I’ve been a mom for a year now. And what a year it’s been.
By far, the greatest lesson I’m learning is that I can choose my perspective in any given situation- how messy the house is, my often too long to-do list, financial responsibilities, commitments to clients, whether my baby is napping enough- and have a profound impact on my health, my relationships and my connection to God.
Having a gratitude practice is the foundation of any spiritual path and has even been identified by author and speaker, Dr. Brene Brown, as a “Daring Greatly Strategy” for overcoming the tendency to numb or shield ourselves from feeling vulnerable- therefore unleashing our courage, creativity, and unique strengths. In her most recent book, Daring Greatly, she says,
If the opposite of scarcity is enough, then practicing gratitude is how we acknowledge that there’s enough, and we’re enough.
When we are in “scarcity-mode,” as I’ll call it, the part of our brain that regulates the fight-or-flight response, or stress response, is engaged. We are focused on survival. Our adrenaline kicks in, and our perspective often narrows so that we focus on what isn’t working rather than what is. We may have racing thoughts, feel scattered, overwhelmed, impatient, and irritated. Our thoughts go something like, “There isn’t enough, so how can I get more NOW?”
If we’re not careful, it’s incredibly easy to live in constant scarcity-mode. In fact, it’s so common in our culture that we might not even notice it happening in us. It’s also incredibly exhausting and a sure way to miss the good in our lives.
I used to think that just knowing this information was enough for me to reap the benefits of gratitude. I mean, come on, gratitude is so simple. My mom raised me right- I say “please” and “thank you”- isn’t that enough? But this past year has taught me that actually practicing gratitude brings a whole other level of goodness that I have access to at all times. In fact, the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley has launched a research project to expand the data on the effects of practicing gratitude on health, relationships and developmental science. Some researchers have already found the health benefits of practicing gratitude to include lowered blood pressure, a stronger immune system, higher levels of positive emotions and less feelings of isolation.
To be clear, this isn’t about dismissing painful or difficult emotions by being polite and saying “thank you.” A practice of gratitude calls us to a deeper level of engaging with our lives by choosing to focus on what is working, what is abundant and what is good.
So, what are you grateful for right now? How do you keep it in your awareness?