Mantra of the day: Gratitude
Gratitude doesn’t solve or make problems go away. It transforms what we do to being enough because we are enough.
Welcome to my first blog post and thanks for reading! I thought a great way to begin the new year is to reflect upon it. For many, gratitude doesn’t become a consistent attitude we take on the daily. It is not until life gives us a reason to deeply reflect and recognize all the things we gloss over and brush aside as ordinary. We become prey to just surviving from day to day without realizing the treasures in our lives; whether it’s people, things we have, experiences and much more.
I will admit that I am not always the best in putting gratitude in the fore front, especially after a long shitty day. I am thankful that part of my job is that I get to work with various clients who trust and allow me to be with them in their vulnerable states. It is no surprize that most of us don’t acknowledge and appreciate the little things until they suddenly don’t seem so little anymore; once big things (life changing events) have cleared our vision. Hearing and supporting people going through those moments/events serve as reminder for me to exercise my gratitude in life.
Even at this very moment it is being tested. I am struggling to get my thoughts down and it has been three days of writing, deleting and writing again to put all this together. Oh, did I mention I’m helping out a friend take care of their 5-month-old puppy? This puppy’s constant energy; need for play and disregard of what you’re doing is something I don’t miss. I even lost count of how many times I had to step away from my laptop mid-sentence to make sure she’s not chewing something up or peeing on the carpet.
Amidst my frustration, I have come to appreciate the sweet moments when she rests her head on my lap and the progress she makes when she learns new house rules and tricks. I have forgotten what it’s like to focus beyond myself and work; to just be in the moment and play. I also have three “furbabies” of my own: a cat and two dogs. I cannot imagine a life without them now, so I know how healing adopting a pet can be. Thankfully, all grown out of their puppy phase, so I’m grateful to learn that I don’t need another dog which I was seriously considering. HA, boy was I wrong!
So back to gratitude…In this mindset of gratitude and Christmas season I did something new. I created a “Gratitude Christmas Tree”. I challenged myself to see with a heart of gratitude, to reflect upon things that occurred in 2019 for me. I then wrote them down on ornaments and hung them on my Christmas tree. I even expanded it by inviting my family and friends to do the same when they came over to visit.
During that process I came to realize how many of things I “survived” through were good learning and grounding moments for me. Let me share a few with you:
New discoveries from things ending: At the beginning of 2019 I ended my side ice-cream business. That was a big load off my shoulders as I was already running two businesses: the first a music & art school and the second is a music & clinical therapy practice. (You don’t need to tell me that I am a workaholic. I am aware of that fact and I know I’m the type of person who gravitates and thrives on being able to create).
So why did I start a third? I started the ice-cream business two years ago because I was tired of what I was doing and wanted change. Despite the joy we brought to people when they consumed our delicious treats, I quickly discovered that it didn’t fulfill my passion and drive for helping people. Instead of seeing the end of that business as failure, I am grateful for the experience. I have a newfound appreciation for people who run food businesses, which is not easy at all. It has also brought me and my sister closer as we went into this side-gig together. Lastly, I was reaffirmed that being a therapist and helping people is my calling.
Growing pains: 2019 was a challenging work year for me. I had a rollercoaster of a year managing staff. Doesn’t it seem like when things go wrong, they seem to come in row. Well, that’s exactly what happened to me. Some of my existing hard-working staff members were making errors and then to pile on top of that I had some bad hires. No matter how much you can prepare: how good a candidate can seem on paper and through references, things can go wrong or they are unreliable. I had to do a lot of damage control, deal with unhappy clients, redo things that I did not want to spend time on and manage the stress due to the loss of two contracts I worked hard to get.
In those moments mixed with frustration, stress and tears, I felt really tired and alone. Thinking back, I am grateful for those clients who showed me grace. I now know that those events would have happened at some point or another as my business grows and expands. It was a much-needed learning experience. I had to restructure some new policies and protocols. Things I didn’t realize I needed to have in place as the business continues to grow and change. Reflecting back, it also dawned on me that this year was the first year where I had the greatest number of employees, contract workers and even an appointed admin person. This is a win for me. If I didn’t spend time on this thought, this achievement would have been chopped up to another year of slaving away and surviving work.
The wealth of health: My father had a big health scare and it was truly stressful times: between supporting my mother and managing visits to clinics and hospital all while still working. Not to mention, the potential of losing my father was just unimaginable.
I am thankful that he is healthy now and grateful that I have the flexibility to set my own schedule to prioritize what was and is important. It sure does put things into perspective for me; how I have my own health and how other things that bothered me are not really that big of a deal. For instance, even though there were many moments where I complain of the fact that I do not have true time off and I’m stuck working during vacation time, I’m thankful that I’m healthy enough to even work or go on vacations. Most importantly, that I still have my parents and that I’m still able to spend time with them.
Let’s acknowledge the fact that gratitude doesn’t make the above problems or any issues and threats that occur disappear. Things can still go wrong, illnesses can still happen, it does not prevent failure. Believe me, I have experienced all those things! Recalling those harrowing times at life’s unexpected moments: my heart beats faster, my jaw clenches, my gut tightens. My body just wants to act out and hit something or run away, one or the other, or even both. These threats are indeed very real, but if I allow my body reactions and thoughts to run wild and take over, I become the very threat itself.
When I allow my worries and thoughts to take over, it is me who is wearing myself down with worry. That is where I find gratitude to be healing as it is the remedy for combating worry or “not enough” thoughts. The “I’m not doing enough”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not worthy enough”, and so on thoughts.
The more I think back the more I am humbled by what 2019 has brought me. Another of my discoveries during this gratitude process is that humility is a key to gratitude. Being humble not only grounds me to what is actually going on versus the stories that is spun up in my head. It also reveals that we need others/each other to thrive. We depend on parents, friends, our pets, God, the universe to provide what we cannot provide for ourselves. Seeing with grateful eyes requires that we see the invisible web of interconnection in which we alternate between being givers and receivers.
To sum it up, gratitude allows us to fight against negative thinking and helps us to be more resilient and happier. So how do we apply this attitude of gratitude? Here are three tools you can use:
- Write down gratitude notes and stick it to a mirror: Remind yourself of what you’re grateful for and how it’s impacted your life. It could be an image or a word or phrase. If you want to go deeper, reflect on the difficult moments and appreciate where you’re now compared to being in that moment and what you have gained from that experience.
- Ask & Share: Ask the people around you what they are grateful for and share stories. Our brain likes to tell and hear stories to make sense of things This helps us get out of our own funk and heads. Perhaps, even help us to see what similar things that may be going on in our lives that we have forgotten to appreciate. Isn’t that why we’re here on earth … to inspire and elevate each other to be better?
- Express gratitude creatively: Do something creative while exercising gratitude. For example, like my above “Gratitude Christmas”. Or it could be as simple as imagining something you’re grateful for to music or making up a dance every time you complete something because you’re taking time to appreciate that you finished something, even if it’s nothing big. When we express ourselves emotionally in a creative way, we embed those thoughts and feelings in positively while tying in the emotions. After all, we’re not robots and we respond better with lasting effects when we bring in the emotions.
See below an info sheet on the benefits of gratitude and why it works: