BUT FIRST, GRATITUDE

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When ego gets ahead of our mindfulness, we can find ourselves in a place of anxiety, judgement, comparison, jealousy, irritability, and all-around frustration. It’s easy in this era of constant screen-time and social media feed-scrolling to get thrown into a funk and further away from our selves. Adhering to a busy schedule while balancing relationships and our careers can be overwhelming, especially around the Holidays. What I love about modern times more than anything is the rise of positive thinking and self-care in the media, social media, and all over the internet. Bloggers post about ways to consume healthier foods for not just our bodies but the environment. Clothing companies make graphic tee’s with positive quotes on them. The media has gotten to be more body-positive and focused in health and wellness rather than idolizing one specific body type. Fitness studios, workout apps, fitspo Instagram accounts, healthy recipe blogs, meditation apps; all things wellness have gotten to be everywhere. As inspiring and motivating this era is, it too can be daunting and intimidating when information is flooding out of every single sign, screen and clothing line. Too much of anything is just overwhelming after a while. The only thing that cannot be applied to this law, is gratitude.

Not the kind you see all over Instagram written in really cute free-hand script quotes.

Not the kind you have to post to prove.

Not the cute journal at Anthropologie that has the word artfully scripted on the front.

It’s the kind that you feel in your heart when you have a genuine moment with a stranger and for an instant, you realize that so many good people exist out there and you think “thank you” for that.

It’s the moment you realize that a quote appeared, or a song lyric, or unexpected words heard in passing that you needed to hear, and you think: “thank you” for that.

It’s when you realize that people show up for you in your life, important and irreplaceable people, when you need them the most and they never ask for anything in return.

It’s that sigh of relief when things worked out in ways that you couldn’t have planned or schemed, and you think “thank you” to whomever your higher power is, or maybe just to yourself.

Often times, gratitude is felt in the mundane and unimportant moments and before we know it, we’re on to the next moment. We move so fast in this life. Time is the fabric of our lives and like frantic sewing machines, we are so quick to move to the next big milestone. If only we knew that the moment held every piece of possible happiness we could ever ask for. The moment holds all of the power. Our lives are happening in the here and now. Not tomorrow, not last week. We plan feverishly for warmer weather, for when our pant size is smaller, for when the kids move out, when we retire, when we can buy that property… it goes on. And yet, all of our power and control only lies in the now.

Gratitude makes the present moment beautiful. Anxiety is put to rest with large doses of gratitude. Problems are dwarfed when gratitude is applied. MORE things to be grateful for start to pop up everywhere and multiply because your attention is turned to them. People around you become more lovable in your eyes because your attention is turned to their attributes instead of their shortcomings. Your perspectives about situations can shift just from choosing to see the good, just from practicing gratitude.

Ways to Practice Gratitude:

  • Be in the moment. This means, give yourself a break from all distractions. If social media and it’s constant (false) highlight reel cause distraction for you, unplug from it. You don’t have to post everything you experience. Some of the most precious moments and experiences await you, and your presence is all that is needed, not approval of others from posting.

  • Give presence to the present. Literally, be all “there” wherever you are. If you are cooking, actually focus on the tasks at hand. If you are in a meeting or at coffee with a friend, be present and stay present. Thoughts will pop up, temptations to pick up your phone will too. Avoid these and keep practicing.

  • Turn your self-talk (in your head) to talk that is more focused in gratitude and pointing out the good. For instance, most of us have the impulse to speak to ourselves like this: (did not make the yellow light, have to wait at a red light) “You should have went! You could have saved so much time. Now you’re stuck at a light and might even be late!”. The shift: “At least I’m safe and did not risk a ticket or even worse, an accident. I’m thankful my brakes work. I’ll get where I am going safely.”

  • Take responsibility for what you see around you! If you see mostly frustrations, set backs, annoyances and things that make you anxious, you need to change your lenses. Your perception needs a big SHIFT. Train yourself to see (naturally and foremost) the good. Example: “I’m so grateful that I have the ability to perform tasks on my own without anyone’s assistance. I am able to go wherever I want or need to, at my own will. I have access to transportation. I have family who love me. I know at least one person who I can confide in, and who I trust wholly”, etc.

  • In order to assist yourself in the last tip, and to make thinking positively come more naturally to you: Keep a Gratitude Journal. In my opinion, and in my experience, this changes my life. This is a private and personal journal you’ll keep, and daily you will fill it with a list of specifics that you are grateful for. I like to do this in the morning so it sets the stage for my day. An example looks like, “I am grateful today for Abigal. She is a reliable and giving person who I am learning from every day and whom I cherish my time with. I am so happy she’s in my life.” Be specific! It’s more than “I am grateful for my car.” Its: “I am grateful for my car which gets me wherever I need to go, reliably, and has plenty of room to carry me and my pup.” This shifts your thinking, and on a deeper level, it shifts your neuron paths so that they’re firing down different pathways; pathways of gratitude. If you’re someone who is anxious and jumps to the worst possible outcome in your brain, that means your neurons have adapted to those pathways whenever a trigger presents itself. You have to retrain yourself, one step at a time, before this becomes natural. The journal can help as a concrete exercise.

  • Talking to others in a grateful tone. Saying “thank you” often, and with presence, can make you instantly feel good. Writing thank-you cards, notes and messages to people for even the little things can make those around you feel appreciated, and makes you feel good. Replacing “I’m sorry” with “thank you”. For instance, instead of “I’m sorry I am late”, change it to “Thank you for waiting for me”. This shifts your tone into a grateful tone, instead of a sorry tone. The way you speak is just as important as how you think.

  • Think of what happened today that you’re grateful for, when you’re about to fall asleep. If you pray, or even if you don’t, you can take one moment right before you doze off to list what went right today in your head. This leaves the whole day off on a lighter, more positive note instead of thinking of your to-do list for tomorrow or any regrets.

Since this is the Holiday to be Thankful, I thought this post was more than appropriate, but much-needed. Gratitude changes everything. I hope you find lots of usefulness and some good tips to adopt here, and have a wonderful Holiday!

Much love, Alli