If you grow a garden, then you probably know about “hardening off.” This is when you take young plants that have only been subjected to the warmth of a greenhouse or protective indoor shelter under grow lights, and bring them outdoors for a few hours each day. You’re supposed to do this for increasing lengths of time, until the newly matured plants are strong enough to withstand the elements on their own. Once your plants are fully hardened off, they’re ready to be planted outside in your garden beds.
If you think about the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” you’ll see how it applies to garden plants and also to people.
The plants that are subjected to increasingly harsh conditions slowly over time are much more likely to survive than plants that have only known the cushy existence of a sheltered life under grow lights.
People, too, become more resilient after facing difficult experiences that cause them to develop survival skills and grow emotionally.
If you think you’ve had a tough life, or if you think you’ve been dealt a bad hand or made some poor decisions, consider this: you’ve survived thus far. You’ve been “hardened off” by life, and you’re all the tougher for it.
Tougher doesn’t have to mean developing a coarse or mean personality. Tough can simply mean that you now have a thicker skin, in a way that things which may have bothered you before don’t seem to be much of a big deal now.
Or, things that once seemed overwhelming and impossible to manage, now seem easy because you’ve developed coping strategies that work for you.
They call this maturity, and it’s something to have an attitude of gratitude about for sure.
Exercise: Get an Attitude of Gratitude About The Tough Times
You may not feel especially grateful for the hardships you’ve faced in life. Maybe you never seem to have enough money. Maybe your marriage hasn’t been all moonlight and roses, and in fact sometimes you’re downright angry about that.
But instead of dwelling on the negative experiences of the past, step outside of your emotional self. Identify ways that you’ve found to handle people and events that have challenged you mentally, physically and emotionally.
Think about unexpected life lessons that you’ve been dealt from people who have changed you for the better even as they challenged you.
Journal it. Writing things down can provide clarity. If you want to develop an attitude of gratitude for your life’s experiences, especially the tough ones, then write them out. Tell your story, even if only to yourself.
Compare the ways in which you opted to handle problems in the past, versus how you tend to manage things now. What’s different? Have you managed to work things out in a way that’s favorable? That’s something to be grateful for – your own natural resilience.