Often, gratitude is an action that comes outside of the moment. We keep gratitude journals and diaries. We give thanks while we pray. We reflect on moments of kindness during meals. For those of you who do this regularly, know that your practice of gratitude benefits you in huge ways. Studies show that gratitude practices such as these lead to greater positivity and happiness in your life, and even better, they help build an attitude where gratitude comes more easily.
I’d like to propose taking that practice one step forward. While it is easy to engage in a gratitude practice when things are calm and quiet, it’s quite a different challenge to focus on things to be grateful for when life gets hectic, and it’s even harder to think of them when things go wrong. Working towards finding that spark of gratitude, even when things are hectic or not going as planned, can make all the difference in an experience.
Give gratitude in all moments a try
This is where my challenge comes in. When something happens; a kindness, an inconvenience, an unexpected surprise, an unplanned frustration; I challenge you to find a gratitude statement about it in the moment – and if appropriate share it with whoever you are with. Not only will this help you train your brain to naturally find the good in situations, but it will often brighten the day of people around you.
For example, if someone spills the milk you could say, “Thankfully that was only a $0.50 oopsie. We can afford it.” If you can’t find a convenient parking spot you could say, “Looks like I’m getting more steps in today!” If your kid has misplaced his shoes again you could say, “Hey, maybe I’ll find that _______I’ve been looking for while we look (the sillier, the better. I was looking for a purple flamingo once…). As long as it’s a positive and not a negative statement, you’re headed in the right direction.
Being an accidental grocery store guide
About a year ago I was at the grocery store with my kiddos and they were doing their normal thing where they wander in wide circles around me while I’m trying to check out. I’m Saturn and they are my many tiny moons. Would I love them to stand next to the cart and chill? Yes, absolutely. With the whole spectrum thing, standing still is darn near impossible. As long as they’re respectful, it’s fine.
When it’s time to go, I have to get their attention first and perform the dance of the world’s lamest tour guide by waving my arms and literally guiding them out of the store. The front-end manager was so tickled with the performance she shared how she’d love me to come to the store to help guide customers toward the sales shelves. In a moment when she could have responded with ambivalence or irritation, instead, she let me know that something I did made her smile, and because she shared it with me, it made me smile too.
Discuss: When has someone shared gratitude with you and you didn’t expect it? How did it make you feel? Share in the comments below!