Gratitude makes people happier. Studies consistently show that people who practice gratitude have more positive emotions, have better health, handle adversity better, and have stronger relationships.
Gratitude matters. But gratitude takes practice. (For help getting started, check out my free gratitude starters at the end of this post!)
Did I ever tell you the time I was feeling pretty sorry for myself? What does that have to do with gratitude? It’s kind of a long story, but if you can stick with me, you’ll see.
A Rainy Day
It was a hot Midwest July and Sole Man was on a 4-day business trip. One evening it rained. I have a garden and a yard, so rain is a good thing. It keeps things green and allows me to continue to be lazy about watering the plants.
Except that it rained hard and fast and the water came down faster than the ground could absorb it.
And we have a leak in our basement.
And the water found its way in.
Did I mention that it was Girl Scout day camp week? That meant every evening we were packing up our stuff and heading to a nearby park to (attempt to) enrich the lives of Girl Scouts. That was my goal. The girls’ goals were to have fun and eat cool snacks.
It was a fantastic week, except that it was hot. The kind of heat that makes everyone sweaty (especially me, because I sweat anytime it’s over 85 and it isn’t pretty. I don’t glisten.)
Oh, did I mention that we don’t own a mop. Still. Even after the basement has leaked at least 5 times. Instead, I employ the old bucket and rag method. Soak and wring. Soak and wring.
Are you getting a nice mental image?
That was Wednesday. Sole Man would return from his trip on Friday. Thursday night would be the last night of camp.
A Puddle of Water
Thursday is going relatively well. No more rain. Basement clean. Ready for our last night of camp.
During the day, I find a puddle of water under the fridge door. Weird, except maybe one of the kids was getting water and it spilled. I mean, usually my kids would run and get some rags and clean up any mess. Ha! What a beautiful dream that would be. Must’ve been a kid spill. I wiped it up and moved on.
Just before leaving for camp, I see more water.
Now that’s weird because I cleaned it up before. I open the fridge and everything is cold and seems fine. I hear the motor running. I check the freezer and everything is cold.
I put a rag under the fridge to catch any more drips and we head out.
3 hours later we come home and the rag is soaked and the puddle is bigger. And the fridge and freezer aren’t nearly as cold as they should be.
Turns out, the puddle was from things defrosting and dripping because some tiny but super important part stopped working.
And more than half the food was already past the point of saving.
I’m sweaty (so sweaty already) and tired. It’s almost 9pm with 3 girls that should be going to bed.
We start cleaning.
Luckily we have a chest freezer in the basement. But it was nearly full already. We still managed to save several things from the back of the freezer and move them down.
Also, we are fortunate to have two drink drawers in the wet bar. They came with the house and to this point, we only kept things like juice boxes and fridge overflow in them. (You know, things like the cake we told the kids had finished so that we could eat one more slice after they went to bed.)
We moved whatever was salvageable from the fridge into there. I threw out 3 (THREE!) garage bags of food that couldn’t be saved. (Do you know how many sauces and jams and dressings were in my fridge door?)
This felt horrible. That amount of food waste felt awful.
The girls were a great help, but in spite of that, I was even more sweaty, even more tired, and feeling very sorry for myself.
I was crabby and snappish and when it was finally time to head up to put them to bed (which is a whole thing and no small feat) I was just about done in.
I took a time out.
Despite the hour (after 10, which is super late for us, even in summer) I went to my bathroom to take a quick shower. And while I stood in that cool, refreshing water, washing away the sweat and grime and hassle of the day, I thought about Jen Hatmaker’s gratitude list from her book Seven.
I started listing off the things I felt grateful for.
I am grateful that the girls were helpful.
I am grateful that I was able to save some food.
I am grateful I had a place to move fridge and freezer items.
I am grateful that I have a fridge in the first place. (How many people in the world don’t have that luxury?)
I am grateful we have food.
I am grateful I have a shower I can stand in with running water.
I am grateful that I have a safe place to sleep.
Listing the things I was grateful for, especially as they related to my challenge, was powerful.
I stopped feeling sorry for myself.
I’m not saying I flipped the whole thing around and was singing praise about life, but I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I stopped feeling snippy and irritated.
I went back to put the girls to bed and I told them what I was thinking. I wasn’t crabby or snapping or counting the minutes until they fell asleep so that I could crawl into my bed and do the same.
We all counted some blessings together. We talked about what our life could be and why we were grateful for this one.
We all went to sleep a little easier.
It’s so easy to get stuck on one perspective and hold tight to that view. But when your perspective is making you unhappy, maybe it’s time to try a new one.
My timeout gave me a chance to change my perspective and I am so grateful. Because changing my view allowed me to be gracious with my children. It allowed me to tell the story to my husband (rather than hold him somehow accountable for being on a business trip and not being there to help.) It allowed me to remember all the wonderful things in my life so that I could see this for what it really was. A small problem that was manageable. It was irritating, but a problem that could be solved relatively easily.
I made some calls the next day and it would be 5 days before a repairman could come out. And because I had shifted my perspective the night before, that was ok. This problem was fixable, so I could manage. We bought an inexpensive dorm fridge at Target. I was grateful we had the money to do that. Grateful I could find solutions to keep our house running smoothly.
Life is always going to be filled with problems. Gratitude will help us keep things in perspective. It will keep small problems manageable and will hopefully help the truly big and insurmountable problems be things that we can tackle step by step.
Gratitude is a habit. It is something that needs to be practiced. It takes thought and effort, but the benefits are completely worth it. People who practice gratitude regularly are happier and have less stress.
If you need a little help getting into the habit of practicing gratitude, use my free gratitude starters to generate conversations with your family or to create your own gratitude list. You can also make a Gratitude Jar or a Gratitude Journal.
If the gratitude starters help, I would love to know. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy (lazy) crafting!