This has been a crazy year, one that most people just want to forget. First, the pandemic forced us to change our lifestyles dramatically and taught us all a lesson in humility. Then with the death of George Floyd, racial tensions threatened to divide an already-divided nation. In August, the derecho hit our community with the force of a land hurricane, and destroyed much of Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha's tree canopies. And please, don't even get me start about the stress and tensions of the election. And now, with the rise in positive COVID cases and deaths surrounding us, it is difficult to see the silver lining in all this. Is there any?
I believe there is. Gratitude turns what we have into enough.
Melody Beattie, a well-known personal growth coach, said that, and she is not wrong. Gratitude comes when you know what it is like to have a lack of something; food, shelter, a job, money, love, health, and even patience and understanding.
Most people know what it is like to go without something. But doesn't it make us feel great when we finally get that back? For most of us, it's a feeling of relief that stays with us. It is in this place of gratitude that we become more empathetic, understanding and patient with others who are dealing with loss, as well.
After we finally got electricity and internet back 12 days after the storm in August, I vowed never to take those things for granted again. During the storm, we bought a camp stove to cook on, we used flashlights and candles for light when it got dark (thank goodness it was summer!), and we were able to use the data from our phones to receive news about what was going on in our community. When we received a generator from my daughter, I was elated! Finally, I could make a good cup of coffee! (It really is the little things that matter most.) All those things were great, but it was the people we didn't even know, who helped us clear our streets, and restore our power and internet, that we are the most grateful for. Without them, we would still be in the dark.
The cool thing about gratitude is that when we practice appreciation, we feel better about our situation. We can feel good anytime we want. Perhaps you have heard the saying, "Change the way you think about something, and the thing you are thinking about changes." We have control about what we think, to a degree. We can't stop thoughts from entering our minds, but we can choose to change the way we think about them, and using gratitude to do this can actually make you feel more positive.
One valuable piece of advice I received years ago is that when we are feeling down we should "make a list of our gratefuls." This is something that continues to work for me when I am worried or anxious (especially about the future), when I am disappointed something didn't work out as I planned, or if I am dealing with a stressful situation that is out of my control. I make a mental list of all the wonderful things in my life; good health, a good job, food to eat, a nice home, and the love of my family. After enduring the trials of this year, I know these things can be taken away from me in a blink of an eye, but I choose to live in this moment and appreciate what I have, right now. Not only do I feel a sense of calm, but I am more positive and empathetic, too.
Gratitude makes what we have enough, and when you practice it, you become content, which brings peace of mind, which just so happens to be the recipe for a happy life.