Alissa laying in a field of poppies.

How Life Changes When You Live in Gratitude

inspiration Mar 22, 2019

This past winter, laying in bed, about to fall asleep, Matt was like, “Listen. Do you hear the fireplace crackling?”

He’d made a fire that night in our living room fireplace, then let it burn out on its own when we went to bed. We were also getting hit with a heavy rain storm so it was the coziest winter night you can find in Southern California.

Sure enough, I could hear the fireplace crackling all the way from our bedroom. It was the perfect complement to the falling rain outside. My chest warmed with gratitude. Gratitude for this rainy night; for Matt; for our warm house; for our wood burning fireplace. It was just one of those fleeting moments in life that can easily pass us by if we don’t pay attention.

Practicing gratitude is becoming a hot topic, and rightfully so. Being grateful for what we have reminds us to focus on the good in our life. It makes us happier. More energized. Less stressed. It actually makes us healthier, too. Positive emotions release endorphins, which strengthen and enhance our immune system.

Gratitude is so important, but not something that comes naturally to all of us.  It’s a muscle we have to strengthen. I think of how I could’ve been blind to the beauty of the fireplace and rain moment if:

A) Matt didn’t call my attention to it

B) I’d just been laying there worrying about work or something stupid I’d said that day

C) I hadn’t already been retraining myself to see life through a lens of gratitude

No matter what our circumstances, we can slow down enough to notice and give thanks to our breath going in and out, the food we are about to eat, the book we are reading, the kindness of the stranger we bumped into. As we take the time to open our five senses to the world around us, we won’t miss the shooting star, the life-altering words, the tiny blue violets. And our lives will be enriched by the bounty all around us.

M.J. Ryan, Attitudes of Gratitude. 131

Gratitude is something I’ve actively practiced for the past year or so as I’ve heard its benefits preached endlessly in books and podcasts. Every morning, I write down five things I’m grateful for. I try to make them different every day. It can be the tiniest things: my cozy sweatshirt, cuddling with my cat, talking on the phone with my mom. I didn’t realize it was making a big impact on me, until I noticed how often I started getting that warm feeling of gratitude in my chest.

Do you know the feeling I’m talking about? The one you feel when you’re reunited with your love after a week apart. When you meet your best friend’s new baby. When you’re finally graced with a warm, sunny day after a long, cold winter.

Gratitude in the Good

Some moments are easier than others for us to feel gratitude. California is currently experiencing a super bloom of the California Poppy; our state flower. The hills behind our house are covered in these gorgeous, orange flowers. If that wasn’t enough, we’re also experiencing a migration of millions of Painted Lady butterflies. I couldn’t drive five feet the other day without at least 10 butterflies flying past my car.

Abundant wildflowers and butterflies are such obvious and beautiful gifts from Mother Nature. When Matt and I went to check out the super bloom, we couldn’t help but feel deep gratitude as we stood in a field of flowers with butterflies dancing around our heads.

Life presents us with incredible gifts all the time. It’s up to us to experience and appreciate them.

Gratitude in the Not-So-Good

Conversely, there are the moments in which we have to look a little harder for reasons to feel grateful. This is when the true practice of gratitude begins.

I slept poorly the other night and woke up late, feeling tired and groggy. My eyes were burning from allergies. I didn’t have time to do my normal morning routine. I was off my game and definitely not feeling energized or in the mood to work. Plus, I had so much to get done that day.

Then, something shifted. As I walked toward my office building, I reminded myself, I’m working for Vans. In my old Minnesota life, I would’ve never dreamed of this! I noticed birds chirping and how warm the sun felt on my face. Wait, it’s winter right now?! This is so amazing. Cue the feeling of warmth in my chest. I immediately shifted into a better mood. Seriously, it was like I gained this energy that had been absent from my body.

Gratitude always makes me feel better, which makes me nicer to others, which hopefully makes them feel happier, too.

What about life’s worst moments?

Should we be grateful for those moments, too? It’s hard to wrap our heads around that when we’re angry about something that’s happened to us.

I’m not grateful when something terrible happens, but I’m later grateful for what it teaches me. Being sick with stomach issues was one of the worst times of my life. I hope to never experience it again. But, I am grateful for the empathy it gave me. The way it taught me to listen to my body. The tools it gave me to help others. Without that experience, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

I don’t think I would’ve had the ability to find gratitude in even the crappiest situations if I hadn’t already been practicing it. When we notice all there is to be grateful for in each and every moment, we experience so much richness in our daily life. The mundane becomes a bit more vibrant because we realize how lucky we are to simply be here.

I realize this idea of “seeing the good in everything” makes some people’s eyes roll back into their heads. Too sugary sweet. Be realistic.

You can find the evidence to support whatever you choose to believe. If you believe life is beautiful and abundant, you’ll find more of that. If you believe it’s difficult and people are selfish, that’s what you’ll notice more of.

So, when my positivity is met with a grunt and an eye roll, I don’t stifle myself to appease them. When people are complaining about the rain, I’m like a kid, I hope we get a thunderstorm!

You can always find something that’s wrong and you can always find something that’s wonderful. The choice is yours and the day is going to pass you by either way.

Gratitude feels like you’re steeping yourself in goodness. When you start giving thanks for the tiniest blessings in your life, it retrains your eye to look for the beauty in every moment. It’s not like you’re immune to getting annoying or being a jerk some days, because duh. But it helps flip that switch back quicker. Like hey, yeah this bad driver is really pissing me off but at least I have this awesome podcast to listen to and my car is keeping me warm.

When you view everything through a lens of gratitude, you’ll notice life is pretty damn incredible.

Do you have a gratitude practice?

With love,