Yes, You Can Be Grateful for the Bad Stuff: Turning Shadows Into Light

Gratitude allows us to celebrate and magnify goodness. When life goes badly, in the midst of economic or personal disasters, it can feel difficult to know where to stand. As things start to crumble, you can still find gratitude for the bad things. Shadows can become light, with the right shift in perspective.

Remember the Bad

Trials and suffering can refine and deepen gratitude if we allow it to show us not to take things for granted. Thanksgiving, as a holiday, is born out of hard times. Half the pilgrims died during the rough winter and year. It became a national holiday in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War and was moved to the current date in the 1930s following the Depression. When times are good, people take prosperity for granted and begin to believe they are invulnerable. It can help to frame it this way:

  • Gratitude can help cope with times of crisis
  • People who are grateful are also more resilient to stress
  • Remember you made it through all the way, in spite of the challenges

Reframe Disaster

Gratitude is a helpful strategy to handle hurt feelings. The field of positive psychology has been criticized for not recognizing the value of negative emotions. However, being too heavy laden on negative emotions can have the opposite desired impact. To deny life has disappointments, frustrations, losses, and sadness would be unrealistic and untenable. Life is hard. It can help to reframe the challenges in this way:

  • How did you learn from those experiences
  • Can you find ways to be thankful for what happened
  • What did the experience draw out of you
  • Has the experience removed a personal obstacle that prevented you from feeling grateful

The goal is not to relive the experience, rather, to gain new perspective on it and reframe it in such a way you can see some insight from it rather than struggle over the challenges. It is hard to know how to respond in times of trial but by thinking differently and seeking gratitude, you can still walk through hard times and know you are not alone and the darkness and shadows can become a blessing in disguise.

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