An Attitude of Gratitude
This coming weekend we celebrate Thanksgiving here in Canada, so it seems fitting to reflect on gratitude. The longer I live, the more grateful I am. Over the years, I have been learning how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
Woe Was Me
I don’t know if it’s just the bent of my personality, but I definitely grew up as a complainer. Maybe it’s because of my highly sensitive nature, and my inability to keep my feelings to myself. I definitely saw life in a ‘glass-half-empty’ kind of way, and I wasn’t afraid to express it! I also had a serious case of perfectionism ( I still struggle with it) which caused me to see myself as not good enough, no matter how much I accomplished.
Scarcity = Never Enough
Scarcity is the technical name for the “glass half-empty mindset”. It’s based on fear (“I’m not enough”) and lack (“I don’t have enough”). It causes us to look at our lives through the lens of: if only I had _________, or if only I could be ___________. It highlights who we are not, rather than who we are. Scarcity is fuelled by comparison, which has only increased with the influence of social media. As we look at other people’s posts and pictures, it’s difficult not to compare their images to our own lives. We start believing we don’t have enough, don’t do enough, we aren’t good enough, etc…you can fill in the blank. And now that we are in a pandemic, scarcity screams at us, pointing out what we can’t do, and all the things we have lost. We need to acknowledge and grieve our losses, but now more than ever, cultivating gratitude is vital for our mental and emotional health.
Gratitude and Grief
How do we have authentic gratitude when we are suffering or grieving? Some people believe that expressing anything negative is complaining. Though I agree that complaining is unhealthy and we need to have appropriate boundaries around expressing our feelings, I don’t think gratitude is authentic if it involves denial. The balance is tricky, but I do think we can be honest about life’s difficulties while still maintaining an attitude of gratitude. I find it helpful to process my feelings and struggles through journaling, prayer, or conversation with an appropriate friend. But I try not to over-rehearse my negative feelings and fall back into a scarcity mindset. For me, an attitude of gratitude means choosing to search for the gifts in every circumstance, even if they are hidden. If I am intentional about expressing gratitude along with my grief, it brings my feelings into balance and lifts my vantage point from discouragement to hope.
The Gifts of Gratitude
Gratitude is a powerful practice. It gives us eyes to see the miracles around us, revealing the sacredness of life. It enlarges our capacity for beauty and wonder. Gratitude teaches us to enjoy today, rather than longing for yesterday or wishing for tomorrow. This Covid season has been difficult in many ways, for all of us. But I have never been more grateful than I am in this season. What are you grateful for today?