A friend once told me that she wouldn’t feel guilty about behaviors that she knew she wouldn’t stop; I got to a point on my spiritual journey where I settled on something similar:
I wouldn’t feel anxious for not doing behaviors that I knew I wouldn’t sustain.
Basically, I was done with freaking out about not actively practicing gratitude, which the likes of Oprah and friends who seemingly enjoy their lives say makes all the difference in making a difference in one’s life.
To stop the freak outs, it became clear that I needed to do one of two things: practice gratitude consistently or make peace with blowing it off.
But that choice wasn’t an easy one.
On one hand, I believed Oprah and her posse. On the other hand, gratitude journaling just wasn’t my thing—my attempts defeated the point because I’d end up feeling more annoyed about doing something by rote every day than feeling thankful for things in my life.
And stuck staring at those hands is where I stayed for too long, as if listing things I’m thankful for is the only way to say thank you to God/the universe.
In my recent T is for Thank You post, I wrote that I had more to say about practicing gratitude, and here’s where I’m following through. Like I said before, singing is a way of saying thank you, but singing can be especially hard when we’re hurting, so I bought a book for other ideas.
Maybe I’m just ornery, but the exercises in the book—Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity—didn’t do it for me either. But reading the book had been perfect: it helped me see that I’d been practicing gratitude without knowing it.
From what I understood…
If you strive to use your gifts, you are, in effect, saying thank you for those gifts.
Aww hell, I thought as I read, then I’m not so bad—not only did I put much effort into honing my talents, like spending hours upon hours on improving my writing, I’d endured major tough times trying to put my talents to better use.
My problem wasn’t ingratitude per se, but failing to see how I’d been thankful all along.
When I revel in seeing cardinals—impossibly cute with red mohawks or orange beaks—I am, in effect, saying “thank you God” for these creatures.
When I pack my plate with kale and pass on overindulging (regularly) on plantain chips and brownies, I am, in effect, saying “thank you God” for my body.
New Thought minister Michael Bernard Beckwith says…
Gratitude is how we let new things into our lives.
If that’s something you’d like to do, a quick Google search of “gratitude science” will lead you to any number of websites offering tools to help. I might get to those sites one day, but for now I’m looking forward to new bursts of wellbeing by looking backward:
Just as I revel in cardinals and healthy(ish) eating to express gratitude for gifts in my life, I’m sure I do other things that equally say, “thank you.”
BUT, they’re not at the forefront of my mind.
So…my gratitude practice for now will be finding them. And once I do, I’ll probably jot them down from time to time ‘cause it turns out that occasional gratitude journaling (1-2 times a week) boost happiness better than doing it more frequently.
Well, that’s what the scientists say, anyway.