By: Vanessa Molina, MFT, Intern
Often times we find it difficult to focus on the positive things going on in our lives when there’s so much noise in our environment. Most of us forget the idea of gratitude and what it really means. The online definition for gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Living in a materialistic world, it becomes second nature to be chasing the next great thing. And, while the next great thing could be something that we really want like a new car or a promotion, it doesn’t take away from the things we enjoy every day. Focusing on what we are blessed with having vs. focusing on what we don’t have, is what allows our days to flow with gratitude.
In the 1997 psychological Drama, “Good Will Hunting” starring Robin Williams, there is a scene in the film where he (the therapist) says to his client played by Matt Damon, “You’ll have bad times, but that’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to”. Difficult times are indeed a part of life, as nothing is linear. However, it is during these times that we really learn to appreciate the things we tend to oversee. For instance, it’s usually not until we get a sore throat or a runny nose that we truly appreciate having a clear airway to breathe. Similarly, sometimes it is when we lose someone that we notice the true nature of their presence. In life we frequently get things, not right at the moment we wish for them, but when the time’s right. Sometimes it takes months and even years of work to see the fruits of our labor and ultimately reap the benefits. As the definition states, “the quality of being thankful” is not just being thankful when things are on our side, but also being thankful for the lessons learned through difficult times. And while the goal is not to undervalue our current experience, it also helps to note things can always be a whole lot worse. This alone can bring us back to our center.
Returning kindness is not just done so that we can get good luck or be allowed into the gates of heaven. Returning kindness symbolizes that although our lives may not be exactly where we want it to be, we are present and blessed for being alive. Practicing gratefulness is a lifestyle that can be performed daily. This practice can start by observing your daily interactions and taking note on how often you exchange a “Thank You” to someone. Also, contrary to the popular belief of “never look back”, it’s important to use the “bad” or tough times as a place of reference. Remembering where you once were and the improvements that you’ve made, make room to have an energy to be grateful. Using your 5 senses of smelling, touching, hearing, tasting, and seeing can also allow for some gratitude to kick in. This can be done by bringing a sight to mind that you are grateful for in times of high anxiety or stress. Having nice and inviting aromas like lavender and eucalyptus that can also help you stay grounded.
I encourage everyone take a few moments out of their noisy schedules to stop and smell the roses. In the great words of David Stiendl-Rast, “It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful”.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit.” – Edwin Louis Cole