What’s the big deal about gratitude?
I’m exhausted. Head-achy exhausted. And it’s not just because I’m up at 5:30am to get The Boy to school for an all-day field trip; it’s not because of the thought of his 8-10pm baseball game tonight; it’s because we’re into Week Four of single parenting. These three precious grandchildren. I want to be their grandma and not their parent.
“Who left this dried-up bowl of oatmeal here? Do I look like the maid?”
“What are you still doing up?!”
“What are you still doing in bed?!”
“Find a shovel and clean up this dog poop.”
“Get back here and finish your homework.”
“If I have to stop this van, I’m going to knock a couple of heads together.” (Not that I would really do that, but I like to keep them wondering.)
Sisterly love, or the beginnings of a choke hold? Hmmm.
I’ve sent various children to their various rooms. Taken away privileges. And confiscated electronic devices. None of which makes me the Most Popular Adult in their lives. I want to go back to being their grandma. I want The Parents to be the bad guys. Wah.
And then I read this from Melody Beattie. About gratitude:
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.
This is something cancer taught us. To intentionally focus on the things for which we were grateful. I need this fresh reminder. Here. Today. In the middle of this physical and mental exhaustion.
Right off the bat, I can think of 5 really great reasons to immerse ourselves in gratitude:
1. A change of focus. Instead of centering on the things we don’t have or focusing on the hard stuff, gratitude reminds us of all the good we have going on in our lives.
2. Contentment. Once we bring our focus back to the positive, the natural by-product is contentment – that state of being happy and satisfied. Not that we don’t continue working toward our life’s dreams, but we find the balance of being content and grateful until more unfolds.
3. Better health. A growing body of research concludes that giving thanks is good for your psychological, emotional and physical well-being. According to a 2010 Wall Street Journal article, adults who frequently feel grateful “have more energy, more optimism … and more happiness than those who do not.”
4. Deeper compassion. We tend to compare what we have with those who have more. Rarely do we compare our lives with, say, someone in a war-torn country. Or with the woman who can’t keep her children because she can’t feed them. Or someone living in a wheelchair. When we’re making the correct comparisons, it can lead us toward more compassion for those who truly struggle.
5. Better social connections. If we’re completely honest, most of us don’t enjoy hanging around whiny, discontent people. If this describes you, then how far do you think your negative attitude will take you in your career? With family relationships? In building friendships? Think about it.
I would encourage you to keep a gratitude list. Not just in your head, but on paper or computer. Add to it regularly. Pay attention. Dig deep. Be specific.
From my list this morning:
5:30am clouds tinged with pink
At least four different bird sounds coming in through open windows
This comforting cup of homemade Chai tea
My view from the dining table – ancient green trees towering over lovely older homes with inviting front porches
Making priceless memories with these grandkidlets