What Gratitude Really Means In Today’s WorldAround the holiday months, the topic of gratitude gets brought up constantly. But what does it mean to be truly grateful? It surely doesn’t count if we only practice around Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas (or whatever other holidays your family celebrates). Gratitude should be viewed as a lifestyle; a regular practice that brings more joy, love, harmony and groundedness into our daily life. Just like every year, I witnessed so many share what they’re grateful for on social media (including myself). What better place to publicly announce how blessed we are? It’s like a new holiday tradition. However, I can’t help but admit that it disturbs me when I see people say everything they are grateful for, yet I know so many of them aren’t truly living it out. I’m not judging. And no, I don’t expect everyone to be perfect. I know we are flawed humans, and that’s completely okay. Yet so many of us are in suffering, ultimately, because of ourselves – or family generational patterns that are getting passed down. Many of us are in conflict within ourself. There’s a war in our mind and possibly deep in our soul – and it gets unintentionally wiped onto others. It often translates into conflict with our own family members and loved ones. Relationships, especially with family, are worth nurturing and repairing – but we must be willing to face the conflict head on, have an honest look at how we contribute, have uncomfortable conversations, clearly state our feelings and needs, and set boundaries. Running away from and avoiding our conflicts and problems doesn’t work. It will only catch up with us later on. Is it better to be right? Or to have peace and harmony?
When so much is in conflict, are we really living a lifestyle of love and gratitude? Are we even able to?In addition to that, a lot of people feel entitled, and are constantly wanting and striving for more and more (money, cars, clothes, shoes, pets, likes, followers, praise, friends, etc.) instead of being happy with what we have and who we are. How can we blame ourselves? Our society conditions us to be this way. To be restless consumers in this materialistic, pressure-filled, fast-paced, shaming, isolating, stressful, overwhelming, competitive culture we live in. It’s pretty apparent that these material possessions and self-protecting maladaptive behaviors are making us feel worse and even more alone and disconnected in the long-run. Yes, there’s that instant gratification thing, but it’s not enough to sustain us.. it never will be. Talking and thinking about change or peace “one day” isn’t enough. We must learn to challenge our norm and question conventions – today.
Just like exercise and healthy eating, Gratitude is a lifestyle.Gratitude isn’t just thinking about the things you’re grateful for and then feeling grateful afterwards for a few moments. Although, that’s a great first step! Gratitude is also your everyday actions and behaviors. It’s following through on your beliefs and thoughts that you are enough and that you have enough. As Brené Brown has stated, that’s the definition of Wholehearted living: coming into life every day from a place of worthiness, no matter what gets done or didn’t get done that day, knowing that you are always worthy of love and belonging. It’s about dropping ego, fear, gluttony, greed, shame, comparison, competition, rumination, anxiety and all of the things and patterns that make us feel as though we aren’t enough and we don’t have enough.
Meditation is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding practices – that is a gift for our mental health.Something that’s helped me with this includes practicing: Meditation. Meditation (or mindfulness) is a gratitude behavior. Tuning into the present moment.. into stillness. Just like you, my mind has been trained and conditioned to be sped up and in “survival” mode. This is especially true due to my trauma history and epigenetics (my grandparents were in the Holocaust). My mind wants to be in a state of constantly thinking about what I need to accomplish, ruminating about the past, resisting the present, worrying about or planning for the future, and worrying if I’m doing / accomplishing enough. Meditation (even just a few minutes a day) helps us slow down, tune into the present moment via our breath, and helps us ease into the discomfort of stillness. Being still with whatever is currently going on in our lives: our thoughts, emotions, difficult circumstances, stress, feeling busy, feeling not enough, etc. Our mind and our ego classically does NOT want to be still because that’s when the big shifts and aha moments happen. So we must learn to make that shift into being the observer. But learning to be the observer; to be still and truly present (without judgement) is how we are able to tap into a gratitude lifestyle. Note: You most likely are not going to notice something right away when you meditate. Just like going to the gym a few times, or for a few weeks, you’re not going to notice your muscles instantaneously growing or your waist slimming. Same thing with meditation. It’s a practice that gets results only when it becomes a regular practice. My favorite meditation apps are: Headspace and Calm. (Calm also has awesome Sleep Stories with people like Bob Ross and Matthew McConaughey if you don’t want to meditate, but still want the benefits of mindfulness!)
