The Weight of the World
Like many people worldwide, I find my mental health waning as this year drags on. There are days I don’t have the energy, or even the desire, to get out of bed. A few months ago, I woke up feeling emotionally heavy. It was a beautiful summer day; the sun was bright, and the air was warm. I had a roof over my head, food in my pantry, and I was alive to spend another day with my children. It should’ve been a perfect day by all accounts, so why didn’t it feel that way? The emotional weight I woke with was anchoring me down. I burst into tears and eventually flow blown sobbing, yet I had no idea why.
My youngest son happened to venture into the room during my mystery meltdown and was understandably concerned. He crawled into bed and gave me what I can only assume was the biggest hug ever given by a ten-year-old. He looked right at me and said something I’ve told him countless times. He said, I don’t know why you are crying, but I am here if you want to talk through it.
That was when the weight lifted, and I had a moment of clarity. I recognized I had to be stronger than the anchor weighing me down. For starters, I raised this exceptional, empathetic child sitting next to me. I was proud to call him my son. I wanted to wake up every day feeling the peace and calmness that just came over me — the overwhelming feeling of gratitude.
An Attitude of Gratitude
I hugged my son back and thanked him for being supportive. I told him I was grateful he was my son. He asked me to name two other things I was thankful for, to which I said our house and our family. When I asked him to name three things, he replied with;
- His parents
- His trampoline
I hugged him and laughed, but his answers got me thinking. What if I adopted his childlike gratitude? Would it be that silly to be honestly thankful for pizza? I forced myself to recognize the smallest things throughout the day that made me happy. I looked for something that brought a feeling of calm, peace, or laughter. I went to bed that night with a completely different outlook than I had woke up with that morning.
The One Thing
I challenged myself to look for the small and silly things I was thankful for every day for an entire week. When I told my family about the plan, they decided to join me in the challenge. We set up a few ground rules:
- Every night, each of us would name five things we were grateful for that day.
- We weren’t allowed to list obvious things; family, health, jobs, or our house. Anything we were all grateful for every day was off-limits.
- No repeating. Once someone stated gratitude for something, none of us were allowed to express the same idea- on the same day or any other.
That was it. I tossed a small idea out to my family, thinking it would last a week at most. This year has been so unpredictable that I figured we could all use a boot in our positive thinking. Coming up with five things you are grateful for throughout the day seems pretty straightforward, right? That’s what we all thought as well.
We realized rather quickly that this was far more difficult than it sounds. We also quickly learned how much happier we felt overall. The three rules we set in place seemed arbitrary in the beginning, but they are so important. We had to think and look for small moments of gratitude throughout the day. Giving us something positive to focus on was a boost we all needed. Two months later, we are continuing our daily lists.
I challenge you to try this one thing every day for one week. As you fall asleep at night, reflect on your day, and find five small things that filled you with gratitude. Do this again the next night-(remember, no repeating!) and the night after that. You will soon realize that you are starting to look for reasons to be grateful throughout the day. When you actively seek reasons to be thankful, you become more grateful for what comes your way. As you become more grateful, you realize you are thankful for living a life that makes you feel alive and happy.
Being alive and happy- that is something to be thankful for.