Our Executive Director reached out to me, asking if I could write a blog post around Thanksgiving. I threw back the idea, how about one entitled, “Just Another Gratitude Post?” I thought it was slightly original, giving a take on gratitude but also leaning into the fact that you probably see lots of the same types of articles this time of year. She brought me back to the ground when her reply was, “I think that was the exact same title you used last year.” Sure enough, she was right! I guess we know how creative I am. Joke is on her though, because now here we are, “Year 2: Just Another Gratitude Post.” Could someone remind me next year to do part 3? I think at that point it becomes a tradition.
Last year, I emphasized the simplicity of gratitude. My main push was to just do it - practice being grateful. We know there is immense upside. To a certain extent, we know the formula, so why not? Even if everyone else is doing it or it seems too popular to be grateful, why not still practice being grateful?
Yet let’s also be human and honest, practicing gratitude is also difficult. From my experience, here are a few of the main gratitude hurdles that we need to name:
Not feeling like it. The majority of what I wrote last year emphasized this theme and asserted we can practice gratitude without the feeling, but not feeling it really does make it immensely difficult when we’re especially stressed. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had two especially stressful days where things had gone poorly and my mind felt stuck. In the evenings, after being restless in bed and having trouble falling asleep as my mind swirled, I eventually got to a point where I convinced myself that I needed to notice the good things in my life. It was so incredibly difficult because when I would try to notice things, my mind seemed magnetized to the negative thoughts. It was not an easy process, but even if I could only get one second of grateful thoughts over a minute, I tried to take that as a win and redirect my mind back to two or three seconds of gratitude over the next minute.
Fighting culture. Another hurdle is being around a society or group of people that is non-grateful. Social media can either help or hurt in this regard. Gratitude leads to more gratitude. The idea of “passing it forward” feeds off of this. A few weeks ago, a kind person at a store was enjoying talking with my kids so much that they insisted they wanted to buy them a toy. Eventually, they did buy them each a toy - it was the easiest thank you and thank you card my kids have ever written and we happily then found someone at the next store to buy something for. It was amazing to see how inspired they were to be grateful and give after they had received something. (Side note: the downside is now my kids ask me regularly if a stranger is going to buy them something when we’re in the store).
Thinking too big. Dr. Kalen Sanders once explained to me that the key to gratitude is finding things we are grateful for and slicing them as thin as possible. I’ve found this idea really helpful. Often I want to say the normal things - “I’m grateful for…my wife, my kids, my health, etc.” Yet the way to really make gratitude stick is to savor it, to slow down and notice and describe the nuances. My favorite way to practice gratitude recently has been to think back on the seemingly boring and uninteresting parts of the day, and find a grain of gratitude.
Want to take a deep dive into gratitude? Check these gratitude videos out. I hope that this writing, just another gratitude post, helps shake up your thinking a little bit so that you can find a few more things to savor and be grateful for.