When you’re chewing on life’s gristle,Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life – The Life Of Brian
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this will help things turn out for the best …
It’s a well known fact that gratitude is good for your mental, physical and emotional health.
We are encouraged to feel and express gratitude on a daily basis, maybe even keep a gratitude journal where we write down the things we feel grateful for.
I have a confession to make: while I’m happy to feel grateful and glad to say thank you, I’m not very good with formal gratitude practices.
I’ve started gratitude journals several times, but after a while my lists of things I am to be grateful for start to look the same and my recitation of this things I should feel grateful for start to feel stale and perfunctory.
But, all is not lost.
I think I’ve found a way in to feeling genuine gratitude through, of all things, the myriad annoyances of daily life.
Annoyances are an excellent way into gratitude because they are ubiquitous and uncomfortable. They give us a lot of raw material to work with and the discomfort can be very motivating.
So how can we use annoyances to recycle our grumbles into gratitude?
The ‘Gratitude Flip’ process was inspired by a photo of someone’s gratitude list which was expressed in a way I had never seen before.
This person, I think is a woman, used everyday annoyances to access a genuine feeling of gratitude.
This is what she wrote:
Grateful for …
- Early wakeups = Children to love
- House to clean = Safe place to live
- Laundry = Clothes to wear
- Dishes to wash = Food to eat
- Crumbs under the table = Family meals
- Grocery shopping = Money to provide for us
- Toilets to clean = Indoor plumbing
- Lots of noise = People in my life
- Endless questions about homework = Kid’s brains growing
- Sore and tired in bed = I am still alive.
This list skilfully links what could be called an annoyance to something for which she is genuinely grateful. Note: I’m going to use the word annoyance in this article as a label for all the annoyances, chores, niggles, aggravations, etc that we experience in daily life.
Her insight is that around and beneath the annoyance there is a deeper, valuable context that is important to her.
This suggests that around everyday annoyance there may a broader context that we can feel grateful for which can change how we feel about the annoyance.
For example: Having a house to clean means to her that she has a safe place to live.
While it might not be easy to be grateful to have to clean the house, it is much easier to feel grateful for having a safe place to live.
The creator of the list skilfully uses the annoyance as a finger-post to point to something she is genuinely grateful for.
If we can find the broader context we can use the annoyance as a gateway to gratitude. Better still, if we add the tapping we can also soften the niggle and deepen the gratitude.
Benefits of this approach:
- Annoyances are easy to notice, for most people there will be no shortage of material to work with.
- Using these kinds of statements encourages a valuable shift of perspective and it helps soften the original annoyance. The original list is a very elegant demonstration of what we in the ‘tapping trade’ call a reframe: an ‘invitation’ to think differently about something by putting it in a new context
- Rather than trying to cultivate a vague feeling of gratitude, this process creates a sense of gratitude that is specific and relevant to your experience.
Important: The ‘Gratitude Flip’ process is intended for small scale, everyday issues. If your ‘annoyance’ is a linked to a trauma or is a threat to your physical or emotional safety then you need to take care of that in a different way.
The Gratitude Flip
Step 1. Choose Your Annoyance
You probably have a lot to choose from, so this probably needs no further explanation
Step 2. Find The Gratitude Context
The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.
Find a greater context that surrounds the annoyance, which must be true for the niggle to exist and which you can feel grateful for.
Here are some examples:
- Annoyance: My mother interrogates me every time she sees me
- Gratitude Context: She wants the best for me.
- Annoyance: My husband’s cough is getting on my nerves
- Gratitude Context: He is still breathing.
- annoyance: The tap is dripping
- Gratitude Context: We have running water
- Annoyance: The toast is burning
- Gratitude Context: We have enough to eat
- Annoyance: This book is boring
- Gratitude Context: I can read.
The ‘Gratitude context’ must be something that is genuinely valuable to you, not something you think you should feel grateful for, or other people think you should be grateful for. It has to be something that you appreciate and can feel grateful for.
