Gratitude is one of those emotions that when you feel it, you literally can’t also feel negative emotions at the same time. It’s an emotion that has been studied quite a bit in the field of positive psychology, and is associated with higher levels of happiness, lower levels of illness, better sleep, and even better health behaviors like exercise.
It’s nice to say that gratitude is good for you, and it can be tough to truly feel it when you’re having a crappy day. You may have heard about keeping a gratitude journal, or listing things you’re grateful for each day. And I think these are good for day-to-day reminders, but I’m going to share with you a way that really helps me put those icky days into perspective when a gratitude list doesn’t cut it.
Picture this: you are old. I mean very old. You are no longer able to live on your own, so you’re stuck in a beige, sterile nursing home where nurses in light blue scrubs who would rather be on coffee break gossiping about the crazies down the hall than sitting here with you, are changing your bedpan. You have outlived all the rest of your family, except the grandkid who lives across the country who never calls. You had a friend down the hall you played cards with, but lately she can’t remember her own name.
Now all you have is this room that isn’t yours, in walls that have seen so many like you pass in and out time and again. It almost seems that the tick of the clock on the blank wall is counting down your little time left on this planet. If you could you would run from this room, scream at the top of your well-worn lungs, and kick down the double doors, stumble out into the parking lot, and make for the shelter of the trees, where at least life still breathes.
But you can’t. You physically can’t get up out of this wheelchair by yourself. Your body has given out before your mind, so that all you have left is precious memory. You almost wish your mind would go along with the body so you didn’t have to realize its deterioration. The young, able-bodied nurse helps you into bed, and you close your eyes, falling into a welcomed darkness.
You sense a soft lightness from behind your eyelids, and slowly open them, taking in a scene of such wondrous beauty, you think you must be in heaven. You sit up and feel a difference in your body. As though the weights of time have been lifted, you find you can move all your limbs with relative ease. What is this magic you have woken into? You start to feel a beautiful sense of familiarity as you recognize these four walls that hold you, wrapping you in their warmth and love. You are home.
You have been given a gift, to live one day from your past over again. That day is today!
This is the story I sometimes picture when I want to bring more gratitude into my day, or those days I feel kind of blah and uninspired. When you use your imagination and really feel yourself as that old person, it opens the door for a flood of gratitude over the simplest things you have and are able to do now.
If you try this, let me know how it was in the comments! And don’t forget to share if you liked it 🙂