Does that resonate with you? I know it certainly does for me. But why is that? Why is it so easy to be unhappy, pessimistic, cynical, critical, judgmental, and negative? Why is it so hard to simply appreciate the beautiful things in life rather than focus on the negatives? Granted many people in the world still experience a tremendous amount of hardship and tragedy, but even for those who have a comparably “easier” life (whatever that means to you) it takes a lot of effort to open a newspaper and not feel bogged down from one depressing headline after another. This is because appreciating joy ultimately puts us in a very vulnerable position. Everything changes, people die, and we are afraid to have that joy taken away from us because that then ultimately leads to hurt. This, for instance, tends to be a big reason why many of us turn to substance use and abuse – to help us escape from a reality we don’t want to be in. Gratitude, in other words, is a big challenge that many people face today.
In a recent interview with Oprah, Brené Brown explains this very phenomenon. In it, Brown explains that allowing yourself to experience gratitude, joy, and love is in many ways pretty terrifying. It sets you up for the hurt, loss, and challenges that lie ahead. In other words, not allowing yourself to experience these more positive emotions is a defense mechanism. It’s what has many people feeling as though they can never really appreciate something until it’s gone. In the following video clip Brown not only talks more about this, but also how to reap the benefits of experiencing full on gratitude by incorporating a daily practice into your life.