Leaning Into Gratitude

You know those days where putting one foot in front of the other seems like an undesirable, daunting task? When pulling the sheets over our tired, restless bodies feels like the only way to quiet the noise in our minds? Yeah, I’ve had a more than a few of those days in my life time. In fact, I’m experiencing one of those days today.

On these days, it’s particularly difficult to give myself the patience, grace, and compassion that I know I need. As I discussed in my last post, I’m actively working on practicing self-compassion as opposed to berating, comparing, and criticizing myself. And as I mentioned in that post, it’s days like today where I know I really need to tap into my compassionate attitudes and reserve some for myself. It’s certainly easier said than done, but I’m a work in progress (after all, aren’t we all?). When we feel mentally-drained it can be difficult to interrupt the shame-cycle and enter willingly into a mindset of self-compassion and grace.

Something I’ve found helpful on my “off days” is leaning into gratitude. Despite how negative I may feel, there’s always something I can identify with a heart full of gratitude. I make an effort to journal every morning while having breakfast. Regardless of my mood or the tone of my entry, I conclude my writing with a list of at least five things that I’m grateful for that morning. It’s a helpful way to shift my focus toward something more positive and uplifting, especially if my entry was emotionally-charged. I find gratitude in the simplest of things: The sound the rain makes as it cascades down my bedroom window; my ability to express myself and my inner-workings through writing; mid-afternoon snuggles with my cat; deep, stimulating conversations with my family and friends; my supportive, loving boyfriend; a restful night’s sleep. In choosing to dwell on what I’m grateful for, I notice that my mind and my heart are slightly more open to connecting with my intuitive, authentic self. In that intimate place, self-compassion feels a bit easier to tap into and put into practice.

Speaking of being grateful, I recently read The Book Of Awesome by Neil Pasricha–a book composed entirely of the little pleasures in life. Something as simple as the aroma of freshly cut grass, finding some spare change in an old coat pocket, or the feeling of freshly cleaned linens on our beds could really serve to remind us of how important it is to rekindle gratitude for the little things in life. For me, one of my simplest pleasures in life is lighting a new candle and allowing its aroma permeate the air of my bedroom. This subtle task never ceases to help bring me into the present moment, as my focus rests calmly on the candle’s burning flame and enticing aroma. In fact, on days like today, my go-to grounding skill (aside from leaning into gratitude) is grabbing one of my favorite candles and watching its flame dance, while simultaneously taking in deep inhalations of its pleasant aroma. Who would’ve thought that the simple act of lighting a candle could be something that helps me ground myself when I’m feeling unbalanced? That’s truly something I’m grateful for discovering.

Adopting an attitude of gratitude toward my life has helped me reconnect with my authentic self, which has granted me the ability to continue in my efforts of having greater compassion toward myself. When the bad days feel like they’re piling up one after the other, I lean even further into gratitude, letting that gratitude guide me to a place where I can tap into my self-compassion. It isn’t always the quickest connection, but I know that when I choose to be grateful, the darkness feels a little less heavy, inescapable, and definitive. Having patience in this entire process is key, in addition to trusting that if we can get through the not-so-good days by practicing gratitude and self-compassion, that the good days can’t be too far off.

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