I have lived entirely too much of my life focused on everything I didn’t have; comparing myself to others; dwelling on things that didn’t go how I planned , playing my past like a CD on repeat. daily in my head. I was giving all my energy and focus into things I thought would bring me happiness….until I realized the happiness I was searching for was within me the whole time. It didn’t cost a dime. It was just a shift in my attitude, a shift into what I focused on… Introducing the Attitude of Gratitude. I’ll share my own stories to share with you how I discovered the incredible, powerful practice of Gratitude.
I was probably always like this, but at 21 especially; I was an analyst, a girl who rearranged thoughts and things to be more orderly. I craved for life to make sense and I cringed when it didn’t. Life is supposed to be consistent and make sense, right? I thought of life like a predictable simple math problem; 1 +1 will always equal 2. It will equal 2 today, it will equal 2 tomorrow, and it will equal 2 the day after that and all will be well...(As. if. I. had. any. clue).
I focused on what I didn’t have. I focused on who didn’t like me, I focused on what I wasn’t doing instead of what I just accomplished, I focused on others beauty and never remembered I felt beautiful sometimes too. I compared my homes to the Pinterest perfect houses, I’d compare myself to the “got their life together” families, I compared myself to everything I thought I needed that would make me happy. However, on this journey of discovering who I am; I realized my focus was in the opposite direction of where it needed to be.
The biggest example I’ll share with you was when I also came realized how damaging it was to be focused and comparing my life to others, daily.
I think I started focusing & comparing myself to others at 14 (because with social media, it’s so hard not too). But I’ll share with you an example of how I truly learned to be grateful for what I had and how everything changed for me. I truly became happier.
I use to follow these blogs that were lifestyle and design bloggers when I was 21. One particular blogger I followed daily, Refreshing my page on a daily basis to see what she’d write next. I mean, I kinda felt like a stalker, but her life was just so glamorous and I wanted to be her.. She was the first person I constantly compared my life to. (Mistake #354 learned in life).
Her blog was posted with picture-perfect days making Disney shaped pancakes every morning and setting up a beautiful playroom & learning corner that looked fabulous for her kids to play and learn. . Meanwhile, I constantly battled with the feeling of being thee worst mom ever because a babysitter or daycare was raising my child while I was managing a pool and I had a bedroom for Conner, with only a bed and toys. (See how the power of focusing on others can truly negatively affect every area of life? First, I’m not good enough and now I’m not even a great mother..) Most of her posts became about style. Every holiday, every time the weather changed., every time they went on a vacation… a post would come out about all the cute clothing items, miscellaneous items, she’d be buying for the trip. So of course, I compared myself to how I couldn’t afford those items, and the negative self talk that we all have would start playing in my head. Each and every time I read these posts. It’s not her posts that made me depressed, it was my focus on wanting what she had, instead of being grateful for what I had.
For example, this is her latest post I found (after just revisiting her blog that I stopped following 2 years ago when I started learning more about mental health, happiness and began reading self help books). The post below is identical to what she posted and what I compared my life too. It’s the same posts I followed everyday for years. This week, her post is about her next trip to the beach and here are the “must have items” she suggests we “needed” next time we go to the beach.
I want to make it super clear, I‘m not judging her. There is nothing wrong with her at all living her life the way she does. She’s a fashion, lifestyle, design blogger so that’s what her readers want to see. I’m using her blog as an example of how my focus on wanting to be her, and have her life deprived me of time I’ll never get back that I could have been using to grow in my own life. I realized two years ago as I started discovering more about myself, that she is just farther along in her journey than me so she can buy whatever she wants, decorate her house however she likes, spend her time however she pleases and etc. ALSO and most importantly, we have a much different perspective on life. My family doesn’t usually buy anything, but snacks for the road trip. I go to the beach with whatever we throw together in the suitcase (sometimes we even forget towels) because we’re too excited to be visiting our favorite place. Her and I are very different, just like most of us are, and that’s totally okay. It’s actually what makes this world a great place; we all have something unique to offer. At 21 though, by focusing on what I didn’t have, I felt like I never had enough. My cup was always half empty, in every area of my life. And mainly it was half empty because I was focusing on being her, My attitude wasn’t in the right spot because what I was Focusing on was in the wrong direction & once I reflected and figured that out; it changed everything, no exaggeration.
