As much as I don’t like to sound like a broken record, life truly feels like a big juggling act. If there is a secret to maintaining balance, I’ve yet to come across it. Because of this, I found myself succumbing to complaining a lot this year. It got to the point where I would wake up in a sour mood on a daily basis. As much as I wanted to point fingers at others for my bad days, I eventually decided to take ownership of my negative disposition.
With the help of my therapist, I realized that bad days or moments are inevitable. They can also be temporary, just like any other moment in life. Whether you are in therapy or not, practicing gratitude can help lighten our mood. This doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to be frustrated or angry when things become overwhelming. We are human, so we are allowed to feel. Practicing gratitude does help us somewhat shift our long-term focus to avoid our anger or frustration from spreading to other areas of our lives. For example, we may not realize that remaining in these negative feelings can affect our relationships and even our physical health (i.e. stress).
When my therapist suggested that I find things to be grateful about each day, I initially scoffed at the idea. I thought, how could practicing gratitude truly help me find joy in my days when life is hectic? Eventually, I decided to take a chance and heed my therapist’s advice—here’s how it went.
Days 1-10: Still Feeling Skeptical
I admittedly wanted to give up on the second day because I still felt lousy. I still found myself complaining about little things like seeing someone jaywalk across the street from my job. By the time I made it to day five, I was able to start finding small things to be grateful about. My lists were incredibly short and sometimes only had one thing on them. However, I kept up with the practice of writing down something each morning.
Days 11-20: Realizing Gratitude Starts Small
My lists began to get a little longer. I found myself focusing on my son, who has a burst of energy each time he wakes up. Like him, I began to find joy in saying and hearing “good morning.” It’s something I wrote down on my gratitude list. From there, I started to feel grateful about the weather, rain or shine. It seems really small, but it made me appreciate being present in the moment.
Days 21-30: A Habit Forms
This is the period where things began to perk up. I found myself looking forward to driving to work. Usually, my hour commute is littered with frustration, but I didn’t scream to myself at other drivers (as much). I enjoyed the scenery and even began singing along to music in the car again.
As a first-time mom navigating challenges through my son’s first year of life, I understand feeling overwhelmed. But I also understand that being grateful has helped change my outlook too. I’m a little more patient and find that if I do get upset, I don’t remain upset for long. I don’t mind admitting that I have been known to hold a grudge. However, the great thing about practicing gratitude is that it’s not about becoming a perfect person or mother.
I don’t believe in perfectionism, but I do believe that we are allowed to have moments of joy or peace as much as we experience other things. Whether you choose to write a gratitude list or simply say them out loud to yourself whenever you please, it does help. Finding gratitude doesn’t gloss over real issues in our lives, but it can help us get through them.