In this never-ceasing calamity of fires, hurricanes, floods, and a world-wide pandemic, who has time to breath let alone be grateful? The better question might be: Who has the luxury not to?
September 21 was “world gratitude day.” Who knew? Not me.
Lately, it has been hard for me to know what month it is, let alone what day. I have found it challenging to keep track of the day of the week and at times feel overwhelmed with the responsibility to take care of everything: work, family, bills, and a mom in her late 80’s who lives 100 miles away.
From an evolutionary perspective, we are “wired” to focus on and amplify negative thoughts and interactions. But it’s not sustainable nor healthy. To tackle the negative emotions overwhelm and anxiety creates, we need to tap into identifying the positive things in our life. Even pivoting a negative situation to see the opportunity can be powerful.
Research points to the power of a gratitude practice as one means of helping us to gain perspective, reduce stress, and see the positive.
How can you shift that sense of overwhelm or negativity to something more life-giving or positive?
You can shift the sense of feeling spread so thin by slowing down, pausing to consider what you are grateful for in the moment and in your life. Adopting a practice of gratitude can reduce your level of stress significantly and add ten years to your life span. A gratitude practice supports building stronger relationships, deeper connections, and a sense of well-being.
At the simplest level, taking a couple of minutes each day to reflect on what you are grateful for can be a great way to access a calmer, more grounded, and “real” you. You even can use the practice to pull yourself out of a negative spiral.
And if you, like me, dread snapping at someone or needing to carve out an hour for a 10 min conversation, consider which of the following tips might work for you:
- reflect on what you appreciate about the other person or the circumstances,
- tap into your compassion for their struggles,
- sense into your respect or deep love for them
- realize, as Berne Brown says, they are doing the best they can (this includes you too),
- recognize-I’m a human being who makes mistakes and that’s ok
- practice self-compassion
- identify two-three things that are going well or you’ve accomplished (small or big)
and you’ll feel better and have a much better outcome all around.
What you can do to start or amplify your gratitude practice.
What you can do is start today. Take 2-3 minutes to reflect on the 2-3 things, actions, or people you are grateful for on this day, in this moment. It might be a beautiful bloom, walking the dog, a kind word, or a tidy desk.
Next, take those thoughts and write them down. You can use a note pad, a journal, a computer, or drawing paper. Whatever feels right to you so you can see it.
To amplify your practice, consider sharing with others. You might post a list in your home or post on social media. If it’s gratitude for a person, you might call them, email them or send a card. Other ways you might express your gratitude are by giving a hug, accepting help, saying thank-you more often, and involving family members in the practice. There are hundreds of ways. Pick one or two that work for you.
The practice of gratitude is a superpower. It is within our control and we all have access to it at any time. In the game of life, what are you grateful for?