Hi there ~ Nice to see you again.
Are you rolling your eyes? Have they maybe glazed over? Or are you feeling your inner Goddess wisdom blooming?
The first words that come to my mind, unfiltered, are as follows:
I’m one of those annoyingly vague people who says, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” Whatever that means. I wish I could say that I invite spirituality into my daily life in deep and meaningful ways. But, in a world where we currently have shorter attention spans than goldfish, spirituality is kind of like those onion soup crock bowls buried deep in my kitchen cabinet: I know they’re there, I know I want to use them, I can’t bring myself to give up on them...yet I never actually do anything with them.
Does spirituality ever feel like something you should “do” in order to be a better human being?
This feels a little sad to me, because spirituality is actually pretty great:
It reminds you that you aren’t the center of the universe.
It focuses your attention beyond the constant stimulation one foot in front of your face.
It’s a rather one-size-fits-whoever-you-are. It can kind of mean whatever you want it to mean – and it can be much simpler than you might think.
For example, I recently started saying grace before dinner. Growing up, we started every single dinner with grace, and it seemed like a simple way to bring some spirituality back. I live smack dab in midtown Manhattan, so taking a daily stroll through deserted woods isn’t going to happen, and it’s hard to find “sacred space” in a co-inhabited apartment the size of my shoe. This seemed like the next-best thing.
I literally have a Post-It note on the table that reads: “Spirituality: Grace before meals” because it’s not yet ingrained, and I often forget. But, hey, it works. I ritually light a white candle, fold my hands, and feel some thanks for things big, like health, and small, like managing to find a piece of fruit without those damn annoying stickers plastered all over it.
I’m a pretty big fan of gratitude. One of the nice things about it is that nobody really outdoes anyone else: It’s just as cool to feel grateful for winning the lottery as it to feel grateful that, for once, you managed to put your shirt on right-side-out the first time.
Here are three other reasons to get grateful:
#1: Gratitude makes you healthier.
Mentally and emotionally, research shows that gratitude reduces stress, fosters resilience, improves self-esteem, and enhances empathy. In short, it increases mental strength. It also boosts physical and social strength. Feeling grateful? You probably have fewer aches and pains and feel healthier overall. Why? Partly because you’re more likely to take care of yourself. Why? Well, if you’re grateful, than you’re probably more aware of the good things in life, and you appreciate what you have, including people, so you want to feel good and have energy for things like relationships. Plus, fun fact: Writing a gratitude journal might help you sleep better.
#2: Gratitude slows you down.
There’s a lot out there in the wellness world about the importance of positive thinking. And, yes, the idea that "if you think it it will be" is preferable to collapsing in a pit of despair. A positive mindset is all well and good, but emotions run deep. Slapping on a happy face isn’t very sustainable: You can change your thinking without ever addressing the underlying emotional baggage, and you’ll still probably feel stuck in some way.
Gratitude feels deeper than mindset, because it stems from a feeling. After all, there’s a reason that the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day: He didn’t just think about Christmas differently, he felt it.
Gratitude hits hard, in part, because it slows you down. It’s kind of tough to feel gratitude “on the go”. You have to actually stop, even for a microsecond, and notice what’s good. You put things in perspective. You do a 180 by spinning on your heels and redirecting your focus. You choose gratitude.
Speaking of choosing...
#3: Gratitude makes you happier.
One of my all-time fave TED Talks is one called Want to be happy? Be grateful. I’ve used this quote on many a Thanksgiving card:
“It is not happiness that makes us grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes us happy.”
You know, happiness is a rather Goldilocks-like conundrum, or an Emerald City mirage. It’s some kind of magical endpoint that you’ll reach when everything else lines up just right, and it continually moves away from you, one poppy field at a time.
We’re all trying so darn hard to be happy. But guess what? You can be happy any time you want. And if you choose to be grateful, you can let happiness ride on that.
There will always be shit, but there will always be a lot of good as well. We could all use more humor, I think. Be passionate, stand up for your beliefs, and fight the good fight. But also give yourself a chance to be thankful for the good stuff and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.
Viktor Frankl said:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Life is short, and I think a great mark to leave is one that makes people smile and slow the heck down. So, really, maybe somewhere between Nora Ephron and the Buddha.
Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.