At this time of year gratitude and thankfulness are everywhere. So I have been reflecting on how gratitude serves us, particularly when times are tough.
Gratitude in times of Transition
Transition and change, whether they are wanted or not, are uncomfortable and challenging. They rock our world and throw us into unfamiliar and even more uncertain than usual territory. Recently having gone through a big move, I’ve had a chance to feel this earth-shattering reality, even though I was making a change I very much wanted.
One of the things that kept me grounded throughout the ups and downs of house buying and selling was my daily gratitude practice. Why? Because at times when I was irrationally terrified, it balanced my perspective with a look at the things that were at least all right in my daily life. It offset the natural human tendency to look at what’s wrong or anticipate the next disaster that might be lurking just around the corner.
When I was filled with excitement, joy, and eager anticipation, gratitude helped me to celebrate and take that in. As much as we have a tendency to notice the “negative,” we also often seem to be conditioned to downplay or dismiss “positive” moments. The pause of appreciative reflection allows us to take in and enjoy these happy moments.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is about noticing things we appreciate and coming into relationship with what IS. Sometimes we can even be grateful for fear, anger, or sadness because they reveal something to me that needs to be seen – they uncover a layer of reality. Gratitude isn’t always about sunshine and rainbows! It also isn’t about jumping over sad, angry or fearful feelings to get to a place of feeling good or looking for the silver lining. But, it can help open us to see beyond what’s right in front of us that may feel all-consuming.
How Can Gratitude Support Me?
So, how might gratitude support you if you are going through a transition? If you’ve recently lost a job or a relationship, and you’re not sure what lies ahead, it might be tough to see or feel anything positive. But if you were to take a few moments each day to find even the smallest thing to appreciate, it could shift not only your view of life but how you show up in life, to your family, and to the world at large (including to people you might be interviewing with or asking for support).
Research has shown that people who practice gratitude are healthier, have more optimism and happiness, create stronger relationships, and are more generous. These sound like traits of someone I’d want to be around (or hire!) … how about you?
What IS a Gratitude Practice?
What’s a gratitude practice look like? Whatever you want it to! The key is to not make it a big “to do” or one more thing to add to your list of tasks to complete. Find a way to bring in gratitude that feels supportive and nourishing for you. Different things work for different people. The first step is to slow down enough to even make the inquiry and notice what am I grateful for? If you’re not in the habit of thinking this way or asking yourself that question, it may take a while to shift from your regularly programmed thinking.
Here are some ideas to get you started. Maybe upon waking you reflect on a few things you are grateful for before you even get out of bed; this is a beautiful way to start your day and can really influence how you approach whatever is before you. You might want to keep a gratitude journal and jot down things you appreciate throughout the day. Perhaps what works for you is an evening reflection before bed. It’s a soothing bedtime routine and a great counter to the all too common thought that often creeps in that says “That day was a waste.” or “Wow, what a horrible day I had!” It doesn’t matter whether you write, mentally note, or speak out loud your gratitude as long as you’ve taken some time to notice and acknowledge it.
Even on some of my most horrible days, I’ve been able to find things that I am truly, honestly grateful for – the cleansing tears that allowed my broken heart to crack open a little bit more and relieved me of having to hold it together; having a pillow to scream into and punch when my anger consumed me; loud music and a good car scream; the friend who made me laugh even when I wanted to cry or the friend who simply sat with me and let me feel what I was feeling.
Don’t know where to get started? How about appreciating having clean air to breathe, fresh running water to drink, sunshine, a roof over your head, a fresh idea, or the beauty of birdsong. Don’t force it. Begin with what feels true to you. Notice something you truly do appreciate. Then mentally reflect, write it, draw it, paint it, sing it, share it with a loved one… whatever works for you!
If you’d like some practices to support you in cultivating gratitude, you might visit Greater Good In Action, where you will find several simple meditations and exercises to get you started or to enhance an existing practice.
Have fun exploring how gratitude might support you. Please let us know what you discover!!
You may think you have to stay with what you studied in college or what you’ve invested yourself in for a decade or more. You may think you’re too old to make a change. And, none of this is true.
If something else is calling to you, give it a go! You may just discover things within you just bursting to come out as Ina Garten, AKA The Barefoot Contessa, found when she took a leap into the unknown.
It’s been a raucous month in the US. So much for a lazy August enduring the dog days of summer!
There is a lot to absorb as we take in images of destruction and violence. The byproduct of tragedy, when we are an observer and not directly in its path, is usually that of introspection. We gain perspective about what’s important in life and experience a surge of our deepest felt values. We might send a donation and help as we know how. Then, we go back to our lives.
