Happy Halloween! Belated as it might be. I apologize for the silence the past two weeks – technical issues abounded. All bugs have been sorted and we should be fully operational. Thank you for being patient with me.
This month is all about gratitude. Thankfulness. Something most Americans, and I would wager most first-world citizens, are in desperate need of.
This past month, as a mom of an adolescent, I found myself often frustrated by the poor choices my son made. It felt like no matter what we as parents did, my son was determined to make poos choices. My son was successful in breaking something every – single – day for one week straight. Dealing with crazy work demands and trying to figure out how to balance everyone’s needs seemed more complicated than usual.
Honestly, there were some days it felt hopeless. I felt the world against me. I felt frustrated with the special needs I have to deal with, the demands of work for both myself and my husband. I felt very alone. But that is never the case, is it?
So, how do we pull ourselves out of these dark moments as moms and dads? How do we remind ourselves of the enormous amounts of blessings that are part of our lives daily? How do we develop a Gratitude Attitude?
Here are my five steps to having a Gratitude Attitude as a parent, and for life:
- PERSPECTIVE: Did you know, according to an article published by Anup Shah in 2013, at least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day ($3,640 annually)? Almost 2 in 3 people lack access to clean water to survive on less than $2 a day ($884 annually)? More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day? More than 385 million live on less than $1 day ($364 annually)? Or that 1.6 billion people (1/4 humanity) live without electricity? The stats are a bit outdated, but the principle remains the same. The first world has champagne problems.
As I write this, I am sipping my fair trade Laughing Man coffee (super yummy), my son is creating art with actual paper and pencils and we are enjoying a beautiful sunny cool fall day on the deck in our backyard. We have a wonderful home, a beautiful big yard, and my husband and I both have jobs. Our bellies are always full, and we can pull out water from any faucet (or our fridge) whenever the notion strikes. And my son had enough in our house to break something every single day in one week and still, our house functioned just fine. I find a gratitude attitude starts with the right mind set – reset your mind.
2. RENEW YOUR MIND: If you are like me at all, what you watch, read, scroll through, etc. all affect your state of mind. When I watch scary movies, I get scared. When I focus on the negative comments in a scroll, my mind is negative. When I read an intense book, my anxiety rises. We need to renew our minds – start treating them like we do our bodies.
Just like a healthy body needs exercise and quality food nutrition, a mind needs exercise and quality food nourishment. Reading is essential to renewing your mind. Don’t just read novels (though I like those). I find reading historical books, world solution books, and culture books help me to see the world from another’s perspective more. I have attached some of my favorite books to help get you started in this.
3. MEDITATE: This sounds New Age and for some a little hippie, but what a difference it makes! Most people picture meditation as sitting on a yoga mat with your feet crossed and saying,” om,” in a quiet voice. There is so much more to it. Meditation is simply the practice of focusing your mind. What you focus on is just as important. Focusing on whatever is true, beautiful, pure, lovely, admirable, think on these things. For those who pray, this is a great time for that. I find doing this throughout my day is beneficial to keeping my mind in a good place. There are a lot of apps that can help make this a daily practice. I like Calm and the Abide podcast.
4. WORKOUT I try to do a 30-60-minute workout four times a week. Ideally, we should be moving our bodies cardiovascularly at least 30 minutes a day, but in life, I find that is not always possible. I have a love-hate relationship with working out. I hate the getting started part…and doing the workout part. But, I love how I feel when I am done. I find I feel less stressed, more energized, and sleep so much better. There are other benefits to working-out too – higher happiness levels, better success setting and meeting goals, improved memory, and concentration and so much more.
5. GET OUT IN NATURE: In a world of computer screens, tablets, phones, and social media, we often forget the importance of getting outside. So often, people get their dose of nature from a documentary in the comfort of their own home. But that does not have all the same benefits of actually walking outside, getting sun on your face, and enjoying the sights and sounds around you.
There is a great article, The Positive Effects of Nature on Your Mental Well-being, published on October 16, 2020, that goes in-depth into the numerous benefits of nature. Here are just some of the highlights. Nature helps emotional well being, and memory focus (for those with special needs kids, this is a wonderful FREE tool). Nature lowers stress and helps those suffering from depression. Nature walks and other outdoor activities help build attention and focus. This is a great way to spend time with the family and increase school focus later. And one recent study shows spending more time outside and less time in front of a computer can help increase our problem-solving and creative thinking.
6. CHOSE JOY: This may sound the simplest, but it can be the hardest. It is so easy to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of life – the doctor’s appointments, the tantrums, the politics of the world, the pandemic. There is so much negative out there. It is easier to find the negative and focus on that than it is really to choose joy. This is different than happiness (a fleeting feeling). Joy is a deeper peace and understanding that it is good in the world. Good will win. Joy is actively counting our blessings and naming them one by one. This is hard in a society where we judge each other instantaneously on 15 different social media platforms. This is hard when everyone’s voice is fighting to be heard. This is hard when we encourage the negative in our feeds. To make this a higher priority in my life, I have ceased actively participating in social media – outside of this blog and its Facebook page. Oh, sweet relief! Oh, calmer and happier self! I highly recommend at least a social media fast for a bit and see how it affects your mental and emotional state.
Having a gratitude attitude is not always an easy process. It is often contrary to our society’s love for drama, negatively, and sin – let’s call it what it is. Our society has been constructed to be all about Me and less about others. When we change our perspective to helping others and focusing our minds on what is true, noble, pure, and good, it is amazing how grateful we are. It is amazing how truly blessed we are. It is amazing how these small actions can change our lives for the better forever.
For more tips and tricks on how to have a gratitude attitude, check out my Facebook page.