In The Mood for Gratitude
I have a confession to make, you guys. I… man, this is hard. Okay. Here goes. I… am not a super hero. (Pause as you gasp.) I know, I know. It was a shock to me, too. But when I got struck down 4 1/2 years ago with a horrific case of neurological Lyme Disease, I really thought that due to my penchant for healthy living and discipline, I’d be bouncing back at such a rate as to alarm and awe my doctors. How did she do it, they’d say in amazement as I came bounding into my follow-up, bright orange sneakers making me look like Barry Allen (The Flash) as I zipped to and fro.
Sidebar: Where exactly is fro? And why do I want to go there?
Anyway, spoiler alert: that didn’t happen. I’ve done everything “right” and I’m still sick. (Insert chorus of knowing voices telling me that bad things happen to good people. Worst. Platitude. Ever.) Needless to say, there was a time when I was NOT, as the title of this piece states, in the mood for gratitude. I was angry. Bitter. Crying on my couch, too exhausted to make so much as a bowl of cereal, remembering my marathon days with a “why-God-why” tempered anger. You can picture it, can’t you? Yeah. T’wasn’t pretty. But I mention it because, hey, I’m human. It was part of my grieving process. And there are still days when I find myself feeling angry and resentful that this happened to me. But then I remember that I’m not a victim. I’m a warrior. And this shiz? Is getting turned around.
You see, I can either bemoan what I don’t have, or work with what I do. And to do that, I have to make an effort to become aware of what exactly I DO have to work with. That, my friends, means gratitude. And here’s how I do it.
I use The Five-Minute Journal. A genius invention. Genius, I say! Simply put, it asks me to write down three things I’m grateful for every morning, followed by three things that would make my day great. It rounds off by asking me to write down my intention for the day. Bing, bang, boom. Fill in the blank. Five minutes or less. (There’s also a reflective section you’re meant to fill in at night, but full disclosure, I often forget to do it. Eep!) I do this before breakfast every morning, and I’ve noticed a HUGE difference in my mental/emotional health. By taking the time to recognize what I’m grateful for and what I want to prioritize that day, it eliminates so much negative (and avoidable) stress. That’s the power of setting a daily intention. It gives you focus. A path. A place to direct the warrior spirit inside of you. I’ve NEVER been able to maintain a journaling practice– (so many New Year’s resolutions foiled!)– but this gives me the structure I need. And having a set time every day is essential. Can’t eat breakfast until I do the journal. And guys? I LOVE breakfast.
So why should we start our days with getting in the mood for gratitude? Simple. It quite literally affects your brain, which in turn, affects your entire body. People who practice gratitude have better energy, more determination, and have been shown to have less physical pains than people who don’t. (For a 30-year-old like me who has Lyme-induced rheumatoid arthritis, do you think this last one’s a factor? Um. YEAH.) Oh, and it also lowers anxiety and depression by helping you sleep better. Score!
For all the science– and a witty read– check out this great article: “The Grateful Brain.” Or, you know, take my word for it.
So what are you waiting for? Get in the mood for gratitude! And for all you winners who read to the end of this article? I am grateful for YOU. Welcome to the tribe, my friend!
Here’s to you,
** Feeling inspired? You can find The Five-Minute Journal here.