We recently caught up with our dear and perpetually straight-talking friend, Bryan Reeves, to get his thoughts on the importance of gratitude. Enjoy.
1. Does gratitude live up to the hype?
Yes. Yes it does. 🙂
2. How would you explain the power of gratitude to a person who is overly-critical and focuses on the negative non-stop? I’m desperate to get through to this person.
Actually, I wouldn’t waste my time trying explain it to them. All they’re going to see is me in stress, desperate to convince them, which means they won’t see any gratitude in me. Instead, I would show them through my example.
Maybe they’ll get it; maybe they won’t, but I’ll be living graciously in gratitude either way. I find that’s the best—if not the only—way to convince anyone of the power of gratitude.
3. I know gratitude is important for a happy life, but I’m feeling so stuck and so low lately. It’s hard to see anything else. How can I shake this and step into a more grateful space?
Don’t you worry. What you’re experiencing is so common there’s actually a technical term for it (which I just made up):
“Temporary Incapacity to See the Obvious.”
Also known as TISO—the blind first cousin to FOMO—it’s usually a simple matter of focus. Feeling “stuck and low” means that throughout your daily experience, you’re focusing your attention primarily on whatever you’ve decided are the uninspiring or outright malfunctioning aspects of your life.
I don’t know what those are for you, but for me, for example, when I focus on the perceived gap between the money and (external) success I have versus the money and success my brain wants to have, I immediately feel stuck. When I focus on that gap long enough, I start to feel low. Or when I focus for a long time on a pain in my knee—I don’t do anything about it, I just focus on it—I stop enjoying and using the other parts of my body that actually are working (i.e. I stop exercising), and eventually other parts of my body begin to hurt, too. My brain has new pains to focus on and complain about, though, so at least there’s novelty…
And on and on and on.
In other words, as you persist in focusing on whatever seems to be “not working” in your life, you will inevitably feel stuck and low, and you’ll notice that sentiment creep into all aspects of your life.
Which is good news!
That means shifting your focus can go a long way towards elevating your mood! Which, by the way, is the essential purpose of meditation: to shift your thinking away from the “worried monkey mind” state – which focuses on anything and everything there is to worry about under the sun – towards a more settled mental state, in which gratitude and appreciation more effortlessly arise.
People often think gratitude requires big, significant things or events to be grateful for—like having a big house or getting a promotion or finally meeting “The One”—but that has nothing to do with gratitude. In fact, it’s almost easier to be miserable WITH those things because the longing for those things can keep you motivated, whereas when you get the house or the promotion or even “The One,” after excitement wears off and you quickly realize that each of those things brings with them a whole new variety of challenges and problems, it can all be downright misery-making!
So, consider your focus. If you can’t find anything good to focus on in your life, try focusing on the parts of your body that don’t hurt. Feel what it’s like to have an elbow. It’s frickin’ magic to have an elbow, to be able to bend your arms around corners to grab stuff (like cookies on a high shelf) that you can’t even see with your eyes!! … and eyes! Whoa! Who’s brilliant idea was eyes?! And if you’re blind, or don’t have arms with elbows, then how about that neck!! What a concept! To be able to tilt and turn and move your head around … and your head!! If your paraplegic, to have a head that can actually create and hold thoughts and ideas and dreams and visions and even imagine vast worlds no other human will ever have access to!! Whoa!!
Gratitude, just like misery, is a matter of focus.
If you’re feeling stuck and low, you’re almost certainly suffering from TISO.
To be clear, I don’t know any (honest) human who lives in a perpetual state of gratitude, because things inevitably happen in this life that can be difficult for any human to be with: loss, disappointment, sickness, death. However, the people I know who are most consistently grateful—who are also the most consistently joy-filled people I know—are those who discipline themselves to focus on what’s beautiful in their lives, what’s working, even if it’s just an elbow.
*Note: this article does not deny that mood and motivation may be affected by very real chemical imbalances, whether due to genetics, diet, lack of exercise, seasonal changes, etc. that may benefit from a trip to a health specialist.