Nailing the Attitude in Gratitude - How to Shift it, Shut it and Show it for Best Results

Normally this time of year would have many of us turkey-searching, Christmas/holiday planning and meeting friends for pumpkin spice lattes (or extra hot mochas, in my case. And YES- you can and should order your liquid delights extra hot---thank me later).

But 2020 has been...need I say it? Anything but normal. 

Covid-19 is still a thing. Facemasks are now available in leopard print and an array of cool designs by many retailers. Keeping tabs and signing petitions on the fight against systemic racism is now just like, a Monday afternoon. Vamco and Iota are not the latest celebrity twins, but the latest natural disasters in the headlines. And you didn't have to be American to feel the angst and all-consuming effect of the last US Presidential election.

Damn. Even just writing that felt exhausting. 

2020 has felt a lot like a consistent round of donkey-kicks (and not the exercise move, I mean literally kicks from a donkey) interspersed with being emotionally pushed down a flight of stairs every few weeks and topped with that icky and anxious "OMG is there a spider on me?! I know there's a spider on me!!" feeling every time someone coughed at the grocery store. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say: 2021- are we there yet?!

Silly metaphors aside though, there was undeniably a lot of suffering in 2020. People lost their businesses and/or livelihoods, parents everywhere are burning out and of course, worst of all- thousands lost loved ones.

If there was ever a time persuading us not to, ever AGAIN, take anything or anyone for granted (loved ones, health, freedom, employment, travelling, social gatherings, etc.), it was 2020. 

And although many aren't in the frame of mind to think about gratitude right now (understandably), I still felt compelled to finish the last home stretch of this challenging year, with some ever-gentle food for thought on its benefits.

What is Gratitude, Anyway?

Gratitude is one of those feel-good words that looks good in cursive fonts and pretty backgrounds on social media posts. Case in point:

But what does it really mean?

I"ll skip the dictionary definition and instead paraphrase (yes- this ought-ta be good 😄).

Gratitude is thankfulness on steroids. It is a way of being wherein there is effort given to feel and express appreciation in some way, shape or form...beyond predictable "thank you's", FB likes and turkey dinners once or twice a year.

Y Tho?

So why bother with gratitude? 

I've been described as a positive person quite a bit. Which is nice, of course...but also secretly perplexing to me. 

People act like being "positive" is some unique, innate, Mariah-Carey-whistle-singing-in-octave-8 kind of gift (which I can also do BTW...too bad I can't demonstrate via blog post 😜). 


But being positive is really not that special. 

There's no magic formula; to me it's just a side effect of being good at recognizing your blessings, and adjusting your attitude accordingly. Most of us can do this. 

For what it's worth, here is what I find appealing about gratitude:

1- Wellbeing. Simply put: thoughts affect emotions and emotions affect your body and your body affects your quality of life. Studies have shown that there is a physiological response to every thought we have. With a personal and family history of depression, I almost feel like I can't afford to "go there". All feelings have their place- no argument there. However, if, on a daily basis, I focused on all that's not working, it could very quickly start affecting my mental health...yeah- no thanks.

2- Energy-efficient. Gratitude is the LED light of attitudes to choose from. I have read a lot about willpower (in hopes to acquire some- ha!) and it's a fact that we all have limited energy reserves. Dwelling and complaining takes energy, which ultimately takes us away from whatever else we need or want to focus on.

3- A call to compassion. Have you ever lost touch with a friend for a few months, only to reconnect with them and learn that they were having the worst year of their lives? And suddenly your problems pale in comparison to their circumstances? Remembering your blessings and that there is always someone worse off gets you out of your self-focus and woe-is-me bubble, and into gratitude/support mode. And bonus- this leads to reconnecting and building more meaningful relationships.

4- Purpose. "Giving is the best gift" is a saying for a reason. We live in a selfie and influencer-driven culture where we are led to believe that focusing on ourselves will fulfill us. EHN- WRONG! Behind the filters and "perfect body, perfect life" profiles- different story. The more you zoom-in on yourself, the more insecure, dissatisfied and out of touch you become. Instead, when you direct that energy into supporting and validating others, you reap the reward of adding meaning to your life by making a difference. And meaning = a sense of purpose; which is way more rewarding in the long run than posting a hot bikini pic (although I get it- if I managed to skip carbs for even a day, you better believe I would make sure everyone hears about it). 

5- Empowerment. There are obviously real victims of every horrific thing - abuse, crime, tragedies, sickness, loss, etc. With everyday, unpleasant circumstances however (missing the bus, getting stuck in the rain, hating your job, dealing with difficult people, etc.), having a victim mindset renders you utterly powerless. And feeling powerless, in turn, breeds more negative thinking and less than ideal emotional states. When you remind yourself that you do have control over how you feel/perceive most situations, you put yourself in the more powerful position of choosing how to handle your adversity...which leads to actually doing something about it.

But How?

After giving it some thought, I have concluded that gratitude boils down to regularly practicing 3 helpful habits: 

1- shifting perspective 2- mastering the art of shutting thine old Dorito chute (it’s not as fun as painting but hey- it's energy-efficient!) and 3- putting your effort where your mouth is.

Do You See What I See? A Better Way of Looking at Things- Shift it

The Debbie and Donnie Downers of the world could find fault in every possible scenario- I'm not kidding. They could win the lottery and complain that they have to drive down to the head office to claim it. 

There are always different ways of looking at the exact same situation.

