I want to start off by saying:
It’s only my second thanksgiving ever in the US, but I guess I caught the gratitude bug (on top of a cold that I’m resting from on my couch as I write).
For the last couple years, I have taken the habit of expressing gratitude upon waking up. I do my best every morning when I wake up to have my first thought be about gratitude. I open my eyes, look by the window at another Californian sunny day and before I start thinking about the day ahead or anything else, I take the time to name 4-5 things I’m grateful about: a friend, my family, my apartment, another friend, this annoying person that makes me learn so much about myself,...
Does that mean that suddenly everything I ever wanted dropped on my lap? Not really. Was I suddenly prancing around my neighborhood whistling while throwing gold coins at poor kids? Nope. Did I start feeling more satisfied with my life? Yes!
Just like exercising, it has to be a regular thing if we want it to be a long-term gain. Because, as humans, we tend to forget. If you’re reading this, you are richer and more educated than 99% of the people on earth. You live in a country where you are free to go wherever you’d like, love whoever you want, say whatever you want (I know this one can be a bummer with the Donald Trumps of the world), etc. You’ve heard that before, but it doesn’t actually help. It helps for a second, then you forget. Unless you keep reminding yourself.
Scientists have found a while ago that happiness is linked to higher level of gratitude and appreciation. And what they have discovered more recently is that it goes the other way around also: more gratitude leads to higher levels of happiness and satisfaction.
BUT WATCH OUT! Because there is a trap! I’m saying this because I was doing it all wrong when I first started. And even though gratitude always works and I was reaping the benefits of that, I was also pressuring myself way too much.
For those who know me personally, you know that I tend to go a little extreme when I start something…and God, did that get me into trouble…But that’s another story.
Anyhow, I started doing my gratitude practice and it was all working great. So I decided it would be much better if I was grateful for everything. My friend is yelling at me? I’m so grateful for the lesson. I get sick? I’m so grateful to be able to rest. Can’t find parking? I’m grateful for the extra walk.
Except that wasn’t working.
On the surface it was working, but on the inside something started to build up. Because I was putting so much pressure on myself to be grateful for everything, to like everything. And felt guilty when I wasn’t. Really guilty. All of a sudden, there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t grateful for everything!
And that’s not the point! The point is:
We don’t have to like everything in our life. We don’t even have to like how we feel.
Expressing gratitude for what we like is very different from thinking something is wrong with us if we’re not grateful for everything in our life. Because we all have fucked-up things in our life. We all get fired, dumped, yelled at, ignored and betrayed. And no, you don’t have to force yourself to be grateful for that. You don’t have to like it!
I know, it’s ground-breaking stuff right there! Ha!
But it’s easy to forget we have the right to be human and NOT set up unrealistic expectations for ourselves. It’s easy to start thinking that the way our life looks on Facebook should become our real life, all heart and sparkles and inspirational memes.
Today, I feel grateful for the permission to feel exactly how I feel. And it being okay.
And I feel grateful to get to share with you.
Happy Thanksgiving! (or happy Thursday for the rest of the world!)