Oh how I love fall. It is probably my favorite season, most likely emphasized by the fact that we don't experience much of it here in south Texas. We spend 75 percent of our year in blistering hot weather, we get a few weeks worth of "fall" feeling, a few weeks of "spring", and a few weeks of "winter" (if you can even call it that most years). But there is something special about that first day when it truly feels like fall (as opposed to when the calendar tells you it is fall). And for me, that day was yesterday. I walked outside to take the kids to school and felt a nice little chilly breeze.
There is something about fall weather that puts me in an insanely productive mindset, and also a grateful one. Maybe it is because the sun has stopped cooking my brain at its 100 degree temperatures? Or maybe because we grow up with this thankful mindset as Thanksgiving approaches each year. But whatever it is, I absolutely love it. But I started noticing a while back that a lot of people would reach out to me on Instagram and comment on my positive outlook, notedly as it relates to Asher. They see all that we have gone through with Asher and his dwarfism, the various surgeries, complications, etc. and they just marvel at how positive I am all of the time. Which I think highlights something very important about the concept of being grateful – while it looks easy and natural (and to some people it may be), it is also something that takes practice, and work, and a lot of effort. I have cultivated this attitude of gratitude over the years, since I have certainly NOT always been this way. My natural tendency was always pretty “glass half empty”, doubled down with a heavy dose of anxiety. It was honestly when we got our original speculative diagnosis of Asher’s dwarfism when I was pregnant that something in me snapped and I realized that I was grateful – I was grateful for who Asher was, not who I imagined he would be, I was grateful for the fact that I was married to a man who was going to love our child exactly the way he was, I was grateful for the fact that there were resources out there to help us navigate the new journey, I was grateful for living in a country that had laws like the ADA that would help ensure we could get him accommodations throughout his childhood that he needed, etc. Once I started thinking about it, the list went on and on about the things that I had to be grateful for, even when from most people’s perspective we were navigating a very difficult time in our lives with the unknown about the extent of what his medical complications would be. And that right there is the key – it is easy to be grateful when everything in your life is going perfectly, coming up roses, smooth sailing all around. But it is a lot harder to be grateful when things are going “wrong”, when we aren’t where we want to be, when we are going through truly tough times in our lives, or when we feel like something is missing. And at the end of the day, that is when it matters the most to be grateful for what we do have, and find a way to stop dwelling on what we don’t. And that is what Asher taught me – since if I spent all of this time focusing on all of the things Asher isn’t able to do because of his skeletal dysplasia, I would have missed out on all of the things he can do, all of the joy we have day to day, all of the magic that he brings to our lives. So here are a few simple ways to help boost your grateful mindset: 1. Write it Down: It wasn’t long after I had Asher that I designed my gratitude journal, Jump Start your Day with Gratitude. I wanted something simple to track everything I had to be grateful for and to remind me that my outlook and how I was going to approach my day was in my control. I kept it simple, with each day noting 3 things I was grateful for, and a small space for me to list what I can do to make my day great as well as a space to outline what the best moment from that day was. What this creates for me as well is a powerful tool to use, a little memory book per se, that I can go back through and see all of the things that I have had each day to be grateful for, and what the best moments were in each day.
As it happens, reading back through my best moments from weeks or even months ago is one of my favorite ways to get out of a particularly bad funk if I find myself in one. A little trip down memory lane is often the best reminder that even if things are stressful right now, they won’t always be that way. You can find a copy of my gratitude journal either here on my website or on Amazon (paperback or spiral-bound options) if you want to give this approach a try. If you do, I would love to hear how it works for you once you start getting into the habit of using it and whether you notice any impact on your daily mood and wellbeing.
2. Create a reminder:
Ok this one sounds cheesy – but hear me out. Having an attitude of gratitude is something that takes practice. It is a habit, it is something you need to be intentional about. And it is something that is very easy to forget, especially when you aren’t already in the habit of having that mindset and outlook. So sometimes simple visual reminders around your house can serve as a constant and simple reminder to be cognizant of how and what you are thinking.
Visual reminders can take many shapes and forms – it could be a framed quote about gratitude on your wall or desk, or a post it note stuck somewhere around your house (your bathroom mirror, your computer screen, your refrigerator, etc.). One simple thing on my end is I drink my morning cup of coffee out of my Best Mom Ever mug, to chase away the mom guilt and doubts that may creep in and remind myself that I am the best mom I can be to my kids – and that always puts a smile on my face and sends my mind down the wonderful rabbit hole of my relationship with them and how lucky I am to have them. Sometimes you just need something small to serve as a positive reminder, to allow you to refresh your thoughts, and put a smile on your face. What that looks like will be unique to you - but I encourage you to find out what works!
So I think a lot of times people think that their lives have to be completely stress-free in order to have a grateful attitude on a daily basis. But no one’s lives are completely stress-free. My life has more stress at times than I feel like I can handle sometimes. So having the grateful mindset really is a matter of finding balance, acknowledging your stresses, but putting them into perspective.
So sometimes something that helps me focus on what is real, vs. what is something living in my mind (doubts, insecurities, negative perceptions, etc), I like to use my Mindfulness Journal as a way of recentering myself and regaining some focus. This combines not only the concept of gratitude, but also more of an objective approach to sensory concepts, breathing, stillness, and being intentionally present in the moment. When our minds are going a million miles a minute we often forget the little things, and this type of meditation can help me stop my brain for a minute and just focus on gratitude. I journal because writing things out is one of the ways I feel most productive and affirmed, but there is no right or wrong way to practice these concepts. You can do it completely with your thought processes and never putting pen to paper if that works best for you, or use a piece of scratch paper laying around as well.
4. Harness the power of hindsight. We have all been there, we applied for our dream job and we didn't get it. We put an offer in for the perfect house and someone else got it. The person we were head over heels for broke up with us and we were devastated. I long ago started acknowledging each time something went really well in my life, what circumstances could have happened that would have prevented it. If every guy who broke up with me hadn't have done so, I never would have met Matt and I wouldn't have my family I have now. When I got a job I loved, I looked back at all of those "dream jobs" I got turned down for, and suddenly I was so grateful I didn't get them. For everything you have in life that you are grateful for, there is likely a scenario in your past that would have prevented you from being where you are, where at the time you were disappointed when it did not work out. I collect these moments and I treasure them - and every time a new disappointment comes up I remind myself of each and everyone as a way of reassuring myself that there is a reason this didn't work out, and it is likely because something better is around the corner. It may take time for that something better to come along, but it almost always does. It may not even be related, a job that would have caused me to move would have prevented me from meeting a friend that I treasure beyond words. A house we didn't get caused us to change directions, which resulted in us moving to an area that provided the best school possible for Asher. But it is always such an incredible exercise to go through these lists in my mind and I find that my gratitude levels skyrocket exponentially, and any future disappointments are tempered. Ok now your turn! Let me know in the comments if you do any daily/weekly rituals to help improve your mindset and daily outlook. Or if you try any of these after reading this and how they work for you!