Have you ever met someone who was able to overcome disappointment with an unsung superpower — gratitude?
I’ve been thinking about that story.
For a few years, now, I’ve kept a “5 Best Things” journal. (In his popular book on creativity, Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon says to write down the five best things about your day.) I started keeping track of my best things. It’s nice to have a record of my favorite memories, while the rotten daily junk fades with time.
But I want to incorporate more gratitude into my five best things journal. Here are a few ways I’m going to put thankfulness at the front of my mind:
For every disappointment, list three joys.
When our car was totaled last December (yay, Merry Christmas!) I was listening to a Dave Ramsey podcast. I limped the car to the side of the road and thanked God I was unhurt! Then I looked for Dave (since his voice was drifting up from somewhere on the floorboard) and thanked him because we had Christmas gifts already budgeted and an emergency fund. (This turns a crisis into an inconvenience, as Dave says. Check out this post on Dave’s baby steps to get started. Game-changing!) As I got out of the car, a nice man on his way to work pulled off to help me assess the damage, and agreed the car wasn’t drivable. Thank you, kind passerby!
When I think of that morning, the warm memory of gratitude and relief takes away the sting. No, it wasn’t fair and, yes, I loved that little car, but what are those feelings compared to the morning’s blessings? Small.
If you can’t think of three joys for every stinker, expand your search a little. Everyone has a “Jonah Day” now and then — a day that gets worse and worse. If you’re having one, I’m sorry! When a day’s been so bad you can’t think of a single redeeming quality, think big and think small:
I’m most grateful for the health of my family. Health is precious. Also, I can flip a switch and light comes on, I have a soft comfy place to rest my head at night, and I know where I’ll find my next meal. That means I’m spared from the stress that’s a daily reality for much of the world.
When we compare our life to the lives we see on social media, in magazines, and on tv, it feels like we are lacking. But when we remember how rich we truly are, the discontent melts away and we can rest in gratitude.
We can also revel in the small blessings. If I’m feeling down, I keep a stack of nice notes I’ve received from students over the years — those always make me smile. I love to open the spice cabinet, and inhale the earthy savory smells that greet me. (So much so that whenever I open it, I automatically take a deep breath. Guess I’m trained!) And there’s the odd stray cat that adopted us. I’m flattered he chose us and feels safe now. His ragged bobbed tail and missing front claws tell of a mysterious previous life. He certainly reminds me to be appreciative.
We are surrounded by small miracles and wonders all the time, but are often too busy to notice. Sometimes I have to put the phone down and gather my attention on the details I’ve been too distracted to see.
I watch the sky; often it takes my breath away. The colors of sunrise or sunset, the full orange moon rising, the blazing meteorites remind me to think big and think small, and to be grateful.
How do you overcome disappointment and keep gratitude at the front of your mind? When you’re having a Jonah day, how do you recover your thankfulness?