acknowledging and being thankful for the small things that bring us joy.
So this week, try to focus on gratitude. Write these things down if you want to, or even just say them out loud.
Keep it simple. And think about it – don’t just throw out some idea of what you are thankful for just to complete the exercise. Really think about what you are thankful for in this moment. Right now.
And know that it’s okay to feel your emotions while being thankful at the same time.