It was during the third trimester of my second and most challenging pregnancy when the
“gratitude journal” craze started to spread online. Back then I was in my mid-20s and still didn’t understand much about myself, or other humans, and was deeply absorbed in the misery and nausea I was experiencing.
So naturally, I loathed reading people’s bubbly gratitude journals with a passion. In fact, I wrote a terrible blog post about it and sent it to two of my best friends, whose replies were basically “…uh, you just sound like a crazy, angry pregnant lady.” I even went looking for this blog entry to show you how truly insane I was at that time, but alas, I must have deleted it because, like most things on the internet, it was probably better off unread…
Thankfully (see what I did there??), since then I have learned that an “attitude ‘o’ gratitude” is the cornerstone of a happy and fulfilling life. Dr. Brene Brown, who has spent over two decades researching courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy has found, through her years of study, a recurring theme among people who lead happy, enriched lives: they all actively practice gratitude and attribute their joyfulness to this practice.
Taken like a prescription, practicing gratitude can change your brain so it has positive thoughts instead of negative ones. PhD Nate Klemp even has this catchy, easy-to-remember formula for rewiring your thinking from a state of negativity to a state of gratitude: notice-shift-rewire. Here’s a practical example: Oftentimes, I used to find myself dreading a particularly hard workout the night before. My mind would be flooded with a sense of self-doubt, along with negative thoughts about waking up early and anticipation of the agony my body would go through. Upon noticing this thought pattern, I shifted to the mindset: I’m grateful for my body being strong and capable. I’m grateful to have a partner to stay home with the kids and allow me to do this activity. And finally, after some practice, rewire. The act of rewiring is simply spending 15 seconds reflecting on this new mindset to embed it into the fabric of our minds. Amazingly, doing this enough times, just like working a muscle, can create automatic thankful responses to things that previously drew automatic negative ones.
Thankfulness, even around the holiday of its namesake, can be difficult to practice…especially in 2020. As our mental health suffers, all we can do is try our best to keep the beauty of the world in mind, and the best way to get there is through practicing gratitude. It’s medicine for the brain and it puts honey on the lips. And if, like 27-year-old pregnant me, you’re having a hard time finding the joy in life, that’s okay, too. Life has its seasons where joy can be hard to find. Let’s be gracious with one another as we seek to find the meaning and sunlight beyond the dark.
Happy Thanksgiving, Milpitas. Today, I am thankful for our beautiful community, for health, and for The Milpitas Beat, which faithfully keeps me informed of the goings on in our great city!