Is Gratitude Reserved for the Good Stuff?

Posted April 23, 2014 by Rebecca Niziol in Life After Five


It’s a lot easier to be grateful when things are going incredibly well in your life. When money rolls in, when you have that fun out night with your friends, when you realize you love the person you’re with so frickin much, those are the times we love. Yeah, it’s easy to appreciate what you’ve got when it’s oh so good.

What’s not so easy it to appreciate is the (forgive my French) shitty stuff. When you get injured, lose a job, embarrass yourself on yet another date, or just feel in the dumps. That’s where the struggle begins. Gratitude turns into grief. It’s so easy to fall into the darkness and stay there for a really long time.

This got me wondering: Is gratitude only reserved for the good stuff? Is it possible to be grateful for the crap that life throws at us?

I have found that yes, indeed, it is possible. Although it is not very natural at first. Most of us already know, or at least are starting to clue into, the fact that our biggest struggles become the moments when we more fully embraced who we are and why the hell we’re here on this planet. Our failures teach us the most. And yet, it feels nearly impossible to accept this in the moment when life is not giving us what we want. Or even harder, taking from us what we feel we need.
It took a crazy vision in the middle of a yoga class and a major #smallchangeBIGshift to realize how grateful I am for the crappy moments. Those grungy, low moments are the grit of life that cultivate gumption and resilience. The darkness in our lives allows us to see the light, so why not appreciate the darkness and all it offers?
On my yoga mat (as I was probably about to fall asleep) I imagined my right arm being cut off (it’s been annoying me all week as an old injury flared up). In this dreamy state I saw that my life went on basically as it does now: I was still a rad yoga teacher, I still coached phenomenal women, I even found a way to paddle board. Even more surprising was the fact that I was still outrageously happy, accepted and loved, and more beautiful than ever. With only one arm.
It was in this moment that I accepted and embraced all of it: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Through sickness, loss, frustration, panic, upset, and overwhelm, life continues to give me what I always need. And for that, I’m grateful.
How do we begin to find peace in the low points of life? Perhaps by looking back. Think of a moment in your life that, at the time, seemed like the worst you’d ever been through. When you were in the middle of it gratitude certainly was not the emotion that naturally flowed. Now, however, as you reflect can you see how this moment holds an incredible amount of depth, beauty, and wonder? Therefore, isn’t it possible to honor that dark moment with gratitude as well?
My grandmother’s death was the biggest lost I’d ever experienced. I was overwhelmed with sadness, and yet it was only with her passing that I was truly able to appreciate everything she represented as a woman of elegance, intelligence, and love. My quarter life crisis (you can read more about it here), was a time in my life where everything crumbled: my job, relationship, and really my identity. It was also the moment I reconnect to the spirituality that grounds so much of my work and joy today. Each and every single one of us has a life filled with moments like this… moments where, upon reflection, we can see the light cracking through the darkness.
How then might we be able to find gratitude within those moments, as they are actually happening? Trust is the closest thing to the truth I can muster up here. It is the trust that in the end it will all work out. Trust that this low point, this struggle, is all a part of the plan. Trust that this very moment of darkness is shaping you into the incredible human and spiritual being you are destined to be. Trust that this experience is in some way adding to your life in a way you can’t even begin to comprehend right now.
When you trust, you move into a state of acceptance, and acceptance is the doorway to gratitude. Honor your journey. Embrace the crappy moments. Accept yourself and others where they are right now. Be grateful for this crazy, sexy, cool life you get to live.

About the Author

Rebecca Niziol

Rebecca Niziol, ELI-MP, is many things: a life coach, yoga teacher, dancer, event planner, connection catalyst, and your new best friend. Her mission is to empower others to live the authentic life of their dreams. After years of traveling North America and Europe, she is happy to have found a home and community in Chicago.