I woke up this morning not feeling my usual ‘thankful’ self. I usually am. I am one of those people who is always happy and up beat and usually have nothing to say but thank-you usually in my singing voice. I’ve been known to be grateful for the air, the sky and all my naysayers if there are any. I’m usually not aware of such things, which could present a problem sometimes.
So yeah! this morning something was a bit off. I knew it had to do with the many challenges that life has presented me with in the past months. It was nothing to do with me per se but with people in my life which transferred to me by osmosis. Caring for my brother in the hospital, my husband being away and me alone juggling four kids while running a very demanding business. To say that it’s been tough is an under-statement. As a cancer survivor, I often think about stress and its effect on the body. So, when I start to feel it all crashing down, I begin to practice some reverse engineering mentally and I start to re-channel my gratitude by looking for the good in each challenge. Thinking good thoughts make you feel better than thinking bad thoughts. So what the heck! I dig in believing there’s gotta be something good in this….something. A few minutes into it, I usually begin to feel the tentacles of gratitude creeping into my heart. So this morning, I thought of the time I have been able to spend with my brother who otherwise would have been two thousand miles away from me in Nigeria where he lives. Then I took the kids out to the play ground (thank God I live in Florida – awesome weather for the most part), treated them to some pretzels and ice-cream then spent quality time reading at Barnes and Nobel. For my hubby, I decided it was time to surprise him with his favorite dish ready for when he waltzes through the door. A feeling of gratitude came over me as I went about these activities. If you truly think about it. There’s power in giving. My grandmother always said, ‘It’s better to give than to receive.” No wonder she lived well into her eighties. Giving gives me the feeling of gratitude because I consider it something to be grateful for when you have something to give that helps others. I thought about my health. I have been cancer-free for seven years, have a thriving business, beautiful kids that make me laugh and a pillar of support in a husband. What more could I ask for?
I think the problem is we spend more time thinking about all the things that are not working in our lives rather than celebrating the things that are. Sheryl Sandberg said it best, at her commencement speech at the University of California. She said, “When life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.” This is literally what I have done these past few months. I have kicked against the bottom, I have broken free and I am breathing again. It’s war, literally. You have to fight your way out of the water otherwise you will be sucked under as you drown yourself into feelings of depression, despair and negativity.
Breathing again comes from shifting focus from the things we can’t control to the things which we can. Many times we cannot change the bad things that happen in our life. However, we can change the power we give to those things and their subsequent effect on us. What you focus on grows.
So, I began to reminisce on the beautiful party which my husband threw me on my milestone birthday party this March. The theme of the party was Gratitude. We gave thanks to God for all our victories and for a wonderful decade of marital bliss. It’s been amazing. Everyone was so happy. I was on cloud 10. Still can’t find perfect enough words to express my profound gratitude to friends and family enough who flew hundreds of miles (some from London and Nigeria) to celebrate with me. Now that I think about it, how was it possible that I didn’t feel thankful this morning? This is the reason reminiscing about the good ‘ole times is the antecedent to gratitude.
Be thankful for the challenges. Don’t miss the lessons in them and don’t miss the opportunities either. I always say that there is tremendous power in adversity. It is through adversity that I founded of a thriving company called Miracle in the Green. its subsidiary Mummy’s Miracle is thriving in six different countries. When I get over-whelmed in the daily running of my business, I remember how far I have come and all I have accomplished and I am so thankful. Just as I was about to finish this write-up, my brother sends me a text and telling me he’s been discharged from the hospital. Right on time for Thanksgiving. Yay! I visualized it and focused on it. And it happened. I am grateful.
So if you are not as celebratory as you might want to this Thanksgiving, do these 4 things to help you cultivate Gratitude and feel happier.
- Think of how far you’ve come and all you have accomplished.
- Be grateful for the challenges and adversity you face.
- Find the lessons as well as the opportunities in those challenges or just fake it as this NY TIMES Articles suggests. The article references several scientific studies on gratitude, the summary of which is that 1) you can choose to feel grateful and 2) doing so will actually make you happier.
- If there’s nothing else, there’s life. You are alive. Be grateful for being alive. Steve Harvey summed it up perfectly when he said, “We’ve got to find something to be grateful for today because in your gratitude God blesses you with more.”