A Twist on Gratitude: Benefit Finding

coaching mindset Nov 24, 2020

Thanksgiving is in the air, which means there’s a lot of talk around every mindset guru’s favorite topic: gratitude.

Most of us have heard (and hopefully experienced) the life-changing benefits of gratitude: it reduces stress. It boosts our well-being. It’s even good for our immune system. It’s key to a healthy mindset, a happy mood, and a fulfilling life.

And yet, despite how important it is, sometimes it feels like there’s a limited amount of info out there about how to practice gratitude. Most of the time, people talk about keeping a gratitude journal. And while that’s a fantastic tool and I absolutely recommend it (and I even remember to do it sometimes), it’s not the only way.

Today, I want to introduce you to a twist on gratitude – a not-so-common way to shift your mindset toward positivity and thankfulness. It’s called benefit finding.

Here’s how it works.

Your brain is designed to answer the questions you ask it. It’s basically a machine whose purpose is to find what you’re looking for. And yet, many of us fall into habits of looking for the downside, the negative, the storm clouds. And so that’s what we see.

If we turn that around, and instead look for benefits – then that’s what we’ll find.

The first time I heard the term “benefit finding,” I was not in a great mood. I was stressed out, restless, and above all, sick and tired of being in lockdown. It felt like the pandemic would just never, ever end.

So I decided to give it a try.

I took a deep breath and asked how this terrible pandemic might possibly be benefiting me. It took a second to shift gears, but when I did, here’s what came up:

I’ve gotten to spend way more time with my kids. My family has started eating dinner together again, and we’re laughing and talking and sharing more. I’ve learned to cook more – and some of my meals are actually edible!

I’ve seen how strong and resilient people can be. I’ve learned how adaptable I am. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things, the quiet moments. I’ve learned to slow down and be patient.

I let out a long breath, and realized just how much good had come to me in the midst of hardship – good that I was almost taking for granted.

Right away, I felt different. I felt lighter, happier, and yes – more grateful.

Later, this tool came in handy another way. I was talking to my sister about how different our Thanksgiving will be this year – we’re doing a super-small group, outdoors (yes, in frigid New York) – and I thought, What if we could CREATE some benefits here?

“It might be freezing,” my sister was saying. Then she joked, “I’ll just bring my sleeping bag. It supposed to keep you warm down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.”

“Let’s all bring our sleeping bags,” I said. “We’ll sit around the fire all bundled up. We can pretend we’re winter camping.”

We laughed, realizing how absurd that would be, and also how funny. And that lent a new sense of fun and creativity to what had previously felt forced and uncertain.

Sure, we might have a weird Thanksgiving. But now, my family and I are seeing the benefits – and creating them where we can.

I invite you to try it! What’s going on for you right now? (Whether you’re stressed like I was, or feeling good, or something else entirely – doesn’t matter. The question still works.)

Take a deep breath.

How is that situation benefitting you?

How can you create some benefits?

Let the answers come. Don’t force them. And I encourage you to keep listening for answers even if you think you’re done. Often, that’s when the best ones show up.

This is an especially important technique now, at the start of what’s sure to be one of the strangest (and for some, hardest) holiday season of our lives. No matter what’s going on, you have the power to choose how you look at a situation. What you look for, you’ll find. So look for things that will serve you.

I hope you have a safe, happy, and warm Thanksgiving (even if you have to wear your sleeping bag like a coat, like I will).

Go out, find those benefits, and shine.

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