The greatest lesson I’ve learned this year is this: never underestimate the power of gratitude. Just like the dark, thick, gluten-free gravy I’m going to pour all over my gluten-free stuffing this weekend, gratitude won’t fix all my problems, but it will make me stupid happy. I’ll take a heaping helping of happy, please and thank you.
Don’t worry, I won’t push my agenda on you. Gratitude is not a cult. I don’t get commission for recruitment. There is no T-shirt, bumper sticker or membership fee. It’s not a quick-fix. It’s not a cure-all elixir. It cannot mend a broken heart or a broken muffler. It offers no guarantees. Gratitude won’t alter the outcome or raise your income. Sorry about your luck. But it is free and the return on the investment is a life changer.
Fortunately for me, there is no wrong or right way to practice it, no rules and regulations and zero math required. Brace yourself though, because gratitude does require commitment. That’s right, I said it: commitment. Wait. Come back. Hear me out. You cannot treat gratitude as a one-off. It’s habitual. Whether you journal (like me) or just take a mental note in the moments that come, or if you pay it forward with kindness, you can’t just decide to be grateful on Tuesday and not again for three weeks. That’s cheating. Gratitude and karma are good friends, so watch your back.
Gratitude is not the same as happiness. Let’s not confuse the two. I find the statement “happiness is a choice” plastered on social media all the time. It makes me angry. There are times when I can’t choose happy because anxiety sometimes makes happiness harder than breathing, but what gets me through those moments is the gratitude I feel for that breath, that pattern, each inhale and exhale, slow and steady, calming my beating heart until the panic subsides. I’m grateful it passes. I’m grateful that I remember that it will pass, because it always does. I have a heartbeat. How amazing is that? And I’m thankful for the friend who will listen later. Happiness isn’t a choice; gratitude is.
Pay attention to your life and instead of looking at the stuff that goes wrong in a day, look for the opposite. For a pessimistic, like yours truly, this is not easy. It’s work, but not hard work; more like the work it takes to make coffee in the morning. You know when you really wish someone else would do it but they won’t so you have no choice? But you have coffee in the container, so that’s a bonus. You have a coffee pot and a kitchen with electricity and clean drinking water. You get to drink all the coffee yourself. Chances are you slept in a warm bed in a place you call home (bonus points if it was someone else’s house, giggle). Hug that mug of coffee, smell the brew and just for a second, all is good. Gratitude.
It’s not so easy when the proverbial poop is hitting the fan that is switched on to turbo speed. I know that. Life has moments where you can’t find gratitude. Been there. So in those moments, don’t. Hold on. Keep breathing. There is no test you have to pass. When the smoke clears, I bet you’ll find someone or something to be thankful for.
Thank you sincerely for reading this column. I’m grateful.