The giving of thanks.
grat*i*tude (noun): the quality of being thankful
Your reaction to this word may fall into one of several buckets:
- “Gratitude. Yes. That’s a practice I have…it’s changed my life!”
- “Gratitude. Yeah, I’m always reminded on Thanksgiving. I need to do that more…”
- “Gratitude. Okay, I would never admit this openly but I’m more tired of hearing about this concept than I am of seeing that lady-screaming-at-a-cat meme. Maybe I’m the grinch…”
It’s not because you’re the Grinch, if that’s your (honest) response. It’s just the byproduct of hearing you should “have a gratitude practice” without the context for WHY it’s so effective. It can create a degree of fatigue and, on occasion, we may roll our eyes and push it away, chucking it in the bullshit-platitudes bucket.
“Yeah yeah, gratitude practice. Got it.”
But here’s why gratitude isn’t bullshit:
Focusing on the things for which we are grateful is, practically speaking, about conditioning our focus. Conditioning a different focus is just like you condition a muscle.
See, when left unchecked, we’ll default to what isn’t going well because our brains have a negativity bias. This is one of many reasons people find themselves living unhappy or unfulfilling lives. You’re letting the inmates (your unexamined focus) run the asylum (your life and your mood).
Where focus goes, energy will flow and you will ALWAYS find what you’re looking for…so make a more conscious choice about what you will choose to focus on.
Try this experiment:
Mentally review a recent day from two perspectives. In the first, focus on all the things that went wrong, all the people who wronged you, all the things that were shitty or annoying. Now review the same day but focus on all the things you can be grateful for, all the joy you can find, and all the little positives about even the worst or most frustrating/triggering situation. Which one is going to resource you to a happier, more empowered state? (Let me be clear: this isn’t about a “positivity bypass” for feelings need to work through – it’s about resourcing yourself to deal with whatever life throws your way).
And it’s not just gratitude. It could be joy you choose to focus on. It could be fun…focusing on how to find the fun in whatever you do. We can condition our focus on anything – so pick what feels good for you.
Don’t believe me? Try it for 21 days and really commit to it.
Why would you avoid doing something that would make your daily life better? Something that is fully within your control? Because there’s very little we can control in this life, even though we like to pretend that’s not the case, but you can control what you focus on…so let’s set ourselves up for success and choose to condition a better focus.
Check out my latest podcast here for more on gratitude!