When I worked in my previous department, I landed on two horrible bosses, back-to-back. And I don’t mean “unorganized” or “doesn’t support me in meetings” horrible, I mean flat-out, daily harassment of myself and others on my team horrible that led to investigations, departures and many staff breakdowns. One day I remember a colleague in another sector telling me: “you’re just not lucky”. That immediately struck me and I thought, I don't see it that way.

Although they were the worst experiences of my career, the quick turnover rates under said tyrants is what allowed me to climb 3 levels up in under a year, and my misery pushed me to get the hell out of there...and wouldn't you know it I landed somewhere I like (with sane people in Management positions). Ultimately these scenarios worked-out in my favour, and I can truthfully say I never saw myself as unlucky.

Another example:

A few weeks ago, I felt discouraged for the first time in a long time about my workload. I landed on big files with no end in sight and no motivation to keep going. Later that night, my husband and I went for a walk, and he reminded me of some very valid points.

-"remember when you hated taking the bus every day?" (I now mostly work from home and my father picks me up from work)

-"remember your terrible bosses at the old department?"

-"remember all the people who lost their jobs in this pandemic and are struggling?"

-"if all you had was easy files, wouldn't you get bored? Don't you want a challenge?" 

And that set-off a chain of thoughts and I kept going from there:

-I remembered the days I was so tired at work I told myself "I wish I could just fall asleep right now". And I now have the luxury of doing so if I need to, and catching-up when I'm rested. 

-I can work on my frames in-between files

-I can use a stove for lunch and breakfast!! 🙌 🍳

-no awkward small talk at microwave line-ups at lunch hour 

-I can spend more time with my spoiled little fart 🐶

-I always dreamed of working from home, and now it's a reality 

-no more riding a germ box on wheels with people who are morally opposed to showering

-etc, etc, etc.

And by the time we got back home, I snapped out of it and felt better.

It's about perfecting the "glass-half-full" effect. The more specific you can get, the more authentic it feels. And when done authentically, it works! You can genuinely feel better and more appreciative of your circumstances by simply shifting what you choose to focus on.

If You're Grateful and You Know it, STFU- Shut it

Then there are the chronic sigh-ers of the world who almost seem to enjoy hearing themselves complain. They are as committed to their misery as others are to their fitness routines. And they operate on one energy level at all times: blah

You can only fantasize about how good they would look with a sock in their mouths.

I know people who claim to like their jobs and yet, Monday to Thursday, they wish it was Friday and first thing Friday morning, they wish it was 5 p.m. That's not liking your job. They will even take the time to type their blah thoughts and send them out into the Universe via email. What a waste of everyone's time. Meanwhile, countless people would kill to be in their positions and get paid the salaries that they do.

And of course, the "I'm gratefulBUT" nit-pickers.

I love how Dr. Phil puts it: “‘But’ means forget everything I just said. Now I’m going to tell you what I really mean." 

Think Bridezillas- you can rearrange your entire life and spend time, money and energy on accommodating someone's big day and every event leading up to it, and they will still find it reasonable to bring up the parts where you failed to meet their expectations 100%.

A grateful person knows when to SHUT IT, because they recognize all the effort you put in, despite not being perfect. They can zoom-out and see the big picture; and ultimately exercise good judgement in making the mature and admirable decision to put a cork in it.

So it's basically learning to practice the old adage- if you have nothing good to say, STFU (that's how it goes, right?). 

Again, it is not about denying feelings, because all feelings are important and have their place. It is more about stopping the useless dwelling on language and thinking that doesn't serve you...or anyone around you.

Talk is Cheap MFs- Show it

And finally- the "all talk"-ers. They have the nice words and all the fluffy, feel-good emojis at the ready, but anything beyond that is non-existent. Any meaningful actions or thoughtful efforts to “walk the walk” are overlooked or conveniently explained away with excuses...every single time.

As someone who is aspiring to make a career out of being a poet (don't worry, I'm keeping my day job for now), I, more than anyone, appreciate the weight and beauty of words.

But when there are never any actions backing up the words or the FB likes, the lack of effort feels...disappointing, to say the least. And even insulting, in some cases.

I'll just say it- many people suck at showing gratitude. This became more clear to me when I launched my business and when I got married. You can spend hundreds of dollars and boatloads of time and energy on supporting friends at their numerous events throughout the years and when the tables turn...crickets. You would think spending $50 on a frame to show support or buying you a $5 "Congratulations" card when you got married would be a no-brainer. Think again though...think again. 

Giving effort makes people feel special and supported.

For some, it means taking a break from the groundbreaking, earth-shattering notion that IT'S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU

If you think about it, you are nothing without your loved ones. So might as well show appreciation with thoughtful gestures and small actions that go a long way. Instead of always taking, remembering to give once in a while could mean a lot to someone else...and the high of uplifting them might even make you happier!

Grain of Salt, People 

Would I ever suggest someone who suffered unimaginable loss/trauma, or anyone with a serious mood disorder just shut it and be grateful for their blessings? Hells NO. As Dwight Schrute has said: I'm not a barbarian. (and if you don't know who Dwight Schrute is...this might be where we should go our separate ways).

I would, however, encourage whomever this resonates with, to work on upping their gratitude game as much as possible, in hopes to reap its rewards and bring in the new year with a full heart. This is the perfect time to learn to focus on our blessings, as 2020 has shown us that anything we take for granted can be ripped away from us almost overnight.

I wish you all a minimally stressful holiday season, with all the shifting, shutting and showing you can afford to fit in your life right now. It may just be the best gift you give yourself!









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