With so many challenges in our world it's easy to become pessimistic.

When you spend the majority of your time working, the brief moments in between that are supposed to give you energy can quickly drain you further.

Turning on the news and reading about mass shootings, wealth inequality, and the prison industrial complex--to name a few--can have a major impact on your mojo. And when you combine that with long winter months, it's normal to have a grim outlook on the future.

In our over-worked and overstimulated culture, most people start overlooking the things that are going well in their lives. But that's where problems start.

When you're not looking at each day with fresh eyes, your mind starts treating life like a robot--measuring accomplishment in terms of productivity rather than seeking timeless moments of connection, transcendence, and awe.

Happy people are able to recognize and appreciate the small things that enrich their lives. When commuting to and from work, for example, they value discovering new things on the same route they've seen one hundred times.

They cherish each breath. The opportunity to say hello to their loved ones. Their ability to function, live, and grow in their personal and professional passions. And they even have the ability to recognize the value in their shortcomings, limitations, and failures.

As a life coach and licensed therapist, most people come to see me after they've stopped practicing deep gratitude and appreciation.

Some contact me when lacking the confidence of their past selves. Others seek me out when they're feeling anxious about the future and uncertain about their ability to return to their former selves. But taken as a whole, one consistent theme is that these amazing people are--in one way or another--not fully present.

They are avoiding the present moment by clinging to the past or worrying about the future, which prevents them from appreciating the small things occurring in their lives right now.

Through our sacred work together, I'm honored to have the privilege of seeing these motivated and successful individuals persevere. I get to walk with them on their comeback journey and witness their transformations.

And I've noticed a consistent pattern: once individuals are starting their ascent back to confidence--beginning to re-awaken to the happiness they once knew--something amazing happens. They start to experience gratitude.

They really feel it. They connect to and express appreciation for each of the small things in their lives. Even while suffering, they start to make meaning out of it--recognizing the lessons life is teaching them. And all of these factors facilitate an important change in their perception.

To give a concrete example, I'll tell you about one client. Some details are changed to protect confidentiality.

This client was a successful individual in the tech industry living in a foreign country. She decided to move and take a job in the US despite not knowing a single person. Understandably, she struggled with occasional feelings of decreased confidence and worrying about individuals back home.

She was adjusting to a new environment, new culture, new foods, and was building an entire network from the ground up--something far more challenging for most individuals to comprehend.

Our work reached a turning point once she was able to recognize the courage and bravery it took her to leave everything she knew to pursue her passion. This epiphany opened up the possibility for her to appreciate and make meaning of her suffering.

She realized that going through such a difficult experience was going to give her unshakable confidence in her career. It was showing her that she can take risks and trust herself to land on her feet. And dealing with such an overwhelming decision was also teaching her not to sweat the small things.

A few short weeks after this pivotal moment and she was on the top of her game--but she was different than before.

She was re-ignited with passion. Consumed with purpose. And deeply connected to feelings of gratitude for the present moment--including all of its flaws.

And this is just one example of many. Most people start making meaningful improvements in their lives following a change in how they perceive it.

That's the best part--there are things you can do to start changing your perception. And few are more significant than practicing gratitude.

No matter who you are or what you're going through, you can benefit from re-connecting with gratitude. Taking the time to dive heart first into your suffering. And trusting that you will emerge stronger than before.

Yes, it's easy to become pessimistic. But that's why focusing on appreciation, gratitude, and turning towards pain makes your life even more meaningful. Even more fulfilling. And much, much happier. 

Published on: Feb 16, 2018