When you pause and think about “gratitude”,what courses through your heart, body and spirit?
Before you begin your journey reading with me today (and I am grateful you are here!), may I challenge you to hit your pause button? Mindfully allow yourself to wander into glorious awareness. Breathe in ease. Let go of all that does not serve you. Let your body, mind, and soul integrate and synchronize. Ask yourself a coaching powerful question, “What is going right with me right now?” Be open. Be willing to explore, notice, and embrace whatever pops up. Maybe a happy memory, a friend’s face, a tasty cup of tea, an accomplishment. No matter, as long as your positive emotions take center stage.
This blog was inspired by a friend.
Hope you enjoy his queries to me and my replies. Maybe you have asked yourself the same questions about gratitude. Enjoy!
In September, I smile. It is Mom’s month. The month she was born.
The month she winged her joyful journey to Heaven. Mom always wanted to fly, and with joy in my heart, I know she did. Four years ago now she took her last earthly breath. I do not mourn her passing. Rather, I celebrate her life with delightful gratitude. I treasure her life lessons. Her greatest legacy to me was gratitude. Appreciation. Savoring every little golden nugget of life. She exuded gratitude for every flower, every lick from her Scottie dog, Katie, and every bright color in her kaleidoscopic life. I bet she thanked the doctor when he delivered her!
God blessed me with my precious, unassuming, humble, and grateful Mom. She was unabashedly the greatest gift of my life. Memories of her etch the most meaningful wisps of wonder into every welcoming crevice of my heart and soul.
Recently a fellow psychologist and coach emailed me with an inquiry. A pondering. This astutely articulate man I admire, more knowledgeable about positive psychology than I, asked for my help.
He related he often feels gray, not chartreuse or turquoise as he would like. Not engaged. He commented he knew I was always grateful. Even when life knocked me over the head with a two by four, he said he could see my hot pink emerge. He asked me if I could help him learn to float a more colorfully resilient gratitude boat.
Did I have a formula? How did I accomplish gratitude every day? What was the wind that filled my sails?
What fascinating questions. I was honored and humbled, too. I stood at my standing desk grateful for his interesting queries. I took pause. I looked out the window and savored my garden. I knew the circus of colors would give me inspiration. They always do. Double that feeling when I eyeballed my neon spray-painted yard art and multi-colored spinning windsocks. Triple my delight when I glanced at the crystal prisms hanging in my living room windows. They blessed my welcoming walls with reflected kaleidoscopic rainbow stories of light. And gratitude ignited my well-being.
What else blew up my gratitude balloon?
The next blip on my radar screen was, “I AM a gratitude junkie!” How did that happen? When?”
I think I am one of the fortunate ones, as gratitude comes naturally to me. I also surmise I learned it well from Mom. Usually reticent Mom frequently verbalized her happiness over the smallest things and occurrences. I bet as a kid I learned to mirror her and was not even aware of it. Yeah, mirror neurons! Recent neuro-plasticity research enlightens that we share the actions of those close to us. “Monkey see monkey do” is right on. Lucky me! Mom might say, “Aren’t we lucky I can bring home National Geographic from the library. We can eyeball the world, and we don’t have to pay for the trip!”
My next gratitude awareness was bittersweet.
I remembered our dearly departed too soon positive psychology pioneer and mentor, Chris Peterson. At a Bethesda MentorCoach conference I attended in 2008, his reminder to “Thank everyone for everything” stuck to me like positivity super glue.
“Put a magnifying glass to life” was my next thought. Be open to life. Be willing. Take time to be AWARE. To notice. Take time to BE not just DO. Make it a daily habit to pause and to appreciate. Even the crappy stuff can motivate you to acknowledge and be grateful for the good in life.
Getting back to lovely Mom, she wore gratitude like a comfortable soft pink jogging suit. When I was growing up, we had little. We lived about 40′ from the famous East Coast famous family resort, Rehoboth Beach, DE. She would say, “We don’t have enough money to buy food at the beach, but isn’t it grand we have enough money for gas?”
She meant it. She always RE-FRAMED to look for ways to be gratefully happy. Till the day she died at 94, she used the word, “lucky” often. I bet every day.
Counting her blessings was like mother’s milk for Mom. It was a terrific lesson she gifted me. She empathetically reminded me at Christmas when I received only one main gift, “Think of the poor kids who get nothing.” She and my daddy made sure we gave any good toys or clothes we had to the “poor kids” at Christmas. Great reminder of Chris Peterson’s other legacy phrase, “Other People Matter.”
One year I was feeling a tad sorry for myself.
My friends had gotten eight or nine clothing outfits, record players, and a bevvy of other large gifts under their Christmas tree. My Christmas gift had not come. I was 17 and needed a raincoat to take to college. Bless her, she had special-ordered a light aqua green London Fog raincoat in my hard-to-find 2 petite size. When she realized it was not going to arrive for Christmas, she cut out a catalog photo of it and placed it in small box to surprise me. I can STILL remember opening that box. I was thrilled with it and grateful.
Still, I wondered why our gifts were minimal, as my parents worked night and day. Gosh, I sound greedy, and maybe I was, but it surely did motivate me.
Carefully, as I did not want to appear nor be ungrateful, I asked mom why our gifts were so few. I knew she worked three jobs and my daddy worked 18-hour days at the small town newspaper he owned. Mom said, “We don’t owe anyone a cent. We can walk downtown and hold our heads up high. We have no debt. We pay cash. We have enough. We are happy. Things do not matter, but people do. This is why you will go to college. You will have a career. You will make money. You have been babysitting since you were 13, and you work at the beach all summer. You save all your money. You are wise to do that. You will have money when you go to college. You will get a job while you are in college, too, and you will have spending money. Isn’t it great you got scholarships for academics and sports? Aren’t you lucky? You have opportunities so many did not.”
