#GratitudeGRAVY day 12
There are plenty of days, in this beautiful messy business of being human, where we might be feeling LESS than grateful for whatever is happening in our present or for what has happened in our past.
Gratitude is not a practice of "superficial happiology" - Robert Emmons, Ph.D
An effective gratitude practice does not require us all to become some kind of Stepford version of Miss Mary Sunshine. We are allowed to have bad days and not ride off into the sunset on our unicorn.
Heck, I had an entire decade of massive personal challenges in my business, in my marriage, in my everything, and there were plenty of days where I couldn’t muster up much gratitude.
A true gratitude practice is not one where we plaster a smile on our faces during the dark night of our soul.
And being happy 24/7 is not the goal. A meaningful, fulfilling and flourishing life IS the goal, but life is a full-contact sport. In order to have a meaningful one, you can’t bubble wrap yourself up to escape the challenges.
I can't say that I've ever felt really proud of myself for making it through an evening of relaxing on the couch while eating a tub of popcorn. I can say I am extremely proud of the metaphorical Everests that I’ve climbed.
Believe me, when I was climbing them, I would’ve much preferred the popcorn!
How do you find gratitude for the tough stuff?
I won’t pretend that it’s easy. Because it’s not. It took me a while to find gratitude for some of the experiences I went through in my previous career as a restauranteur, for the 7 years that my husband had surgeries or major health problems annually, or the 3 years I struggled with infertility, or the oh-so-fun seemingly never-ending years of the great recession.
But I am thankful to ALL of them for the one thing they gave me, resiliency.
Of course, they also gave me street smarts, strengths, patience, really crazy stories and a whole slew of other characteristics I’m happy about, but the one I’m most grateful for is probably the resiliency.
This is where gratitude comes in… because gratitude helps us to (as my mentor, Emiliya, says) bounce back better.
Gratitude is important because it helps us recover more easily from loss and trauma. It gets us out of the pit of despair when we’ve been in there past our expiration date.
Gratitude is the gateway drug to other positive emotions that help us widen our perspective to see the big picture, and find the opportunities amidst the obstacles.
Gratitude gives us psychological FLEXIBILITY. We realize that when things get tough, we can bend, not break.
In addition to increasing our resiliency, gratitude also helps us to feel good in the PRESENT.
Most of us spend our lives trying to feel good in the FUTURE.
When I lose the weight, find the mate, win the lottery, sell the business, get the promotion, retire, move, get pregnant, graduate, fill in the blank, then I’ll feel good.
Gratitude shows us that no matter what is happening, we can find some good right now, in this very moment.
Look for gratitude around the edges of the sh*t storm.
If you’re currently in the middle of something pretty challenging, I recommend looking for gratitude around the edges.
As I shared on day 7, I wrote thank you letters to all of the hospital staff members I came in contact in the midst of my husband’s motorcycle crisis. We were only 4 days into a situation that would take months to recover from, but I could find and feel a lot of gratitude in that moment for those hospital helpers.
I also was grateful to my sister for taking care of my kids, I was grateful to my niece for taking my girls to buy backpacks for school, grateful to my nephew for driving them around with his new driver's license (they thought that was so cool). I was grateful to my parents for making sure we had a place to stay while we were far from home. Grateful to my mom’s friend who roasted marshmallows with us at her house after a particularly bad day at the hospital. I was grateful to friends back home who left me sweet messages. I was grateful to my friend, Tara, for reminding me to look for the sunset.
I was grateful I had a support system that I could either vent about how much I hated motorcycles or cry to about how scared I was.
In this one shitty storm, there were umpteen opportunities to see where I was supported, loved, cared for and connected to others. I wasn’t grateful for the accident, but I was grateful for everything around the edges.
My friend, Tara, shared this gratitude prayer that a close friend of hers wrote. Both Tara and the writer, Steven Chance, had a child diagnosed with leukemia.
Steven wrote a prayer in the form of a gratitude saying that while they had prayed for his child’s body to be rid of cancer, he hadn’t yet prayed for the aspects of the cancer experience they wanted to keep: the tenderness they now had for each other, the patience, the appreciation of simple pleasures, tolerance of childhood mischief, learning to live now instead of waiting for later, focusing on each other’s needs, finding strength, focusing on what mattered most.
The full prayer is here and it’s a must-read (have tissues nearby). Steven’s words are a heart-achingly beautiful example of finding gratitude in the middle of the storm.
Gratitude Gravy Practice #12
Find gratitude after the storm
Dr. Emmons, our leading gratitude researcher, says that only being grateful for what’s good is incomplete. Remembering one’s sorrows, failures and other painful experiences is more beneficial to feeling grateful than is solely recalling our successes, so for today's gratitude gravy, we'll look for some gratitude after the storm.