Waking up grateful. Waking up grateful sounds like the makings of an old wive’s tale, doesn’t it? It sounds like something you say to encourage someone who’s going through a tough season in their life. “Wake up grateful, take two aspirin and all will be well.” Haha Wouldn’t it be great if it really was that simple? I have even thought, “Of course I’m thankful. Who can live in America and not be thankful?” But the truth is gratitude must be developed. It’s an exercise. We are not born being thankful. If anything we are born selfish. If you have children, have ever been around children or have been a child yourself you know the theme of life is often “what’s in it for me?”.
If I could challenge you in any area of your life it would be to be mindful of the words that come out of your mouth. How often do you talk about what you don’t have rather than what you do have? How many times do we list the things we don’t like rather than talk about what we do like? Really pay attention. With the new year just a few days away many of us are talking about what we “hope” to do. Many of my friends say things like “I need to lose weight, but I’ll never look like ____” or “I’d like to take a cooking class, but” Listen to what you say. It won’t take long before you see what I’m talking about, Negative Nancy. (If your name is Nancy I’m sure you are delightful)
Let’s look at the definition of grateful; “being warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received, feeling or showing an appreciation for something.” Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Here’s the truth, the instructions ARE simple, but the WORK is hard. This is real life after all. Nothing worth having is easy in the getting. Its all a process.
Looking at the definition again I see the word “or” three times. I like the word “or”, it implies options. I can do this “or” that. I can have this “or” that. I can be this or that. I am a person who greatly values variety. If I know there are options I’m more likely to participate. It helps me not feel trapped with no way out. But did you see all of the options in the definition?
Warmly or deeply appreciative. That means I can be warm and deep, cold and reflective or warm and shallow. Right?
Cold and reflective. There have been times in my life when I’ve been reflective and thankful regarding something but my thankfulness was all dripping in sarcasm and/or bitterness. Then, other times, I have been warm and fuzzy in my thankfulness but it was only surface deep, selfish and shallow. You know what I’m talking about. But if I can be reflective and really think about what it took for me to have what I have or what it took for someone else to act on kindness then I can be warmly AND deeply appreciative.
Waking up and being grateful for a roof over my head and another opportunity to be the best me I can be may not sound glamorous, but if I can’t be warmly and deeply appreciative of these basic things then how much less appreciative would I be if I had more? Start small. Live where you are.
Then the definition says gratefulness is the appreciation of kindness OR benefits received. Have you ever been thankful for someone’s kindness, but you really didn’t care for what they did or gave? Why couldn’t it have been more? Or a different color? Or a different day? Why did they pick today to do me a favor? I didn’t appreciate the benefit. Or I immensely appreciated the benefit of someone’s kindness, but the person who gave it or acted on said kindness.….not so much. Again, the work is hard. By focusing on the combination of kindness (action) AND benefit (reaction) I can appreciate the effort it takes to have what I have. For every action there is an equal or opposite reaction. So for each moment of gratitude I am content and at peace with where I am and what I have. The action is gratitude. The reaction is contentment, peace. Um, give me some, please.
When Michael and I first got married almost 30 years ago we lived in a little mobile home. We were 18 and 19 years old. We had no money, no idea what we were doing and to be honest, no goals. We lived just outside of town on almost 40 acres and looking back now it was just what we needed. However, I didn’t like it. I appreciated it. I was thankful we had somewhere to live and we were together and happy, but I wanted more. I deserved more. (said with the pouty face of an 18-year-old girl) Every time I saw my mom or talked to her I talked about what I didn’t like about where we lived. I remember one day she said you can’t get to the next thing without being thankful for what you have. She asked, “why should you be given more?” This, of course, is how I heard her say it. I’m sure she was sweeter with her words. But she was right. After my feelings healed for needing correction, its true, I started trying to find things I liked about the trailer and the property. Everyday I said what I liked about where we were and what we had. Now, is this a magic formula? No. Did it happen over night? No way. It actually took years before I believed it. It did help me to be content and satisfied with what I had. It helped me to see the value of being grateful for what I have at the moment. When the day came for us to move I had a much better appreciation of where we were going and what we had. My gratitude was developing.
The last part of the definition says feeling or showing appreciation. A lot of times in learning gratitude I have felt thankful, but I didn’t take the time to show it. It wasn’t worth my effort. Just as true, there have been times I have shown my appreciation, but I wasn’t feeling it. I was going through the motions. Fake it till ya make it. That has been my motto more than once. However, after practicing deeply and warmly appreciating the kindness or benefit of all things in my life, I can’t help but feel AND show my appreciation.
This is a beautiful part of practicing gratefulness. When I am consistently and mind fully appreciative of kindness and benefits in my life then I am actively feeling and showing appreciation. Gratitude should produce action.
Years ago I was in a store and I asked an employee for help. I could tell he didn’t want to help me, but he did. When we couldn’t find what I was looking for I told him, “thank you for your effort.” Although he couldn’t help me and I had to go to another store and yes, it was his job to help me anyway, I wanted him to know I appreciated the effort. The fact that the store didn’t have what I needed and his attitude wasn’t the best had nothing to do with my gratitude. I chose to be thankful for what he gave me, effort. He smiled, visibly aware of my words, and thanked me for saying that. My hope was that me being actively grateful for his effort caused him to continue to be helpful, action. Do you see the tsunami we can create with a ripple of gratitude?
Another benefit of practicing gratitude is it changes the filter of our perspective. We begin to see things, people and situations differently. And so we approach things, people and situations differently. It’s like focusing a camera, the negative or the blurry fades into focus with every grateful moment.
Sometimes saying thank you is like saying I love you. We do it so much the phrase becomes hollow words. At times I tell Michael, my husband, thank you for something very specific. Like this morning, not only did he clean up dog poop we found behind a chair eeew, but he cleaned out a bowl of unidentifiable leftovers from the refrigerator. While he was cleaning out the bowl I thought aw man, I love him. And its true, I do, but instead of saying “I love you” I said, “Thank you for doing the yucky stuff no one likes to do. I really appreciate it.” Saying I love you would have been great words, but saying what I’m thankful for was me being actively grateful. He received the benefit. Words of affirmation are a great way to express how I feel while using those words to show him how much I appreciate him.
Waking up grateful takes time to develop. It is worth the exercise. You will benefit. Those around you will benefit. Maybe you’ve never thought of gratefulness this way and I hope you take it to heart and wake up tomorrow morning with a renewed desire to be grateful. And the next day and the next. Always practicing, striving for new levels of gratitude.
As we approach the new year perhaps GRATITUDE should be our one and only resolution. The doors it will open and the opportunities afforded are infinite.
If you made it to the end….thank you. Thank you for taking the time and the effort to support me by reading my words and joining me on this incredible journey of life.