Gratitude Begins With You
posted on November 1, 2016
As we approach the “season of gratitude”, you may be pondering the importance of this emotion, considering ways to cultivate gratefulness in your own life. And, like many of us, you are likely to start imagining how you can give thanks and share feelings of gratitude with the world, approaching it from a place of sending/giving energy out. Yet, have you ever stopped to consider that the key to cultivating gratitude might begin with you, and can be found by turning your attention inward?
If you find yourself struggling with gratitude, it may be time to nourish yourself. And, please, before you begin to feel ashamed or disappointed in your struggle to be thankful, you should know that your body and brain are doing exactly what they need to do. When we are depleted, overwhelmed and stressed we have a difficult time supporting a “grateful mindset”. In fact, the part of our brain that is most adept at relating to others and open to positive possibilities, is “pruned out” when we are feeling exhausted or threatened. The wisdom of our body knows that it must power down the parts of the brain that are not necessary for surival. This “relational brain” is an integral part of our human experience but it isn’t responsible for keeping us alive.
Therefore, the more resourced you are, meaning that you have been getting sleep, eating well, and feeling safe, means that your “relational brain” can come back online…and, in turn, you become more capable of experiencing the emotion of gratitude.
So why do I feel that this is so important for me to share with you?
Well, it is because I have spent moments, days, maybe even weeks, feeling more critical of myself and my surroundings than grateful. I have struggled with this in both my professional and my personal life.
And, one thing that I know for sure, is that feeling guilty for struggling to express gratitude does not lend itself to feeling more thankful. In fact, it lends itself to more dark days.
In the past, when I noticed that I was feeling more resentful than grateful, I might have sought out a book or an article on how to shift my mindset towards a more positive perspective. With one Google search, using the keywords, “cultivating gratitude”, I would find page after page of articles that not only discuss the importance of this human emotion, but multiple articles that share how research has found it to lower stress, anxiety and depression while increasing optimism and well-being.
And, I agree with all of that. I know that being grateful feels good. It shifts my perception, opens my heart and increases my sense of connection to my local and global community. It gives me energy and helps me make a positive impact.
And, I bet you agree with all of that, too.
But where does that leave us, the next time that we can’t muster a grateful thought?
I have a simple yet, very effective suggestion.
Let’s take a nap.
Yep, that is right. A nice, restful nap.
Because one of the most profound things you can do to cultivate a more grateful mindset, is to nourish yourself first.
Take that deep breath
Center yourself with meditation
Move and love on your body with yoga
Find time for restorative sleep
Pause and notice what you need
Fuel yourself with healthy food
….just to name a few
And, remember, your brain and body know exactly what to do. They will “power down” the more relational parts of the brain when needing to conserve energy. There shouldn’t be any shame in that. Rather, you are receiving an important message from your wise self, letting you know that you simply need to rest.
NOTE FROM WISE SELF: Before you can experience a deep, true feeling of reverence for what you have been given, you first need to be rested, restored and rejuvenated.
Now, go forth and spread gratitude in the world after you wake from your peaceful, restful slumber!