Why Being Grateful Matters.
Hate your life? Welcome to humanity. Most of us at one point or another have hated our lives. Have tried to drown ourselves in a pool of self-pity.Have found ourselves bitchin’ endlessly to anyone who will listen about how much our life sucks. I know you get what I’m sayin’ and can relate. Your job sucks, you have no money, you’re sick of being broke, your relationships are hanging on by a thread; life in general seems like an ocean of quicksand. I get it. I was there.
In 2006 while pregnant with my twins, I found myself in this destructive hell-hole. Those were black days. I remember stressing endlessly about finances, as I packed up our home that had just been foreclosed on. I felt defeated and broken, having spent years trying to establish a respectable life for my then husband and son. It seemed like the world was dead-ending as it all got stripped away. Day and night I obsessed about our problems. The lack of money, and the stress of providing for a family with more on the way, left me utterly hopeless.
It seemed like the more I obsessed about how bad shit was the worse it got. Almost daily. It felt like standing under an avalanche and not even having the energy to get out of the way. Hopelessness is a dangerous thing. Bitchin’ about our issues and problems is equally as dangerous. That’s what had led to my feeling of hopelessness, the more I verbalized my problems, the worse they became.
It’s crazy how much power our words, and the thoughts that lead up to those words, hold. They literally predict and control our future. If you don’t believe me, take a few minutes to think about all the things you don’t like about your life in this moment. What are they? List them out. When you’re finished, ask yourself this question: Have they gotten worse over time? When they started going sideways can you recall stressing about them? Obsessing until you felt physically ill at times? Did you talk about those problems with your friends and family? At this moment, are those problems or issues at the top of your list, ones that occupy the majority of your mind space? If you answered yes to any of those questions then you are in that downward, self-fulfilling prophesy, spiral. What you’ve thought about, and talked about has become your daily reality.
Think on that a minute.
By complaining about your problems, verbalizing them, and allowing your feelings associated with those thoughts and words two change your mood, or even make you physically ill, you have actually made those problems bigger. Instead of solving them, you’ve made them much worse.When I first learned of this concept back in 2006, it took a long time for it to really sink in. The fact that I was the one making my problems worse was not something I was ready to accept any type of
responsibility for. I’d lived my life up to that point with the philosophy that I was just terribly unlucky and that no matter how hard I tried, nothing good would ever come my way. I believe that, completely. And (total shocker), that’s exactly how my life was playing out. Totally unlucky. Super crappy.
Before we lost our home, I lost a baby. After we lost our home, we were forced to file bankruptcy. It was like the hits were always lined up and coming; ninety mile an hour fast balls, one after the other. It’s all I’d ever known. I was so used to struggling, to being poor, that it was my normal. I’d lived like that my entire life. It’s the design I’d unwittingly laid out for
my life somewhere along the way, and I was fulfilling my destiny to a tee.
I felt there was nothing in my life to be thankful for. It all just seemed like crap. I would love to sit here and say, that when that light went on, I immediately began doing the work to turn my life around. But sadly no. I didn’t have the strength yet. Instead I made a Vision Board and tucked it under my bed so my husband wouldn’t see it and make fun of it. I tried to
ignore the little voice in the back of my head, the one holding the flashlight showing me an end to the darkness. I wanted to forget that there might be a pretty, shiny world out there.
And then in 2009 my world fell the fuck apart. My twins were a year old, my son was five, and my husband of eight years was stumbling out of the shower trying to explain how the text I’d just read was “a joke”.And not sent from his lover
wondering when he’d be home. That was the day that changed my life forever.
For some reason, not fully understood even by me, instead of sinking further into the “my life sucks, nothing good ever happens to me” black ocean I’d been swimming in the past few years, something in me chose to fight. I can only credit my children for giving me reason to rise up and want to get my life together, for giving me the motivation, and the lack of any other option. It’s funny how when you make up your mind to succeed and realize there are no alternatives, how you can actually do just that.
What was the thing that slowly began to change my life? Gratitude.
I had nothing when he left. No job, no income, I couldn’t stay in the home we were renting even one moth without his income. I had no formula or diapers, no bank account or car in my name… nothing. But oddly enough, that was the day I learned the meaning of the word gratitude. I learned that when my whole life was collapsing around me, I still had something
to be thankful for, my babies and I were still together. I knew that as long as the four of us were together we would make it. Somehow we’d survive. I’d make it happen. And so every day, in those early black weeks, I sent up a little gratitude prayer, for every tiny little thing I could think of.
It suddenly became clear how I’d manifested all the bad in my life up to that point, and realizing how powerful that truth is, I wasn’t about to keep that pattern going in my new life. At all costs I was going to change my future results, and since I’d always been used to bitching about my life, the opposite of that was to be thankful for it… so that’s what I was determined to be.
There’s a great motto I use
“If you’re not grateful for what you have, you’ll never get more to be grateful for”. I took that quote to heart and
repeated it daily. I refused to talk about the things that scared me. I refused to bitch about how bad things in reality were; instead I chose to focus on what, in that moment, I could be thankful for. I refused to obsess over the lack of money, or
the things I couldn’t control. I could control my attitude, and my thoughts, and in the beginning, that’s all that mattered.
That has been a major key to my success. It’s turned my mindset around completely, which has changed my outcomes. It’s what gets me through the tough times, even still. It’s how I teach my children to react to their world, and how I
chose copiously to live, day in and day out. I chose to relish even the smallest “wins” or blessings. I celebrate every single one; those keep my mind focused and positive and keep the blessings and wins coming.
My Easy Guide to Being Grateful:
- Make a list of every single thing you can possibly think of, that you are thankful for in this moment, on this day. List even the things you take for granted, like having a place to call home, heat and electricity, food to eat etc. List it all.
- Chose five items on your list you are the most grateful for, and repeat them over and over to yourself. Really think
about each one.
- Visualize your life without each one of those things on your list. One at a time. Picture your life without your family and friends. Without a bed to sleep in at night and food to eat. Then go back to your “grateful thoughts” about each one. How did that make you feel? Do you legitimately feel grateful for them now? Have you ever really taken the time to imagine your life without a place to live? Or the basic necessities of life? Most of us have never done that, we take it for granted and think the world is ending because we can’t afford to pay our cable bill. Let me reassure you, the sun will still rise even if your cable is shut off for non-payment (I speak from experience here).
- Post your list where you can see it every day. Maybe on your bathroom mirror so you can read over it while getting ready in the morning.
- Come up with some mantras around your gratitude list that you can draw on anytime your mind wants to go into “bitch mode”. For example one of mine is: “I am beautiful, I am healthy, I have more than enough to provide for my family”.
That mantra for me combats the topics I’d normally want to “bitch about” aka “I feel ugly” etc… gratitude mantras help keep you focused. Say them ten times over and over in your head whenever your thoughts start making a run for
the quicksand. A good mantra will stop them in their tracks every time!
The purpose of gratitude is to make us aware and present in our lives. To teach us not to take anything for granted. It’s so easy to get caught up in our daily life, and forget all the good things that are part of our environment. Gratitude lets you reconnect with all of that, keeps you present in the moment and focused on your goal.
As corny as it sounds, start every day with the question: What am I grateful for today? See, step one to changing your life wasn’t that painful right? Common sense, you can totally do this!