First off, I must say this one is daunting for me for a few reasons.
- The power of being grateful is well documented, from self-help sections in bookshops and Amazon; clinical studies in Psychology and Mental Health journals; and all over the internet. It’s a plethora of sources and pathways for you to find ways to practice ways of being more grateful in our day to day lives.
- There is an inherent optimism in my psyche so finding things to be grateful for is sometimes very easy to do. Because of that fundamentally positive outlook, I know that connecting with you fine people (which is what I always work to do) may be more difficult if you are of a more cynical, pessimistic or pragmatic personality.
- Despite the previous point, I’m not always very good at practicing gratitude in my own life. I’ll be honest, I get stuck in ruts, feeling like everything is falling apart and there is nothing worth looking forward to. So, if I struggle with It how can I possibly help you guys? Well it’s for that reason I finally decided to sit down and write this piece. This is what I can bring to the discussion, the experience of an optimist who still struggles with being thankful.
With that little disclaimer out of the way, let me make a couple of thing clear. No this won’t be a list of 10 things to be grateful for, there are plenty of those floating around, we don’t need another. All I want is to share a couple of experiences moments from my life over the last few weeks that made me pause and give thanks. Side note here, when I say things like “giving thanks” or “blessed” etc. I’m not necessarily referencing any particular deity. I have my own faith, which is none of your business, and you may or may not have your own, which is none of my business. I may do a post on faith in the future (foreshadowing) but that is not a discussion for today.
OK back to gratitude.
I want you to picture this scene for me… You’re sitting on the side of a hill by the ocean. The sun is shining, a light breeze at your back, looking down the soft slope to the water and the gulls swooping and diving. To your left are two of your closest friends, making fun of each other and laughing. To your right is your significant other, a person that can fill your earth with joy with the slightest smile. In front of you is your favourite meal from a great local cafe. The rest of the day is yours to do with whatever you like.
Feeling good? Pretty spectacular, right? If you judged a life in general by that one afternoon, how would you describe it? Blessed? Lucky? Perfect even?
Now picture this; You’re unemployed. You’re getting evicted from your house. You’ve found out some friends have betrayed your confidence. You’re feeling confused, lonely, worthless, hitting rock-bottom. Having trouble looking at yourself in the mirror because to some of the decisions that you’ve made and the consequences of those decisions have had on other people.
How would you judge that life? Pretty crappy, am I right?
Here’s the thing. Both of those moments, those small snapshots in time, they belong to the same person. Those are both snapshots of my life. They weren’t years apart, they weren’t “then versus now”, they were within days of each other. This was one of the most difficult periods of my life. A time where I walked a knife edge between unhealthy, self-destructive behaviours and a productive and beneficial path.
You want to know what got me through? Yup a bit obvious if you have read this far I know, but gratitude. Gratitude for the moments like the first described. Being thankful for time spent with my children, my family, my friends and my partner.
Is it easy? No, of course not. We all have days when nothing seems to go right. Times where it feels like we are at our lowest and there seems like nothing that can pull us back up. But it is in these times that focusing on these little bright sparks is the most important. Whether it is something as seemingly insignificant as a hot shower or a good cup of coffee, or something more emotionally fulfilling like a hug from your kids or an “I love you” from a special someone. These are the things to hold onto, little footholds to grasp as you climb out of the hole and back into the light. So, please take some time today, even if you’re feeling good, to look around at your life and find something to be grateful for. I think you’ll be surprised as to how much it will help.
So, as Always
Get Up, Get Out and Get Awesome
And Practice being grateful for even the smallest things.