I recently listened to a guided meditation about gratitude, and it described gratitude as a “super power.” This got me thinking. Is gratitude actually a super power? And if so, why?
Before delving too far in, we must first be able to define what gratitude is.
noun: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness
Sounds great right? But again, what does it actually mean for me or for you? How do we practice gratitude and make it part of our life? Is it truly a superpower?
Prior to having ARVC I never even stopped to think about what gratitude was. I was so caught up in the grind of life, my routine and what I was lacking that I took everything I had for granted, especially my health. Over the last few years what I have found is that practicing gratitude allows a change in perspective. Gratitude allows us the ability to make a mental shift about how we feel about something and how we choose to interact with it.
For instance I could say, “This sucks; I can no longer run or exercise.“ Feeling this way may cause me to get upset or feel depressed or angry. However, if I stopped, took a breath and truly thought about it, a better way to frame it would be to say, “I am grateful to be alive; I am grateful to be able to do yoga and to go for walks.” This sentence doesn't come with the same emotions of anger and sadness. It may seem cheesy, but this small shift allows me to see the good in what I have and what I can do. When we take time to experience what is good, then we have less time to focus on and beat ourselves up about what we lack or cannot do.
There are 365 days in a year. On how many of those days have you stopped and thought, “I am so grateful to have/to be/for ______________?” Fill in the blank (clean water, healthy food, electricity, money to pay for gas, education, my health, etc). Rather than focusing on what the good things in life are, we often focus on what we don’t have, what we can’t do and what we wish would happen. What if we stopped torturing ourselves and started nurturing ourselves?
There are many ways we can practice gratitude in our lives. Some people have a gratitude journal that they write in daily. Others simply take a moment every day to say out loud what they are thankful for.
In our house we have a gratitude jar. When you walk into our kitchen, sitting on our counter is a large glass Mason jar filled with small, colorful pieces of paper. It looks a little out of place, but I assure you it is not. This is our family gratitude jar.
Every night at dinner or when Andy gets home from school, we take a few minutes to write what we are grateful for and to reflect on it. I have found that having the visual reminder in a place our family spends a lot of time has been key to keeping this daily practice alive.
Additionally, having the jar creates conversation about gratitude. People ask what is in the jar, and we immediately start talking about the good in our day rather than the bad. When Andy gets home from school at night, he enthusiastically says, "Mom we have to do this every day. We have to write about what we are thankful for." The first day he mentioned it my heart skipped a beat. I was slightly grouchy and had a disappointing day. It was my three year old who reminded me there is plenty to be grateful for, and reflecting on it helped me shift my perspective.
In a world where we are surrounded by negativity, cruelty, exhaustion and the "never enough syndrome," gratitude might actually be a super power. It has the ability to create change in how we view and participate in the world. Imagine if everyone took part in a similar practice regularly. How would they change, and how would their family, their circle of friends, their community and the world change around them?
So in my mind the answer is yes. Gratitude is a superpower. A change agent. A light in the dark.
I challenge you to try it. Take one minute every day to ask yourself, "What am I grateful for?" Then see what happens. See the shift in yourself, in your family and your friends.
"Be the change you want to see in the world."