As many of you may or may not know, I have been absent from the blog for the past couple of weeks while my family relocated up the coast. It was a typical military move with more paperwork than there is time, and plenty of bumps in the road.
And I’ll be honest, when driving up the eastern seaboard on little to no sleep with all of your children and your dog and half of your household belongings shoved into very close quarters in one vehicle, gratitude is NOT the first word that comes to mind. Especially when your kids get food poisoning halfway through. (Yes, really.)
Not that I have (BY FAR) the hardest life, or that I am (BY FAR) as zen as the Dalai Lama, but I have been asked more than once how exactly I cope with the frequent and potentially stressful disruptions of our gypsy-esque military family lifestyle. And in that case, the first word that comes to mind actually is gratitude.
Charles Dickens may have said it best:
“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
In almost any situation, I have learned (and am definitely STILL learning) to temper my feelings of stress or frustration by exercising conscious gratitude. Every day, there are SO many things that all of us have to be grateful for, but unless we stop and really think about them, it’s easy to lose sight of them among a busy day’s hectic or potentially stressful events. But making the effort is worth it. The rewards are big. Like UNIVERSALLY big. I have found it easier not only to deal with my somewhat un-hinged, out-of-school, mid-move, energetic children in a way that I can be proud of, but to be a whole PERSON I am more proud of. In fact, an active practice in gratitude, I think, is an incredibly simple but profoundly effective way for all of us to be people that we are more proud of.
There are several ways to incorporate more gratitude into your life. And there are literally no rules. Whatever makes you feel it. You don’t have to be religious, you don’t have to be a yogi, you just have to be you. For me personally, I have found meditating to be a wonderful way to reflect on the many gifts in our lives, and if you’re able to, you can find a fantastic led meditation on gratitude from UC Berkeley here.
If meditation is not for you, or, if you’re in a time or place where meditation is not an option (like driving on I-95 with two vomiting children, in my case) you can actively walk your mind through some major gratitude points like those listed below.
And don’t overlook the basics in your life. Know that if you are expressing these conscious thoughts, you already have several marvelous gifts:
- The gift of life itself, the most precious gift. Your life. The lives of your dearest, the lives of those who love and support you.
- The countless conveniences that are available to us today that many of our ancestors did not have, and that people in many parts of our world still do not have. Air conditioning, clean drinking water, vehicles and safe passage, ample food. Machines, schools, libraries, electricity.
- The work put in by thousands of people you’ve never met to create life as you know it. From ancestors that fought for freedoms we enjoy today, to those who grow and deliver our food, those who maintain our roads, vehicles, pipes, roofs and infrastructure, to innovators and inventors, to deployed and fallen military members and first responders.
- The particular things you enjoy in your daily life. The gift of a warm cup of coffee in the morning, or the gift of your comfortable bed at night. A conversation with a friend. A treasured heirloom. A warm snuggle with a beloved pet, or a bedtime story with your child.
When we actively appreciate the things we already have, we are able to see the richness surrounding us, and inconveniences or problems seem smaller in the balance of our rich, grateful lives.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. -Melody Beattie
Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.