I began to learn the lessons and benefits about Gratitude and the power of what you focus on by reading a positive-psychology book (the books are listed on the page “Inspiration”). I learned that there is actually scientific evidence that your overall happiness when you master the practice of gratitude.
For me, the answer is the sense of engulfment you feel when something has made you happy. The feeling of elation you get when you really think about the luxuries in your life.
Try it — stop what you are doing, and think…
Stop and think about what it means to have a solid roof over your head. Stop and think about how you are able to charge your multiple gadgets in your home at any time you want. Stop and think about the high-speed Internet you use to talk to family on the other side of the planet.
It’s one thing to say you are grateful, but I learned you have to feeI it. People often say they are grateful for what they have, but their actions show a completely different side to what they ‘said’. In the beginning, before I actually mastered the practice of an attitude of gratitude; I’d say I’m grateful for my house, yet didn’t maintain it. I’d say I am grateful for electricity, yet excessively wasted it.
However, I understand that it’s harder in reality to simply tell yourself “Be Grateful” when you just got fired, or when you just got belittled by someone at work or someone you care about, or when you’re going through depression & you’re feeling hopeless or you were just broken up with, or etc. etc It’s hard to shift your focus on being grateful overnight; but it’s not impossible.
What I realized was taking baby steps to learn how to be grateful was actually easier than I thought. The best way to truly apply an Attitude of Gratitude is to stop the negative talk in our heads that tell us we aren’t good enough, we are too dumb for that position or we are too ugly for that person to like me. We all have those thoughts that can stay on repeat like a song you put on repeat; but push pause. Than choose to play “next song” and start focusing on the things you can be grateful for by listing them out. If I look around me, I have plenty to be grateful for: A roof over my head, A family, food to eat, having a career to support my loved ones, being able to pay my bills on time and having clothes on my back.
I got an idea from a friend at church about listing out the things she is grateful for so she can refer back to them when she’s having one of those days. I loved the idea and for the last 9 months, my family and I started to do the same thing.
On the refrigerator is our families “Attitude of Gratitude” list. By visibly writing down the things you are grateful for, it’s much easier to turn a negative thought and channel that into a positive reminder of what you are grateful to have which than transitions into a focus on Gratitude, an Attitude of Gratitude. This is what worked for me and it’s been incredibly life changing. On the days I come home from work depleted, exhausted or frustrated or on the days my house is a mess and my child is extra rambunctious; I either read over my Attitude of Gratitude List or force myself to think of myself to add one new thing to it that day. This was my first baby step that helped me develop focusing on the positive things in my life, realizing the unhealthy effects that come from comparing myself to others, learning to live loved and ultimately, living with an Attitude of Gratitude that brings genuine happiness into my life..
Knowing what I know now, If I was to write a lifestyle or design blog: it would look something like this:
Check out this really shiny accessory. I have in my kitchen. It gives me clean water EVERY single TIME I use it; it’s like magic. I don’t need to walk three miles to get clean water like unfortunately some people have to do. I’m very grateful for this beautiful, shiny thing I call my sink.
Next on my “MUST HAVE” list is this beautiful thing called a: table. It’s where I get to eat dinner with my family every night. It’s where I get to watch my son learn and complete his homework. It’s where memories are created when friends come over and we play games and laugh. It’s where my husband and I stay up late talking about life. These aren’t available in third world countries sadly, so I am extra grateful for this beautiful household item I call: my table.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie
Til next time– Stay strong, stay positive and remember YOU matter!