How to Feel Good, Even When You Don’t

Talk of gratitude and its benefits are everywhere these days. And we need it.

There’s plenty of scientific evidence that gratitude enhances mood, reduces stress and depression, strengthens relationships, improves immunity and physical health, and supports our mental and emotional wellbeing.

Impressive. And that’s just a partial list.

But getting to gratitude, real gratitude, isn’t always easy, especially now with more than the usual numbers of detractors and distractors competing for our attention.

When I’m fortunate enough to summon it, I find real gratitude to be a deeply profound and moving experience, one that is both emotional and sensory; a mixture of inner peace and steadiness, flirting with joy. (Did I mention that it’s hard to describe?)

And like many of our deepest, most profound emotions, gratitude can be difficult to conjure at will.

Yet these days, the reminders that we’re supposed to be grateful for all that is right in our lives, even when a lot isn’t, are everywhere.

When we’re exhausted after a long day staring at a computer screen, bummed about not being able to give or get a hug, sad to have to tell our kids yet again that they can’t go to that sleepover, or when we’re dulled by lack of access to the activities that kept us sane and vibrant, gratitude isn’t necessarily waiting on the doorstep for us to call.

Yes, we can mouth the words, “I’m grateful for this and that,” and that may help a bit, but then gratitude, the real deal, faces the danger of becoming a platitude (did I really just do that?)

So what’s an alternative?

Enter appreciation. Appreciation is reliable, accessible, and works like a charm.

Appreciation is easy going. Appreciation lifts without negating the validity of our very real and valid experience of the way things are.

• We can appreciate that we have work, even when it’s draining.

• We can appreciate that our friends and families are safe and healthy, even though we can’t hug them just yet.

• We can appreciate that we have take-out (if we’re missing dining out) or on-demand entertainment (if we’re missing movies) or hiking trails (if we’re missing the gym).

Appreciation generates just enough lift to ease sadness, lighten a low mood, offer a new perspective, and even brighten the moment.

Can’t find gratitude? Call appreciation.