Wisdom personified, my Mom. A great motivator, too. “Count your blessings”, she would often say. “You don’t have far to look to find someone worse off than you.”
Growing up on a small farm, Mom wanted to be a teacher as her Mom had been. Sadly, there was no money for her to get an education. Finally, out of the blue, Mom’s only relative with money, her Breyer’s Ice Cream executive secretary aunt, lent her money. There was one huge hitch. She could not go to college to be a teacher. Nope. Her aunt gave her one option. She had to attend secretarial school, just as her aunt had done. Mom’s dreams went up in smoke.
Dauntless, Mom appreciatively focused on her new-found opportunity. There was more than one way to skin an education-driven cat. Mom gratefully attended secretarial school. She was thrilled to immediately land a good bank job. She proudly repaid her aunt with her first pay checks. “Lickety-split to debt-free!” Mom chortled to me.
Many years later, Mom finally went to “a real college” and got an associates degree. She began a new career as an executive secretary. She was the head secretary for the Superintendent of Schools in our hometown. Though she never became a teacher, she told me she loved her job. Quiet, unassuming and grateful for all life had to offer. That was Mom. I miss her everyday.
Back to my friend and his gratitude questions. How could he cultivate more gratitude? How could he learn to have it as his default mode of being?
I thanked him for his questions that exercised my own gratitude muscle. I took pause, searched my heart and realized gratitude for me was both innate and learned. Now, gratitude is routinely a MINDSET. A way of BEING. A happiness infusing HABIT that elicits positivity. I suggested he try these success strategies.
Maybe you will mine a few shiny gratitude diamonds, too:
1. Look for the good. Mindfully notice your environment.
Verbalize what is etching a smile upon your face. Share your joy with others. An inspiring win win. “Ask, “What went well or is going well?”
2. Compare yourself to those who have less.
Remembering the previous bad or difficult times in life helps remind you to savor the good now.
3. Mindfully use all your senses.
Savor them all. Be aware as one pops up. Focus on it and smile. For example, smelling a flower may take you back to a terrific grateful memory.
4. Pause to re-frame.
Ask yourself, “When I am blue, even though it is normal, what can I do? I remember I may choose to grow from any negative emotion. I ask myself, ‘What is going RIGHT in my life right now?'”(Shelly Gable)? “This day is a bummer, but tomorrow will be better!” Life is good. I have the ability and strengths within me to instill empowering beliefs. I know gratitude and curiosity contribute to my happiness. I harness them like a strong team of horses. I run a good race!”
5. Ask yourself, “What is my opportunity to learn and appreciate here?”
Or, “How might I harness this fertilizer to remind myself of the learning I am building for myself?” You remind yourself, “I am able to learn. I choose to dis-empower old stories I am telling myself that do not serve me. I opt to embrace loving-kindness. I am unique, creative, and whole. And way more than enough. I am a good person. I harness hope. I choose to respond to life and not react to it with negativity. I create a mantra, “I have choices!”
6. Surround yourself with upbeat people.
Ask yourself, “Who can I chum around with today who is optimistic and wears happiness most of the time?” Remember mirror neurons!
7. Find or make a “structure”, a small object to remind you life is good.
A token or piece of art that makes you smile. Gazing at it will help to cement your gratitude memory. I have a little red pony my dear friend gave me. It reminds me to keep trotting happily through life, even when I step in a pile of poop!
8. Watch your language.
See how many positive words you use. Perhaps, “gift, luck, blessings, fortunate, grateful.” Be watching for Barb Fredrickson’s 10 positive emotions (PE’s). I use these to remind me of Appreciative Inquiry’s “What you focus on grows!” Did you forget the 10 PE’s? Here you go: Gratitude (of course!), awe, joy, serenity, amusement, hope, pride, inspiration, and love.
9. Do something nice for someone, a random act of kindness (RAK).
Remind yourself how fortunate you are to be able to help another. Pick a week and do one RAK a day. Feel your gratitude habit expand.
10. Watch your positivity soar when you verbalize your gratitude.
Send or deliver someone a gratitude letter. Read it out loud to them if you can. Sharing bonds gratitude. Be ready for your
11. Draw a circle.
Put yourself in it. Next, draw nine other circles. In each of them, write 9 things you have in your life that make you feel grateful. Fun!
12. Practice gratitude once a week.
Lyubomirsky found that writing down what you were grateful for once a week worked better than writing more often. You don’t need to overdo writing a journal, either.
To me gratitude is a constant inspiration all day long. A power character strength I bolster with self-talk. “Oh that candle smells good. The coffee tastes great this morning. Goody, I get a massage today. Great my friend called. How lucky I don’t mind working hard to make enough money to have a condo in Puerto Vallarta from which to work. How wonderful my beloved husband, Ken, and I escape frigid WI winters. Aren’t I blessed to be able to help my adopted Nepal family? Wasn’t I lucky to have Mom to live with all her faculties until she was 94? How lucky I am to be able to work in my garden all summer and appreciate its splendor?” Again, notice your senses. Invite them to play a major role in your gratitude journey.
Hope this helps, my dear friend. When you are grey and ungrateful, think of me blasting out smiles of gratitude in every color of the largest crayon box. I hope some of these gratitude enhancing ideas tip your scales to optimism and radiant appreciative living.
Big hugs in rainbow hues and gratitude grins,