Good morning, dear reader! It is the week of Spring break here in our cozy tiny Ozarks home, and I gotta say…it’s cold af. Spring break would be much easier if I didn’t have to come up with ideas for a ten-year-old boy who was INSIDE. However, there will be one day when the temps are supposed to get over 55* so I plan to take him to this Missouri phenomenon and wear his little booty out climbing all day.
Today we will just continue our little low-key and awesome staycation (My theme for the week. Catchy, huh?) with some indoor trampolines, painted pottery, and the quest for a good (non-Domino’s) cheese pizza. Fingers crossed.
As I was sitting in my chair this morning, I realized it had been since September that I took an entire week off from work, and then, well, we went to Disneyland and walked over 38,000 steps over two days. That, friends, was not a vacation. Vacation? The hills of Scotland, the shores of Norway…heck…flea markets in the middle of Mississippi and odd little bookstores in Salem, Massachusetts. No, folks, Disneyland wasn’t all I remembered it to be. (Can’t swing a week? Recharge with a planned mental health day. My favorite HR guy says “I don’t need to know what you do with your sick days.” Be that guy.)
But it is now 8:36 am this morning, and the kiddo is still sound asleep. The cats have found their sunny morning spot, and I find myself here – alone with my keyboard – thinking just how lucky I am to be alive and spend the days with my son.
Being grateful for the little things prepares us for when we seemingly ‘have it all,’ and it collapses. It’s easy to be bitter in those times of demise, but if we can continue with a daily practice of gratitude, it can get us through the hardest times. For example, in my lowest time – the most difficult financially and the most difficult as a parent – I was grateful for the church food pantry. I was grateful when a friend purchased me a microwave. I was grateful when another friend paid a deposit on my apartment. I was grateful for the times when people took my son for the day free of charge so I could recharge and not end up in an orange jumpsuit.
And I’ve been doing some research, friends. Yep. On gratitude. And I’ve learned that ‘an attitude of gratitude’ isn’t just some catchy bumper sticker thingy. There’s actually some neuroscience behind what this gratefulness thing does for you. Wanna learn more? Good.
Grab a drink. Settle in.
1) Being grateful improves sleep, mood, and immunity. But don’t take my word for it. The Mayo-freaking-Clinic did an entire study on this. The challenge is the brain is designed to problem-solve. It isn’t designed to be grateful. So, for example, if your car doesn’t start, your brain jumps immediately to how to get this to start so you can get to work on time. It doesn’t think, “Oh, well, great. I’m grateful for this extra time to meditate or start a load of laundry while I wait for the Uber driver.”
2) Grateful people are more generous. Think about Scrooge in Dicken’s novel. He was only grateful or generous once he was shown all the reasons he had in front of him to be both. Try stretching yourself a bit and putting yourself out there. Instead of donating money to the school’s project, ask if you can help implement it. Instead of clicking the stupid “hug” emoji when a friend expresses a need on Fakebook, how about calling them and asking them to lunch? (And being grateful when they decline. I’m kidding. Okay. I’m sorta kidding.)
3) Gratitude can be expressed even in your darkest hours. I know this personally. In my darkest days, the Universe placed me in several situations where I had direct contact with those who were unsheltered and families who were way, way, way below the poverty line. Yet, even though I was in a situation I never expected to be in, I was grateful for a roof over our heads and a car that got me to and from work. I was thankful for all the meals people took me to or prepared for me. I was grateful for a 30-gallon tote of ‘gently used’ boys’ size 4T. And I’m still thankful today. (Today, specifically, for coffee…heat…and a sleeping child.)
If you want to know more about the biology of gratitude, here’s the link to the Mayo Clinic article. And they even have a ‘month-long gratitude program’ if you, like me, are into that sorta thing or need the structure and accountability.
And, I leave you with a song from the 70’s. (I know you are grateful I’m not linking to Dido’s ‘Thank You’. – You’re welcome.) I had to giggle because the first comment on this video link is “It is scientifically impossible to be in a bad mood when listening to this band.” I don’t know about ‘scientifically impossible’ but pretty darn impossible, I’ll admit.