I knew being grateful was a practice people used to enjoy life a little bit more, and I wanted to bring it into ours. We brought it to our dinner table three years ago, and still to this day, every time we sit together to eat my kids now remind us (and whoever is over!) that we need to say our Thank You Fors. (sidenote: When my older son (4 1/2) was just 1 we were introducing this to him. He changed “I am thankful for…” to “I am fank you for…” It has stuck ever since.)
At first we went through some of the normal things – family, friends, each other, this food – but after you say what you are thankful for every day for a few weeks, and sometimes multiple times in one day, you get a little – well – uncomfortable. What am I thankful for?
My brother recently sent me a freakonomics podcast on being grateful. Tom Gilovich, a professor of psychology at Cornell University, made a statement that resonated about why being grateful is such a difficult task for people to continually complete. He said, “We have to pay attention to the barriers in front of us because we have to get over them, or get through them in some way. We have to overcome them. We don’t have to pay attention to those things that are boosting us along. We can just be boosted along.” And he suggests that in order to really see, and dig in to what we should be grateful for, we might need to change the question to “What are the ways in which I’m boosted along, the invisible things that make my life easier?”
So, instead of that list of what am I grateful for, which can sometimes get monotonous, I say to myself, what has been boosting me along in my life? What has been there? What are my constants? What stabilities have created a ground for which I can feed off of? People, circumstances, feelings, teachings? And the flood gates open and I realize that who I am is a combination of a whole lot of good, and the learning from some bad.
I realized some things from long ago, like incredible high school friends who loved me during a time when I didn’t love myself and my childhood passion for gymnastics which turned to yoga, which instilled a value of mindfulness. I noticed some things I took advantage of like my ongoing love of education and the unbelievable patience of my husband. I found all of these tiny little joys wrapped up in the gratefulness and that’s when it clicked for me. When my gratefulness got so specific, I was able to use it to notice all the good.
So, that’s what I do now. I do the work. I move the mountains. And I don’t let myself forget to sit and take in the view along the way.
What boosts you along?