Are you adaptable?Another thing that’s helped me has been practicing: Non-attachment or Adaptability. Learning to become adaptable if my circumstances, plans, finances, possessions, or environment changes. Not being so attached to what is or what will be in the future. Uncertainty is HARD. We (including our ego) finds so much comfort in what’s predictable and in control. What we have currently and what we have planned. Things like our wedding, our future home, our current and future lifestyle, having children, what our children will turn out like, blended families, where we live, our career, friends, relationships, etc. Most things in life are NOT how we pictured them to be – and this leads us again to resisting the present. To resisting uncertainty and wanting control. This is where we can “lean in” to meditation and mindfulness again to help ease the discomfort if our expectations aren’t matching reality.
Because only when we lean into the pain and suffering we are experiencing, and let ourselves have and feel our ever-changing emotions, AND come from a place of “enough” or worthiness, can we truly experience letting things go and enjoying love, joy, connection, belonging, and of course – gratitude.We can train ourselves to become adaptable and stable – no matter what happens externally. This mindset shift towards being non-attached and adaptable is another behavior of gratitude. We have to change our beliefs and thoughts to tell ourselves that everything will be okay no matter what comes knocking on our door. That we are strong. That we can handle it. That we can adapt. Because when things change (and they will) and we aren’t prepared for it, our whole world gets turned upside down and we are going to get knocked on our ass. And ultimately feel a lot of anger and shame – because our ego, identity and worthiness is tied to so many impermanent things.
Self-Care isn’t selfish. It’s necessary.Self-care is another staple of gratitude behavior. To care for ourselves means to esteem ourselves. So what better way to show ourselves that we care than to engage in self-care? To show ourselves that we are grateful for our body, skin, eyes, hands, teeth, nails, legs, health, mind, soul, etc. We must care for ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This self-care helps us become more adaptable. When our body, mind, and soul are feeling healthy overall and nourished, we’re going to be able to handle stress, conflict, uncertainty and chaos a lot better. We will also feel more confident in ourselves and our coping skills. It’s also a good reminder to be grateful for our health and abilities. Because not everyone is as physically, emotionally or mentally as healthy or blessed as we are – or as our families are. I’m sure there are thousands of people in much more dire situations (such as in third world countries, living in refugee camps, or who are starving or homeless, etc.) who would change places with me in an instant–problems and all.
We must be open enough to evaluate if our values match up with our thoughts, beliefs and actions.Self-awareness and openness is also key into a gratitude lifestyle. We must be willing to constantly observe our own patterns, mindsets, thoughts, beliefs, behaviors and lifestyle to see if there is anything we are doing that isn’t serving us and our values. Perhaps we have strong values of gratitude, compassion, kindness, love, forgiveness, peace, empathy, contentment, joy, being humble or patient. Do our thoughts and behaviors match up with these values? If not, then we may feel at war with ourselves. Or something may feel “off” emotionally or even physically. That’s a red flag that we need to change something within our beliefs, thoughts, habits, patterns, mindset or actions. Am I unsure if my behaviors are matching up with my values? Have a therapist or someone you trust and believe to wholeheartedly live out of your same values to help you evaluate. This is where it is tricky – because we must be open and willing to receive feedback – without getting defensive or letting our ego, avoidance, or old maladaptive patterns get in the way. Getting more than one opinion is helpful as well, because someone may be too close to you or your situation to be truly objective. Defensiveness, frustration, anxiety, or anger may be indicators that we are doing something that isn’t serving us or isn’t in line with our values. However, it may be too painful to acknowledge it and have that level of self-awareness. Because that would also mean we’d have to change something or do something differently. Possibly dropping the ego and doing something we don’t want to do, or have been doing for a long time. Maybe there’s something we don’t want to let go of. Maybe it’s a belief or a narrative we struggle to challenge and drop. Maybe there is too much resentment, anger, hatred, bitterness, hurt or trauma in the way. Maybe even Negative Sentiment Override is in the way (which is a mindset where you can take things that are positive or even neutral, and find a way to spin it negatively). And of course, change is damn difficult and uncomfortable.
What energy are you putting out into the universe? What generational or personal patterns are you passing down to your children?So take a moment to really reflect about what you are putting out there in the universe – or into the collective consciousness. Our energy and attitude effects everything and everyone around us, including the cells in our body, and is something that gets passed on to others or down the generations. Our energy is made up of our daily beliefs, thoughts, emotions, attitude, and actions. How we treat ourselves is a direct reflection of how we treat others. How we feel on the inside is how we act on the outside.