For a long time, I’ve spent time complaining about not having enough. Not having enough energy, money, and time. Not having enough motivation, serenity, and concentration. Not having enough of this, that, and the other. But two days ago I began a new experiment. For what is life, but a series of small experiments. I decided that instead of complaining about what I don’t have, I would practice gratitude for even small quantities of what I do. For example, instead of complaining that I don’t have enough energy, I would practice gratitude for the little bit of energy I do have. Instead of complaining about my struggle to concentrate for extended periods of time, I would practice gratitude for even the smallest moment of concentration. And so on.
While the idea that gratitude makes life more manageable is not a new idea, this new approach adds a subtle, but important twist. It’s not a blanket gratitude for everything under the sun. Not a bubble gum, blissful type of gratitude, rather what I would call realistic gratitude. The fact is that I do not have as much energy as I would like. My struggle with depression and the medications I take really do make me lethargic. Even so, I do have some energy, and I can be grateful for even the smallest amount of something that is positive. I acknowledge that there is a challenge, a struggle, but then move to gratitude for what I do have.
The realism aspect of this type of gratitude is very beneficial, for me. When I just practice gratitude in a general sense, I actually feel a sense of guilt at not being grateful enough. After all, there are so many wonderful things that make up this day, I should be filled with thanks for the miracle that is living. So when I feel frustrated at say, not having enough energy, I feel a sense of guilt or selfishness. But the reality is I am tired. Things are more difficult when one is depressed. So I accept the struggle as it is. I am tired. My level of energy is not optimal. But I do have some energy. I have enough energy to get out of bed, get dressed, and go for a walk. For that I can be grateful.
When I acknowledge the deficiency, I am avoiding denial. The reality is that deficiencies are frustrating. Not being at full capacity is frustrating. And so I allow myself to feel that frustration. But if I stop there, at simply feeling the frustration of deficiency, that would be a futile, even a harmful exercise. When I take the next step and say thank you for even the smallest amount of a positive characteristic, I feel a budding sense of empowerment that can be built upon.
Acceptance of what is. Awareness of what I have, even if it’s not enough to be optimal. Gratitude for even the smallest dose of a desirable characteristic is an approach to living that seems to carry the possibility of recovery and growth. Keep you posted…