Gratitude. A word so overused these days, it seems like it is in danger of losing its meaning as well as it’s profound impact. We are told by mindset gurus, mental health professionals, and our local coffee shop barista that gratitude is the key to happiness.
Can it really be that easy? Does the word and the practice of gratitude really hold that much power? The simple answer is yes, but the practice is more complex than it sounds.
For example, when our beloved pet dies and a friend says, “you were lucky to have had him this long”, it may be challenging to feel lucky, thankful, or grateful in that moment. A feeling of gratitude may be easier to access when enough time has passed, but in times of grief, it doesn’t offer immediate comfort.
That doesn’t mean we abandon the emotion altogether but understand that gratitude is more of a mindset shift that we intentionally achieve. So…timing matters.
I have come to view time differently as I grow up. As a little girl, I believed that living “happily every after” was the goal. Now I understand that happiness is an emotional state that I can choose. There will be moments of sadness, stretches of time spent grieving, and other periods of absolute glee!
I choose to be grateful in the moment for the small and gigantic moments of happiness. When the sun is shining, when things go my way, or I get the Wordle in two guesses.
Feeling a sense of gratitude as I go about my day provides me with energy, curiosity, and an expectation that things will get better. Thinking about what I accomplished at the end of the day (even if it’s just a small step toward a goal or that I managed to finally change a light bulb in my bathroom) helps me to sleep better and feel more motivated in the morning.
Does this always work? Of course not! But a lack of success doesn’t deter me – if it works some of the time or most of the time, that’s enough for me.
Getting into a conscious emotional state of positivity, gratitude, and overall glass-half-fullness takes practice until it becomes a habit. This is where the notion of “practice” becomes real. It requires a daily focus of filling your mind with images, memories, experiences that make you appreciate where you are and who you are and who you’re with.
Jot it down, say it out loud, inject some creativity into conjuring up a feeling of gratitude and contentment whenever possible. I find that feeling positive as my default setting helps make the challenging times more manageable. I know I can always find my way back to feeling grateful.
Some day I will have to say good-bye to my cats. In the meantime, I feel lucky to have them and I say “thank you” out loud to them often. Like everything else I say, they think I am offering food. Now all three of us are feeling grateful!
Wishing you moments of pure joy… ?