"You can't be fearful and grateful simultaneously. Gratitude is the antidote to both fear and anger." -Tony Robbins
"We hold the keys to our own jail cells." -Paul Levine
Summer storms are probably my favorite weather events. In a matter of minutes, a hot and sunny day is transported into a tumultuous hurricane-esque torrent of sideways rain. They often are short-lived but can drop the temperature up to ten degrees and leave the world feeling light and refreshed. Best of all, if you go outside after the fact you have the chance of seeing one of the most astonishing light shows on the planet. A rainbow. The simple act of seeing a giant rainbow can awaken the inner child in anybody no matter how gloomy their attitude may be at the moment. Rainbows are created by sunlight pouring through the prism created by water droplets in the air. Our own minds can do a similar thing with the power of our emotions and experiences, but we must find the appropriate prism to channel them.
Having gratitude is the practice of taking note of things that are working well in our lives. Like brushing our teeth, eating healthy, or organizing our finances, gratitude is a skill that must be practiced in order to maintain its effect. Gratitude is as big of a factor in producing happy and healthy humans as any diet, exercise, or self-care routine that we adopt. It lies at the core of our outlook toward life and is the difference-maker in finding purpose and meaning in the everyday grind. Ironically, no one misses the mundane chores of daily life more than those who tragically lose them due to illness, death, or violence.
If you have never had something that you deemed essential and necessary to your existence taken from you, then you need only live a little longer. For the rest of us, think about how you felt about the loss of something that you took for granted. Perhaps you felt betrayal, abandonment, anger, or grief. Some people feel a maniacal urge to reclaim what has been lost and run themselves ragged to that end. After the initial shock has passed, what we really end up grieving is the lost time to be grateful for those parts we took for granted. Sometimes, we are lucky and what has been lost is restored (a la George Bailey or Ebenezer Scrooge) but usually this is not the case. We are forced to take inventory of what gifts we still possess, or we are doomed to suffer an even worse loss. The loss of ourselves.
Gratitude is not some kind of new-age mantra that should be paraded around like the Gospel as the way to a happier life. Rather, it is a living document that we make and remake every day. Being grateful will feel nearly impossible some days. During others, it will feel like a Broadway musical. Gratitude can be likened to forcing yourself to deep clean your house or drag yourself to a workout. The part of you who knows that you will feel better afterward gets such harsh treatment in the beginning but is always worth listening to. It's important to remember that the practice is not all-or-nothing. Recognizing one small thing that you are grateful for is lightyears better than refusing to name anything at all. The first act creates space for the next which engenders the next. And so on.
What/who are you grateful for today? What/who would you deeply miss if you lost them? What are the things and who are the people that you enjoy today that you may not be able to enjoy in the future? Those are the best areas to spend your time nurturing. Tomorrow should never be taken for granted.