This month’s theme is Gratitude and Appreciation
This month, I’ve been exploring the concept of gratitude, of having a practice of gratitude, which for me looks like writing down three things I’m grateful for each evening.
Today, I want to focus a bit on fact that this practice doesn’t suddenly make life seem perfect and wonderful. This isn’t an exercise in putting on a permanent pair of rose-colored glasses, it’s not an excuse to look away from everything I’m not grateful for, everything that’s challenging and wrong with the world, everything that makes it hard sometimes to find those three small gratitudes each day.
Yes, sometimes this gratitude practice can be a stark contrast with the world outside of those three gratitudes.
That may seem counter-productive, like it’s making the bad seem worse by comparison. But I’ll argue that putting the bad in the context of good makes it easier not to despair. Our brains are wired to focus on the bad—we know what’s bad, we gripe about it, we butt our heads up against it.
The gratitude softens some of that striving. But we have to tell ourselves to look for the good, because it’s not what we’re wired for. When we can find some good even among the bad, it stops the cycle of gnashing our teeth over a problem. It reminds us that there’s a wider world, that our problems are not what the earth revolves around. Yes, our problems are important, but just imagine how it feels to have a moment of clarity, a moment to take a breath, to slow down the mind, enough to think, okay, what really is the problem here, and how do I really want to solve it?
No, gratitude doesn’t make problems go away, but I think it dilutes them just a little bit. Not their importance, but their weight. Gratitude makes me remember that the problems are not all there is. And I can move outside the problem, into that space of gratitude, and consider the problem from a different angle. I can step outside the storm, remind myself that there is a world outside the storm, which is impossible to do if I’m standing in the middle of the storm.
I can then start to see new ways of thinking about the problem. I can be curious. I can start to clarify what else I want, or what I’m not super stoked about, not because I’m denying myself gratitude (I’d be grateful if only X was different) but because I’m able to see the changes I want to make in the context of a full life, one full of the problem and the stuff I’m grateful for.
Gratitude is not something to be earned by solving a problem. It is something we all deserve and something we can give to ourselves even when everything seems terrible. It’s not a denial to our own problems or the world’s problems, but the key to being able to solve them.
There will be a new theme in February—there’s a hint here but stay tuned!
How do you practice gratitude and appreciation in your day-to-day life? Comment below or on my Facebook page.