Feel the feels when you can’t feel grateful

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The first part of what to do when you can’t feel grateful talked about not trying to change how you feel. You can’t force yourself to feel grateful. Doing this usually has the opposite effect. Instead, you need to try feel the feels. In this article, we’ll share some tips on how to do this.

An analogy for life

Have you ever got sucked down by the ocean under a wave and tried frantically to get back to the surface again, but the more you resist, the longer you stay under and the more panicked you feel? I sure have… almost every time I surf, bodyboard, paddleboard or even just swim in the big blue sea. It feels a bit like being tossed around in a washing machine, only to be spat out for a second before getting pulled under for another go in the sea’s sadistic tumble dryer.

But if you just let go and accept that things are out of your control (or go ‘pap’ as they say in South Africa, meaning ‘soft’), you pop back up again more quickly (and give the finger to the metaphorical ocean sucking you down).

How to go ‘pap’ and feel the feels

Let’s say you feel sad, angry, guilty, resentful, mad, and bad. Why try and change this? It’s how you feel. Acknowledge it. Be in it. Accept it. Stop pretending. You’re having a horrible day, week, month, year…. Decade.

Life can be ridiculously, terribly, grindingly awful. Maybe you’re not able to cope with it right now. That’s okay. Sometimes you need to process what you’re feeling and this can take time. Do what you need to get through the day, to survive. But don’t force yourself to listen to a podcast or read an uplifting book about a cancer survivor who has clearly got more gumption than you. You’re probably not going to be uplifted. You might even feel worse.

If you’re trying so hard to push through each day that you don’t even remember what gratitude feels like… Just stop for one second.  It starts with acknowledging and observing your feelings as you learned in the first article, instead of trying to change them. Then, try this…

Blue-footed booby Success Formula: How to feel all the feels

  1. Write down what you are thinking and feeling (maybe even try to make a poem or song lyric out of it – because the process of creation can change the narrative)
  2. Notice how your emotions feel on your body. Write down every sensation.
  3. Observe and examine each physical feeling without judgement (as if you’re a scientist examining an object).  If you focus on these sensations or feelings, you immediately become present and your thoughts will not overwhelm you.

Take your power back!

Remember that you are not your thoughts. You are not your feelings. This too shall pass (words of wisdom originating from an ancient Persian fable that never cease to make me feel better.) Take the time to feel everything, but with an added layer of observation.  This exercise can transform a feeling of powerlessness into one of power, because it takes you out of an egoic state and into self-awareness, with just a tiny little bit of effort (the blue-footed booby way!).

Try this out and let us know if you’ve experienced any interesting shifts. And if you are starting to feel any feelings of gratitude, feel free to share in the comments below or shoot us an email.



Q:  I am not a writer, how do I write down my feelings?

A: Don’t worry about how you write or what you write. Just observe and note down each sensation and what it brings up for you. This will bring you into the present moment, and help you witness your thoughts instead of identifying with them.

Q: This sounds like something I’d rather do with a psychologist, how do I find someone who can help me?

A: Search for registered psychologists with current and confirmed credentials on credible websites such as www.goodtherapy.org or www.psychologytoday.com.  You could also work with a life coach.

Q: Can I do this at home?

A: Definitely. It’s best to do this exercise in private. Find somewhere where you can be alone, even if it’s your car or the bathroom.

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