I read a piece from the NY Times the other day about how gratitude practices have evolved to really just be self-help nonsense. That we’ve turned the gratitude exercises from motivating us to share and help others to narcissistic-feel-better-about-yourself-without-doing-anything mumbo jumbo.
Well they’re partially right. There is a superficial nature to some of them. Random sayings embroidered on pillows about embracing life or following your bliss don’t really help us in any practical way. And they don’t help anyone else either. (Truth be told I actually have a pet peeve for cheesy sayings pasted on walls or t shirts).
But there is a science to gratitude. “gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus (a key part of the brain that regulates stress) and the ventral tegmental area (part of our “reward circuitry” that produces the sensation of pleasure).”
And gratitude has been shown to improve mental health and wellness. And do you know what happens when women have improved mood, self-esteem, and mental health? They not only have better physical health, but so do their families. In short, finding gratitude motivates us towards expressing gratitude in the world around us, and therefore makes the world a better place. Here’s your formula: Gratitude for Mama = Happier Planet.
In short, finding gratitude motivates us towards expressing gratitude in the world around us, and therefore makes the world a better place. Here’s your formula: Gratitude for Mama = Happier Planet.
I have been trapped in bed for weeks.
With a toddler and a grumpy husband who is slowly recovering from the most challenging academic semester of his life. I’m 457 weeks pregnant with twins. We’re moving tomorrow 4 hours away to be closer to his PhD program (and farther away from the budding birth center that I have been – until now- a part of building. A lifelong dream of mine.) It’s -4 degrees outside. Did I mention that we all have had a head cold for over 6 weeks? THis particular virus responds to no amount of echinacea/vitamin c/homemade elderberry/neti pot/EOs/bone broth. Nor the the antibiotics I finally caved in and tried a week ago in an act of desperation despite my obsession with healthy bacteria during pregnancy.
I say all of this not to complain or self-depricate but to prove my point: gratitude grows in strange places with faith; and in fact, it’s these places where it is needed the most.
I am living mindfully from the couch.
It’s not that I don’t think negative things. There have been several occasions (ok, more than several) where I have cried into my husband’s shoulder “I give up, I can’t do it’. He once found me in the bathroom with the lights off crying by myself, hiding from my cranky toddler (he had been gone for 3 hours). But I believe that God is the God of the darkness and the light; the pain in the night and the joy in the morning. And I believe that in limitations creativity begins to thrive.
“gratitude grows in strange places with faith; and in fact, it’s these places where it is needed the most.”
When Walls Become Doorways: Creativity and the Transforming Illness is a great book about the lives of so many beautiful artists that were limited by their illnesses and had to use creative ways to not only make art, but that the making of the art became their only way to convalesce.
My yoga practice is my favorite healing tool. But my serious Symphysis Pubis Discomfort and consistent braxton hicks have left me with about 4 poses that are accessible (legs up the wall, cat/cow, child’s pose and heart melting pose). And sometimes moving between them can cause me to wince in pain (though once I arrive the relief is wonderful.) I can journal and knit and thankfully meet with clients on the phone, but I can’t cook nourishing foods, I sometimes have to ask for help to get out of the bathtub, and taking a walk is out of the question.
So what to do? Create a new way to be mindful, to have gratitude, to praise God in a dark night of discomfort that things are growing and will eventually bloom in unexpected and awe-inspiring ways.
There will be a spring!
I breathe. A LOT. I rely heavily on my husband (and also my closest friends) which has brought us to many new points of understanding and love. I read to my toddler and I knit and read and pray.
Here are my tips if you are in a season of needing to live mindfully from your “couch”. (i.e. you need to get creative with tools for understanding and expressing gratitude):
- Breathe. Nothing brings stability and humility like a cleansing breath. A warming or cooling breath. A deep, deep breath that reminds you you’re alive and all is well for 2 seconds.
- Whatever yoga practice you can do, do. Moving the body in meditation is so pwerful and healing.
- Pray. Rely on the holy spirit to lead you through your season of seeming dryness to the next season of reaping joy.
- Surrender. This is in fact my bhavana for the year. (Don’t know what that is? Join the Virtual Mama Wellness Circle every month and find out!) There is so much beauty in the art of surrender and I learning that in small, painfully beautiful steps.
- Be grateful. You can be grateful from anywhere.
Need help with your Mama Wellness Journey? I’m here. Let’s meet and get you the tools you need to create a deeper level of wellness.