I have noticed that people often say that they are grateful for what they have. The words might be “I know how lucky I am,” or “I know it could be so much worse,” or “God wouldn’t give me anything I can’t handle, and I know I should be thankful.” Frequently, the thoughts are triggered by seeing people whom they think are “worse off.” Other times, the comments appear more related to a fear of being perceived as coping poorly. These days it seems we are compelled to preach about how well we are coping or how enlightened we have become, all the while accentuating how much stress we face. Surely, we think, if we are enlightened beings or following our spiritual path, we must be awakened all the time. Thus, it seems almost instinctual to follow a complaint with an expression of gratitude. “The kids are driving me crazy—they don’t do their homework, listen to anything I say, or pick up their room.” Then we quickly tack on, as if we’ve suddenly heard ourselves whining, “but it’s all good.” I believe we are trying to appear more poised or in control. Unfortunately, this is often a surface thought rather than a true belief; therefore, the whole sentiment is short-lived, and we quickly proceed to the next complaint.
But, what if we could truly feel lucky? Would it change our sense of being overwhelmed with everything from schedules, to finances, to everyday chaos with our kids?
This is where I feel that consideration of Eastern philosophy may help, specifically the belief that all beings suffer. The theory does not exclude anybody from hardship. Period. But so much of the time our views become skewed, given our tendency to judge others and ourselves. We can be left alone thinking that we are the only ones overloaded, inept, or not able to catch a break. This type of comparing is dangerous, as our perception relies on filters that make things look all good or all bad. So, the next time you look at that mom who seems so put together with her four well-behaved kids in tow, think twice before assigning her the label of supermom with little angels. Things may not be all rosy in her life. Did you see her smile? Do you know what her morning was like or what her evening will bring?
When we begin to examine things from this new perspective, it may be tempting to give up entirely andadopt a completely opposite view. You may start to be suspicious that everyone is secretly miserable and life is simply terrible. The challenge, though, is to recognize that all beings suffer in some way, and that there is suffering in our own lives, whether or not others have it worse off, and to still be in appreciation. That is no easy feat and a process that takes time.
To move from irritation to appreciation “Take the Gratitude Challenge.”
I look forward to hearing your ideas for living in appreciation and encourage sharing what has worked and what hasn’t in the comment space below. Your ideas may help someone today!
Readers who are interested in learning more about the science behind applying mindfulness and self-awareness for habit change are invited to check out Dr. Klich’s website and sign up for the monthly health and wellness newsletter at MyMindfulwayoflife.com