Today’s food for thought touches on mindset, looking at the ideas of gratitude and appreciation (which can be awesome tools for helping our teens (and ourselves) shift out of a bad mood). I was talking to my own teen about gratitude recently, and it struck me what a loaded word it was for her, giving off a feeling of “you should be more grateful!”. It got me thinking about how much I’ve felt this too. Along the way, we pondered over appreciation — and found ourselves in a different place. Please enjoy!
I’m not a big fan of the word gratitude most days. It feels loaded and like a should to me. As in: “Be more grateful! You’re not being grateful enough. Don’t you dare ever complain. It’s not okay to not feel okay. There are others worse off so you have nothing to feel bad about. You should be grateful for everything. Everything. Be grateful!!”
Gratitude feels like this mutually exclusive thing. I’m either feeling grateful for life, seeing only the good, and living in gratitude (all of the freakin’ time) — or I’m not.
Add to this the idea of writing a daily gratitude list (because that’s supposed to be a good thing, you know) and I feel like punching the idea of gratitude in the face. And then I feel bad for feeling this way; clearly I’m doing gratitude wrong somehow. It’s yet another area where I’m failing in life.
Now, I know some folks who love the word, idea, and feel of gratitude. It’s helpful and fits and totally serves them well. And that’s awesome. Please rock on with gratitude if that’s the case for you.
I came across the idea of swapping appreciation for gratitude a few months back. I’ve been trying this on for size and find it fits better for me. With appreciation, I can acknowledge that life isn’t perfect (bad moods, hard days, and feeling like a failure happen sometimes and it’s okay) AND I can still always find things that are going well and that I appreciate. It feels like and/both rather than either/or — I don’t get the sense of mutual exclusivity.
So with this shift in hand, I decided to try out making appreciation lists, especially when my attitude is going downhill. And surprise, surprise, it seems to be helping (like in the case of a day when almost everyone in the family was sick with a stomach bug).
A short list I came up with on that day which helped me get out of my hole (where all I could see was how sick and bad we all felt, and then how bad everything else seemed to be):
- I appreciated that my husband recognized the “I need to puke” look and got our little girl to the toilet plus held her hair back. His quick thinking saved lots of cleaning up.
- I was appreciative of the large box of garbage bags we’d gotten at Costco. We went through a boatload over the week, and we still had plenty left.
- I appreciated the offer of homemade chicken broth a friend made when she heard we weren’t feeling well. Thank you!
- I was appreciative that our internet continued to work well — Netflix, Comcast, and Amazon movies aided our recovery.
- I also continued to appreciate my Vitamix blender. How I love this machine. It blends the crap out of ingredients to make a smooth smoothie every time. (And with smoothies being the main thing tasting good when we were sick, it got even more use.)
Yes, even in the midst of literal vomit, there was always something to appreciate, something going well, a bright side. Finding and reminding myself about it was helpful — it helped shift my energy out of the yuck space (which served no one).
(On a side note, as I’ve been playing around with appreciation, I’ve been finding that gratitude somehow feels less loaded too.)