This year, more than others in recent memory, has been plagued with struggles of unique and troublesome sorts for our nation and community. In the midst of this, giving up might seem expedient but I suggest giving thanks instead.
It’s been awhile since my year of gratitude (that was 2016), but those #366DaysofGratitude taught me to cultivate an attitude of gratitude from the moment I wake up each morning.
And I struggle with this. Some mornings when it’s dark outside and I didn’t sleep well and the curtain of depression veils my soul, believing, “I’m grateful for another day of life” seems difficult.
Everyone struggles. I don’t know your struggles and you don’t know mine, but I can assure you all of them do not revolve around the current pandemic or the recurring equality struggles. These are big struggles with huge problems attached.
Does that mean my struggles aren’t important?
The Climate of All-or-Nothing
The climate on social media has become a bit negative. There’s a definite air of “if you don’t agree with me then you’re divisive and hateful.” This creates a sense of all-or-nothing that defies logic and creates hurt.
This is the reason I’ve been more of a stalker on social media since early in May. I have responsibilities to two pages that I’ve been maintaining, and I don’t want to be absent to friends, family and fans who only connect with me via Facebook. But my notifications are off. I don’t check in with my feeds as regularly.
Why? Seeing so much unkindness hasn’t been good for my mental and emotional health.
Generally, the reemergence of sunshine in the cloudy Pacific Northwest and longer days send my depression packing. At least it curbs the SAD portion.
But not this year. This year has been a struggle because of the worldwide pandemic and the repercussions it has brought into all of our daily lives.
I don’t share my thoughts, opinions or struggles on social media. As I was informed when I shared a post from a blogger I follow (about the same time I took my social media hiatus) “Posting on social media means you’re inviting controversy and push back.”
Really? Why can’t people recall what our mothers taught?
The negative posts and reprisals for every little thing exacerbated my struggles. I scrolled through to find the funny memes. But I didn’t repost them as I often might because there were scathing comments about making light of things.
Seriously? Some of us deal with hard times by inviting laughter. Ask my sister who frowned at me plenty of times when I made jokes as our mother was facing her final days of life. Oh, Mom laughed or rolled her eyes. But the focus on silliness kept me from crying, because who would THAT have helped?
This idea that things have to be all one way permeates the culture of social media, and that’s why I’ve had to stay away. It isn’t enough to stifle my thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Unless I agree with the prevailing mentality, I will be hounded and maligned.
Thanks, but no thanks.
But that’s not what this post is about.
The Science behind Gratitude
In 2016, I made 366 different memes. I got a bit creative with some of them.
Since then, I’ve dedicated each November to the attitude of gratitude. Here are some of my favorite memes from November 2019:
I’m an author not a scientist, but I have experienced the truth behind this: daily gratitude increases my sense of well-being.
When I was first diagnosed with depression, I didn’t want to take medicine, so my doctor gave me a list of activities to complete each day that were scientifically proven to increase serotonin and dopamine production and/or decrease cortisol. One of those activities was to think about and verbalize something you are grateful for.
Positive thinking isn’t a cure-all. There is no single curative for every physical or mental ill. However, retraining your mind to have a positive reaction in the face of unwelcome surprises does have benefits – both physical and mental.
Whatever you’re struggling with today, I’m sorry you have to face it. I wish I could make it disappear. The truth is that hardships make us stronger and can grow compassion in our hearts if we don’t harden them with bitterness.
Waking up each morning and saying or writing down three things you’re grateful for can help. Some days, it won’t be easy. We don’t “feel” grateful if we wake up in pain or without enough sleep to satisfy our bodily needs. If someone we loved is dying or we’re grieving any sort of loss, it can be exponentially more difficult to find something positive.
Gratitude can be cultivated. Your heart might not know it, but the chemicals in your brain are reacting even when gratitude feels fake or forced.
Let’s give it a try. Comment with one thing you’re grateful for today.