Gratitude: The Secret to Making Peace with Where You Are Now
Despite being an experienced expat, Dee Mackenzie found herself desperately unhappy in her latest location. Today she shares her story of how gratitude helped her to get unstuck. She reassures us that gratitude starts with an intention and just takes a bit of practice, before it completely transforms your life…
“Today I’ve been thinking about the importance of gratitude. Taking time out daily to focus on what I’m grateful for has been life changing for me.
We move around quite a bit – it’s what we do and we love it – but our most recent move was hard. Very hard. For two years I was miserable. I spent a lot of time dreaming of when we would move again.
I had a constant yearning, almost a physical pull, to be somewhere else, and it became all consuming.
I posted about this in a Facebook group for expats and found out it was a common feeling. I then got really, really irritated with the people who told me it was up to me to improve the situation by changing my attitude. Clearly they didn’t understand how much I didn’t want to be here, and how sad I was!
But the more I tried to ignore their advice, the more I realised they were right. Moping around wasn’t changing a thing. It certainly wasn’t making the next move come any sooner. I realised I did actually have some control.
I could choose whether I was going to continue hating living where we were, or whether I was going to find the good things (there are a gazillion) about where we live and focus on those instead.
I could see the good things, but…
They were all around me. I live in an incredibly beautiful part of the world, a place where the sun shines, the sky is blue and the air is clear for much of the year.
But I couldn’t feel the good and I wouldn’t let them get in the way of my misery. Don’t get me wrong – feeling sad or lonely or wistful are all valid feelings and it’s important to feel these things, to acknowledge them and work through them. But this had gone on for two years and enough was enough.
Making a commitment to gratitude
I started to make myself look at the things I found beautiful around me.
Each time I noticed something, I would focus on it, breathe it in, and revel in its beauty and the joy it gave me.
I would let that feeling really sink in and remind myself how lucky I was to be here.
Whenever I saw friends I would take a moment to appreciate the many things I loved about them. I would focus on how lucky I was to get to spend time with these incredible people.
Each time I looked at my beautiful family, laughed with them, hugged or kissed them or just spent time with them, I focused on that feeling of deep love. I was reminded of how very lucky I was to have these people in my life and to be loved by them.
Every time I did this I would feel myself smile a little more, and more and more, and on it went. And each day I noticed these things my heart felt a little lighter and my spirit felt warmer, and I felt so grateful for what I had.
Gratitude: the golden thread
There are still days when that yearning to be elsewhere hits me. There are many days when I miss past places, friends (every day!) and times gone by. But there’s an undercurrent of gratitude for everything I have now.
This gratitude makes those pangs of yearning less painful, and actually sweet, because I’m learning to be grateful to have had past experiences so wonderful they have stolen a piece of my heart.
I’ve also learnt that the heart is an amazing thing: you can leave pieces of it spread around the world, but it still has the ability to feel as much love, as much pleasure, as much joy and as much gratitude as it always has.”
What are you grateful for, right now? Let’s count our blessings together! Join the conversation below – I reply to every comment!
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9 commentsWrite a comment
Lovely honest writing.
Thanks so much for treading our article and for the feedback. I think the beauty of this piece is how authentic it is.
Lovely piece of writing and resonates with myself as an expat – feeling often a pull to another country but reminding yourself to stop and be grateful for the little things around us.
Thank you for your feedback, and for sharing your experience. I really love how the piece reassures us that gratitude just takes a bit of practice; that it is within our reach and can help us to find peace and feel happier in our current location. This is so important to remember when we are, as you put it, “feeling a pull to another country” (a very normal feeling!).
Two years ago I wasn’t even thinking to move away from my family, friends, safety, everyday life…After being an expat the last two years, I could say that I miss all of these everyday, but I am so grateful for all the amazing experiences, the people that I met, the different cultures I learned about. I see myself now as much more mature and full of love and appreciation for everything that I have left and everything that I live now as an expat.
How wonderful that your international life has led to even MORE gratitude! May you have many more amazing experiences, meet many more beautiful people, and continue to be inspired by different cultures.
I think this is an important topic. As humans, it’s much easier to focus on the negative than the positive. Of course, like you mention, feeling negative feelings and working through them is important. However, I find that recognizing and being grateful for the positive things in your life really helps to change the way you live your life. For example, it helps in realizing that there are people less fortunate than we are, hopefully sparking a motivation to help – no matter how small the help may seem. As a result, as research has shown, helping others helps us to be happier, further increasing our gratitude and continuing as a cycle.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! You bring a beautiful new angle to this discussion on gratitude: the immense rewards in contributing to society and helping others. Giving back is indeed a great way to remind us of all we DO have.