Catherine Robertson/9th July, 2018
Five years ago Gratitude changed my life. That something as simple and obvious as expressing thanks could have the power to change my state of mind, was a revelation. Up until that point my outlook and mood had become a little negative. I’d started to dwell a little too much on what was wrong with my life, what was missing and why other people seemed to have a better-looking life than me. I felt lethargic, was probably on the verge of depression and the internal chatter in my head was frequently asking “Is this it? Is this all there is to life?”
So, to witness my life completely turn around, thanks to this beautiful practice was both humbling and incredibly uplifting. All of a sudden joy and contentment were my constant companions and I would become overwhelmed and moved to tears by something as simple as the sun peeking through the clouds on bright, blue-sky day. It was astounding to witness the internal transformations that were taking place and I became evangelical about spreading the word about the power of a daily gratitude practice to as many people as I could. I would Facebook and Instagram about gratitude, I gave public talks about it, encouraged friends and family to adopt the practice and wrote an e-book all about the wonders of gratitude. Last year I even ran a 60 Day Gratitude Challenge with 300 participants and had the joy of coaching a global audience through the experience of bringing more gratitude into their lives.
I was the ‘gratitude girl’.
But as time goes on, us humans can get lazy, and sometimes commitment and discipline start to waiver. What once felt essential to my everyday routine started to feel like an effort, and a day would drop here and there from my gratitude writing. I told myself it was ok, as I was still thinking about what I was grateful for most days and that “hey, I’ve been doing this a long time now so it won’t matter too much if I skip a day, or two”. I felt like I’d built up enough credit in my gratitude tank to be able to relax a little.
But ever so gradually I noticed some changes.
It started with feeling a little bit irritable and losing patience with my daughter. Nothing dramatic but I wasn’t feeling as peaceful in my heart as usual. I noticed a tightening in my chest and a slight sense of panic in the background, but I told myself that I simply had a lot to think about right now as I was in the middle of a transition phase in life and probably needed to do a yoga class. My sleep started to become interrupted and it was taking me longer to fall asleep at night, but I rationalized that was to be expected when your partner has a painful injury and is restless with discomfort beside you. And my skin started to break out a little bit more, which is a classic sign for me that I’m overthinking and feeling overwhelmed.
Finally, I started to wonder what was really going on. I missed my heart feeling joyful and what had felt like my natural ability to look for the good in every situation and I missed the magical moments that life seemed to contain every day. Where had that feeling gone? As I sat in meditation one day and pondered the situation, I had the realization that this current experience and state of mind was all a by-product of my regular gratitude practice slipping.
When I was really honest with myself, which isn’t always easy, I had to admit that I didn’t really like having to be disciplined or committed to a firm practice and that part of me felt really happy and free being a little less regimented.
But what was the consequence of that freedom?
Clearly, it had a price. I acknowledged that over the last few months I had started to dwell on what wasn’t going well in my life, was thinking too much about what I didn’t have enough of, what was missing and all that thinking was taking me out of being in the present moment, just like the old days 5 years before.
My overthinking, lack of appreciation and being out of touch with what my soul needed to do every day meant that I’d stopped seeing all of the subtle signs of joy and happiness in the world that were visible and to me when I was living in a state of gratitude. I used to fill two A4 pages of gratitude writing every day, and now I was struggling to think of a handful of items each day!
It was time to change again and finally acknowledge that for me, gratitude is a powerful medicine. I need it, every day, and it doesn’t matter how many years it’s been a part of my life, how many articles I write about it and how much other people affirm that I’m a positive and inspiring force. I need to be committed to my daily practice, or else I suffer.
Everyone is different and needs to find the way that works best for them, but for me, that daily practice means setting aside the time each day to be conscious, present and to write down in as much detail as I can what I feel grateful for. When I do, I feel better; it’s as simple as that. The sun shines brighter, the birds sound sweeter, food tastes better and strangers smile and connect with me on the streets. Challenges are easier to deal with, hurdles seem more manageable and there’s a constant sense of optimism, lightness and magic in my life, which feels amazing.
So now I realise and accept that commitment and discipline aren’t bad words and to commit to a lifetime practice of gratitude is no different than the commitment I’ve made to care for my body and to nourish it with good food, regular exercise and meditation. I would never dream of compromising that vow so why should I jeopardize my level of inner peace by ignoring my gratitude practice?
Today I’m feeling grateful for the power of gratitude and I’m deeply humbled to be shown by life what’s important and what happens to my inner being when I don’t prioritise what I need to be the happiest and healthiest human that I’m capable of being.
And that’s all any of us wish for ourselves and for each other, to be happy, healthy and free.
Wishing you peace and contentment as you continue on the path to living your best life and I pray that gratitude has the same impact on your life as it’s had on mine.