The holidays are here. This is the time of year when we’re reminded to be kind and good and most of all, grateful.
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably like most of us; you have a lot to be grateful for. We hear all the time about the power of gratitude and how it contributes to a happy, healthy and purposeful life. But realistically, if you’re like me, you probably spend far more time complaining about what you don’t have and what’s not right, than you do about what you do have and what’s going well.
So why is that? Why is it so hard to stay in a conscious state of gratefulness about everything that’s good in our lives? Why is it so hard to consistently show public gratitude, to speak graciously of our blessings and openly remind ourselves that really when you think about it, all is well? Everything may not be as you would want and it may not in fact even be good by all accounts, but you have the heart, mind and body to work on it and it’s probably going to be ok. So again, why is it so hard to be grateful?
I spent some time thinking about this and here’s what I discovered and what I suggest we do about it:
1. Time & Habit:
We’re so busy! We got our morning routines, lists, schedules, meetings, appointments etc. Our daily habits are grounded in whatever it takes to get us from one moment to the next. We get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner with a hundred million things in between with “time to be grateful” nowhere to be found. And do it all over again the next day and our children likewise. And rarely do we consciously take the time to say, you know what, this day was pretty great. We’re not bad people but we’ve simply forgotten to make time to be grateful.
Create natural gratitude triggers. These are things that you do naturally during the day that can remind you to do something else. For example, when your feet touch the floor when you get out of bed in the morning, say thank you…be grateful! When you sit down to eat, say thank you. When you arrive at a destination, say “thank you”. When you pay a bill, say “thank you.” When you pay for your groceries, say “thank you.” I think you get the idea. Before you know it, this practice will become a habit, one you will soon be grateful for!
Family Gratitude Time: When I was a little girl, my family would have prayer service at home. And at the end of service, Mama would have each of us stand up and say what we were grateful to God for. It was called testifying. This was our least favorite part. But overtime, we got used to sitting there reflecting on the day; trying to come up with things to be grateful for so we’d have something to say when it was our turn. Today, I’m grateful for this!
So, create a consistent time around the dinner table, on the way home or make up some other creative way to reflect on the good of the day as a family. Make it a habit like any other good thing that you do every day. Remember, everyone has to take a turn!
2. Complaining is contagious
Have you ever found yourself participating in a major complaint fest, personally or professionally? Where everyone around you is unhappy or dissatisfied about something and you’ve found yourself gathered together complaining. First, one person starts, then another, then another and there we are all together, one in our misery! The challenge with this is that if the moment isn’t ending with some type plan or resolution to fix whatever the problem is, then it’s just an unhealthy waste of valuable time and it makes you look and feel small, unproductive and of course ungrateful.
Walk away, offer a solution to the problem or a reason to be grateful: When you find yourself about to become a part of a complaining session, slowly but intently step away from the conversation. If you have to, just say you have to go or you have something you gotta do. If this is too uncomfortable or not possible, just decide not to participate or offer a solution. Or even better, you can present a reason to be grateful for it all. But be prepared to get some strange looks and maybe even some push back because when complainers want to complain, they want to complain!!
3. You’re actually an ungrateful person.
It’s ok, well… not really but I understand. Sometimes life can be so riddled with challenges, it can be overwhelming and it can seem like there is no room or reason for gratefulness.
Zoom In. If this is you, then odds are, you’re probably more unhappy than you are ungrateful. We tend to feel most unhappy when we are constantly focused on the massiveness of the big picture and thinking much too far ahead. Instead, zoom in. Focus on one small piece of the challenge at a time. When you can minimize the scope of a challenge, then you can minimize the steps that you need to take to complete one small thing first. Continue your approach in this way and you’ll soon find that there is plenty of room and reason to be grateful.
4. You’ve become complacent
Life’s been good or maybe just ok. Whatever the case, you’re satisfied; no reason for bells or whistles or reason to be particularly grateful. It is what it is. And besides you’re not sure to who or what you’re supposed to be grateful to! I mean, you’re the one working hard every day paying the bills and making it happen. There’s no fairy coming down from nowhere doing it for you.
Rediscover AWEsomeness. Go to the ocean, visit the mountains, watch a sunrise or stare at the moon and the stars. Breathe, take it all in. If you do it right, the AWEsomeness of it all will remind you of your place in the universe and that it is love and gratitude that sustain us.
5. You’ve been spared.
Have you ever watched the news and seen someone after a devastating storm out scavenging outside of what use to be their home? They’re looking for anything…a wedding picture, a toy, something, that reminds them of what they had. And when they find it, you see this expression of immense gratitude and joy on their faces, over this one simple thing which now means so much. Most of us will never know what that’s like.
Even though we will all experience loss and disappointment in our life, most of us have been and will be spared life’s most devastating experiences like the tragic and immediate loss of a loved one or the sudden and dramatic loss of everything we own. And because of this we can take for granted what is today, constant and in place.
It’s all a gift. Volunteer or donate regularly to organizations that assist those who have experienced great and overwhelming loss. This will remind you that every day and all that it contains is a gift. Be grateful for it and say thank you!