This is a call to action to reflect on your life to make right of what’s chaotic in your world. Where is there chaos and turmoil in your own life? Is it your family that needs attention? Your health? Your career? Your friendships/relationships? Your own attitude?
When the circumstances are out of your control, it helps to take care of what you can affect.
Peace in the home brings peace in the community. Peace in the community brings peace to the nation. Peace in the nation brings peace in the world. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Take the time. Make something crooked right. Let us know if we can help.
Right here, right now are 7 steps to truly reinvent yourself to give yourself a chance to do work that matters … work that has impact.
Be one who is actually willing to show up, get something done, and learn from it, and doors may open that you never imagined before.
If you’ve been following along, I ran for NJ State Assembly, announcing in March and losing my primary on June 6th. What am I taking away from this experience?
NO PAIN, NO GAIN
Running for office, especially as a neophyte, was a huge learning curve. I thought of it in January and by mid-February, life handed me a campaign manager and a handful of consultants who helped me weigh the decision. I jumped in with both feet and ran “off the line” for a chance to represent on the Democratic side.
I knew I was attempting something very difficult to achieve. You want the party endorsement (thus being “ON the line”) because most people blindly vote for whomever was chosen for them by their party. However, my fire was lit, and it was not going to wait two years to attempt to make a difference.
LISTENING is TEN TIMES More VALUABLE than Talking!
Being a professional speaker and performer, I was not intimidated by the public aspect of running for office, but my greatest asset, I found, was my ability to listen. As I participated on panels and a candidate forum, I repeatedly heard my fellow candidates speak ad nauseum on tangents and not address the question asked.
These were not experienced “pivoters,” but people who like to hear themselves talk. At one point, I was the last of four to address a particular question, and I asked the person who asked it if he thought his question had been answered. He said no.
I proceeded to answer, but prefaced it with “Please don’t confuse my economy of words with not having anything to say. I believe in addressing this head on. The answer is no.”
I waited for the election results at a friend’s house, along with the couple who hosted and my husband. We could see the outcome starting to gel, and then the final call from an official source came in. I had lost. I was OK. Until I wasn’t.
The news was crushing, and I felt embarrassed that I had thought we could pull off the near impossible. The first day post election was ugly. I was so grateful that people were clearly giving me space and not rushing to call me. My disappointment quickly moved to anger. I was livid that it seems that most people do not spend ANY time paying attention to who they are voting for and that many don’t show up to vote at all. I got half as many votes as the two winners (three of us were running for two seats), and I earned every single one of them. It only made me more angry that apparently thousands of people (25% of eligible voters who voted) did not even pop open their computer for thirty seconds of research. If they had, they’d have seen that neither of my competitors had a website nor much online presence at all. Perhaps they may have voted differently when they could only find one of us and gain an understanding of what that one stood for.
So there I was having felt compelled to run because the party didn’t care about my district or who actually won it —and the candidates who raised virtually no money and were not running a proper campaign took the win to compete in the general election in November.
Day Two, I was relieved. Day Three, I was completely cynical about our system, and the ability of good people ever being able to make a difference. Day Four, I was relieved that I didn’t have to keep campaigning. Day Five, I was fine – the grieving cycle had ended.
I have no regrets. And, in fact, I am SO happy that I ran!
I have made more progress in getting involved in my town and state and therefore, the nation, than I ever would have just despairing about the news on TV. I had a ringside seat to the inner workings. I’m not an expert, but I now see how HUGE I had made the barrier between politics and me. I, like many people, was just ignorant and diving in showed me it’s really easy to understand. I used to avoid it at any cost. Part apathy, part not knowing where or how to start understanding it. With that said, politics is not the point. Knowing how government works at the municipal, county, state and national level is so that I can continue to be an agent of positive change. I hope I have shown others what’s possible.
These last few months took me away from home a great deal of the time. It turned out that my family may not have acted like they missed me much, but now that I do not have to campaign any longer, I can see some very important things that need my care at home. Turns out we only have so much energy and attention at any given time. This is something that keeps women, especially, from running for office. It won’t deter me from running again, but I’ll be better prepared next time.
Thank for taking the ride with me, and stay tuned for what’s next. Even if our politics are not the same, please know I don’t want to be a politician. I do want to be someone who listens, finds the patterns in the chaos, and works to be a part of the solution.
As a woman who stopped me in the grocery store said to me last week:
“I told my friends you weren’t a Democrat or a Republican. I told them you were someone who can get things done.”
I’ll take that and run. The support of so many has made this journey possible. As much as I wasn’t doing this for myself, I could not have done it by myself. Thanks for following along.
P.S. Politicians could really use coaching. Just saying.