For example: If your husband’s cough stops him being able to insult you. That may be better than being insulted, but it is not likely to inspire much gratitude.
Finding the valuable context can be the trickiest part of the whole process but it is worth spending the time to find a context that is both true and something to feel grateful for.
One way of doing that would be to ask yourself: “What good thing has to be true for this annoyance to exist?”
- If the house needs cleaning then you must have a house
- If you don’t have enough clients or customers then you may have some clients or customers.
- If you are delayed in traffic then you must have a car and there must be roads to drive on.
This way of thinking might be unfamiliar but it becomes easier with practice, or if you prefer: this way of thinking might be unfamiliar but it must be possible.
Now we have a ‘valuable context’ we could just use the form of words in the original list as our gratitude list
- “My husband’s cough is getting on my nerves = I am glad he’s still breathing.”
- “The tap is dripping = I am glad we have running water.”
However, we can use tapping to help defuse the annoyance and boost our feelings of gratitude.
Step 3: Tap On The Annoyance And For The Gratitude
There are two different ways of using the tapping to help us:
- ‘Simple Tapping’ uses the form of tapping that is familiar to most tappers
- ‘Paradoxical Tapping’ uses a variation of the paradoxical tapping routine I created to help access the power of the unconscious mind.
I suggest you try both options then choose the one that works best for you.
Option 1: Simple Tapping
This form of tapping is closest to the familiar ‘standard’ EFT approaches, somewhat resembling Pat Carrington’s ‘Choices Method’.
The format is to use the [Annoyance] in the setup statement then alternate tapping on the [Annoyance] and gratitude for the [Gratitude Context]
“Even though [Annoyance], I deeply and completely accept myself” x 3
- EB: “[Annoyance]”
- SE: “and I am grateful for [valuable context]”
- UE: “[Annoyance]”
- CH: “and I am grateful for [valuable context]”
“Even though the tap is dripping, I deeply and completely accept myself” x 3
- EB: “The tap is dripping”
- SE: “and I am grateful for having running water”
- UE: “The tap is dripping”
- CH: “and I am grateful for having running water”
Important: Using ‘ands’ not ‘buts’
Notice that we are using the form “The tap is dripping and I am grateful for having running water” NOT “The tapping is dripping but I am grateful for having water”.
Using an ‘and’ rather than a ‘but’ may seem like a small point but it is a very helpful difference.
Since a large part of EFT’s power is its acceptance of what is present, followed by tapping to sooth the distress of whatever is present. It’s important to use words that emphasise acceptance.
If you follow a phrase with ‘but’ you negate it.
If someone tells you “I think that is a very good idea, but …”, they have dismissed it for whatever reasons follow the ‘but’.
If someone tells you “I think that is a very good idea, and …”, they have validated it and may want to add something that make it even better.
If you follow a problem statement with ‘but’, you are dismissing the problem. You may have noticed that if you try to dismiss a problem or difficult feeling they have ways of resisting their dismissal.
If you follow the problem statement with ‘and’, you are accepting it as it is so there is more acceptance and much less resistance to what comes next.
Option 2: Paradoxical Tapping
This approach is based on Paradoxical Tapping and gives full reign to the unconscious mind to develop a richer feeling of gratitude.
Unlike standard EFT there is no setup statement.
You start by tapping on the ‘eyebrow’ point with the ‘[annoyance]’, then on the ‘side of eye’ point with the phrase “… and, in how many different ways can I be grateful for [valuable context]?” Then you complete a full round of silent tapping while you let your unconscious mind come up with all your reasons to be grateful.
- EB: “There are dishes to wash”
- SE: “and, in how many different ways can I be grateful for having food to eat?”
- full round of silent tapping
The tapping in silence allows your other than conscious mind to come up with all the many different ways you can be grateful. Having lots of ways to be grateful will deepen and broaden the feeling of gratitude in a very natural way.
4. Test Your Results
Whichever form of tapping you have used, bring the annoyance to mind again and notice how you think and feel about it now.