So for a few minutes, let's suspend our anger at our ex-boyfriends, the right-wing agenda and Honey Boo Boo's mother. Let's pretend we're not bitter that summer has left without our permission, making way for long, dark nights and temperatures that have our body clinging to those extra 15 pounds like an attic to pink foam. Let's also pretend, briefly, that the 1%, the 47%, the 99% and everyone else on the great economic bell curve will share and share alike and there is no reason to feel cheated.
Come with me to La-La Land.
Now that you've left reality, I want to share this little trick I know. It's a great way to cope with the chaotic mess that the world can often feel like. A way to stop hating how out-of-control you might think you are too much of the time. It is super cheesy and super effective and I wish I had locked into it years ago, when I had a pony tail and snarled at anyone I judged to have a lower IQ than mine (which was, by my accurate adolescent account, everyone).
It's called gratitude. Yeah, I sound like an old lady, but keep reading.
Gratitude is being thankful for what you have. Sounds like a no-brainer. But, the concept of being thankful for things is pretty different, IMHO, from actually feeling that thankfulness. More importantly, there is a world of difference in the effects of the latter versus the former. It's weird.
I thought for the longest time that knowing I should be grateful for the things I had in life was the same as being grateful for them, that it was enough to say, "Oh, I know I'm lucky for having a job in the field I want to work in," but not really emotionally experiencing that sentiment before indulging in a twenty-minute bitch-fest with a coworker about how mean and underhanded our boss was.
Whether or not our boss was wicked is beside the point. My choosing to use mutual negativity as a means to bond with my coworker was not, I believe, healthy for me. Perhaps you can relate. It eclipsed my outlook and put a damper on my mood, which other people, unrelated to the issue of my bossor whatever it was on any given daycould not help but pick up on. People can smell that kind of resentment, people who had nothing to do with my job and people to whom I had no intention of presenting a sour face.
The cool thing about gratitude is that it can undo this. For me it has helped to actively reverse the bitterness, which puts me in a better mood, which by default makes the people around me more relaxed and increases their chances of feeling good too. It's impressive when you think of how much power we can have when it comes to quietly affecting our environments and the people in them.
Something mundane I did that helped make this shift was to write gratitude lists. (If you need help, any grandmother will probably volunteer to make one with you, but it's best to learn on your own.) I would force myself to write down ten, twenty or fifty things, depending on how pissy my day was, that I had or had experienced in my life that I was glad of. These would be things big or small, and look something like this:
I'm grateful for my guitar
I'm grateful my parents are still alive
I'm grateful I don't live with them
I'm grateful that that time I got a paper cut on my eyeball in sixth grade it didn't leave me blind
Now, your lists will probably look different than mine, especially if you live with your parents and are blind in one eye. But the effects that doing this can have on you over time can deeply improve the way you experience life; I really believe that. And then you can coexist with your evil boss, the 1%, and Honey Boo Boo's mother without snarling like a bitter adolescent with a pony tail.
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