It’s November, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I think it is the perfect time to reflect and think about the obvious topic, gratitude. While I don’t like to be so expected, I really don’t think we can exhaust this topic. Gratitude can pull you out of a spiral down, it can give you a physiological boost, and it is an easy way to make someone else you care about feel loved.
There are occasions when I think the reminder of gratitude should be kicked to the curb. When a friend is struggling, regardless of why it’s best not to say to them, You should be grateful, at least you have x, y, or z. The unspoken here, how you feel doesn’t matter. Or, the statement that really heats me up every time I hear it after someone shares something that they are struggling with they say, "But, this is a first-world problem." While that may be true, it also means, how I feel doesn’t matter (we won’t get into the label of “first-world”). To me, this is the opposite of gratitude. From what I’ve learned over the years, one cannot feel or show gratitude and deny their feelings. It’s a package deal.
I am not a feel sorry for myself kind of gal, but I’ve learned over the years that when I am struggling with something and feel sad about it, I have to acknowledge it or it doesn’t go away. I like to have a little conversation with myself – I ask why it makes me feel sad; I say to myself, I get it, and then I take a breath to clear my head and explore the gratitude I can find around it. After practicing this a few times I realized there is a physiological shift in my body. I can literally feel it alter my energy, my face relaxes, and I suddenly take a deep breath. It’s like a little ray of sunshine peeking through the clouds. I may still have the same feelings of sadness or annoyance, but I feel lighter, brighter and I can let go of the gripping it has on my body. Rather than spiraling down into the darkness, I am looking up at the little ray of sunshine to begin to move through it.
The exploration of gratitude is definitely a game. You can try it in all sorts of situations to see how it makes you feel. Gratitude doesn’t hurt anyone!
Recently, I was with a friend who had just remarried, bought a big fancy house, started a new job, and was planning a trip to Italy–sounds surreal, right?! While we were walking she was telling me all about her truly fabulous life, how happy she was to be in love and in a job she worked hard to get, and as I stood at her door to say goodbye she looked like a beautiful woman in a lifestyle magazine spread. I won’t deny, I thought, "Whoa! I want her life!" And, at the same time, I couldn't be happier for her. At that moment I let myself breathe and rather than walk away wondering how I was going to get some of that, I looked at her and with feelings of gratitude in my heart, and I told her how happy I was for her. She looked back at me and said, "Thank you so much, I know you are and I can really feel it, it means so much to me that I can share my happiness with you." Talk about an energy lift! I realized how rarely someone hears our gratitude for their life's happenings and how it creates an electric connection between you when you can truly be happy for someone else.
If you are anxious about the upcoming holidays, what’s happening at work, or feeling a bit envious – take a deep breath and think of one thing you are grateful for in relation to whatever’s gnawing at your mind. Notice how easy it is to take the next breath and how good it feels to focus your time and attention on the things you appreciate.