In two weeks, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving – a celebration of gratitude, overcoming of hardships, and togetherness. This article is about the power of gratitude, and 3 tips to help you get there.
There is so much that I want to say about the concept, the meaning and the power of gratitude, that I don’t know where to start. I’m sure you’ve noticed how ungrateful our world is, how unhappy most of us are, concentrating on the half-empty glass. We are so consumed with what we don’t have, with the color of the grass on the other side, with what we could have if only something changed, with what we had and lost – that we’re missing out on life’s most important gift – the present.
I’m sure nothing here is new to you – but here is what you probably don’t yet know: you are not the one to blame. No one is.
We are programmed to see the half-empty glass.
Why Can’t We be Grateful?
Allow me two lines on physiology to get this point across.
The human ancient brain (that same part of the brain that we share with the reptilians and hasn’t evolved in thousands and thousands of years) directly controls our autonomic nervous system that is responsible for our automatic responses. Thousands and thousands of years ago, this part of the brain was responsible for our survival – it had less than a millisecond to evaluate if a certain situation was endangering us, and to trigger our fight/flight/freeze mechanisms in case danger was indeed the case.
So far for physiology. And if you’re asking yourself what the hell this has to do with gratitude – bear with me another second.
The ancient brain is as active today as it was thousands of years ago. It observes, evaluates and triggers us to act in a millisecond. But the world changed, didn’t it? In 99.9% of the time we are not in a life-threatening situation (another point to be thankful for). But the ancient brain is not aware; during these thousands of years, it learned to evaluate what we don’t understand, what we are not yet familiar with, what we don’t know how to handle – as a danger, as a situation we must avoid with everything that we have. And these situations trigger us to fight, flight, or freeze. The ancient brain can only look for danger, can only observe the half-empty glass, can only be “unhappy” – this is what it is PROGRAMMED TO DO to keep us alive.
But the world has changed, and so should we.
Training these Muscles
Gratitude, like compassion, empathy, and love, is a muscle if you will, and it must be trained. It must be trained because for thousands and thousands of years we let it function in a way that is no longer beneficial for us, in a way that hurts us more than it does anything else.
Instead of seeing what is, we concentrate on what isn’t. Instead of opening our hearts, we lock these gates with heavier chains. Instead of coming closer, we grow further apart. Instead of growing, we wither.
But we can change all this.
Winning Over the Ancient Brain
Knowing the power the ancient brain has upon us is the very first step to winning over it. Understanding that we feel the way we feel, understanding that we often get upset and fight because we are programmed to, allows us to treat ourselves with empathy and forgive ourselves, which is the second step 🙂
Winning Over the Social Paradigm
The fact that everyone does it, the fact that this is the way our world operates, is not a good reason to continue doing it, too. If anything – it is the best of reasons to pause, and rethink; the world is not in a good place.
If you’ve made it thus far, you want something else for your children; a better world, a better future. But it starts with you. The little ones will draw their world, but your are the one providing them with the canvas.
Will you hand them a canvas stained with fear, guilt, and shame, absorbed with misconceptions that are responsible for suffering? Or will you hand them a white, clean canvas, as pure as they are?
That’s right, you know the answer 🙂
Every Day is Thanksgiving
Believe it or not, but whenever I ask parents who join our online parent coaching when was the last time they’ve experienced the power of gratitude – most don’t even know what I am. So I ask differently – when was the last time you’ve thanked your child? They’re perplexed. “Do I need to thank her”? The answer is yes.
Every time your child does something – thank her. Thank her for the hug. Thank her for the smile. Thank her for giving something back. thank her for not getting upset in a situation she’d usually find upsetting. Thank her for cooperating. Thank her for being. Thank her for her.
The power of gratitude is similar to the power of fire on the north pole. Just like fire, gratitude has the power to warm everything up, turn stagnant into flowing, bring forth change and renewal.
Unlike fire, gratitude can do you no harm.
Teach yourself to receive with gratitude
Live every day as if it is Thanksgiving.
Every day, every kiss, every hug – is a present. When she brings you a glass of water, live it as if you wouldn’t survive without it. Clear your head, clear your soul, hold nothing in but the purity of that gift. No matter what it is – it is the only thing you’ve ever wished for. When we’ll learn to receive, with real gratitude, our little ones will learn the true joy of giving, inner joy that no one can influence, but themselves.
Teach Yourself to Live in the Moment
Our vicious brains are constantly working; constantly telling us stories about the present, constantly observing and evaluating, according to their no-longer-relevant mechanisms. But we are stronger, we can pause them and learn how to see the actual happening we are in. Here is where you can learn how to observe without evaluation.
Teach Yourself the Facts of Childhood
We are not the only ones governed by our ancient brains; our kids are, too. Whenever they exhibit impulsive behaviors, they’ve been triggered to react to danger; whenever they cry for your proximity – they’ve been triggered to react to danger. You might know that the situation isn’t life-threatening, but they don’t. This realization comes with life experience, with time. And it is up to us what to teach them.
The Power of Gratitude
These two lessons, of gratitude, and observation without evaluation, are EVERYTHING you want your child to learn. Through gratitude she will learn appreciation, acceptance, positivity, awareness, and self-awareness, empathy, and compassion.
Through pure observation she will learn to live the life she is meant to live, free from the pains of judgment, free from fear, and free from shame. Being free to resist those, she will be free to follow her life’s course, just the way she paints it, on her own canvas.
If all this sounds wonderful to you, but you are not sure how to apply this in real life. Let me help you. My online parent coaching program teaches this and so much more, helping make your life beautiful.
And if you just want to talk about it, join my parenting support group on Facebook – it’s a great place to start and transform your (life and) parenting 🙂