We are a culture of insatiability. We are inadvertently taught that we can never have enough. As a result, we live our lives from a place of scarcity: we believe we are falling short, that we are in short supply. We are constantly striving, buying, building.
As someone in the mental health field, I love personal development and growth! But, we rarely stop and say “I am enough. I have enough.”
In my home this past week, we’ve been practicing gratitude to recognize our abundance. We are trying to not live lives of scarcity. We have started to notice every tiny thing we have that is bringing us comfort, joy, and sustainability. Every little thing has taken on new meaning. We’ve limited our consuming behaviors and practiced appreciating.
I will never say that the COVID-19 pandemic was a good thing: I don’t believe inflicting pain and trauma on a mass numbers of individuals is necessary. And at the same time, within our own homes or communities, I have felt the practice of abundance and gratitude immensely. Yes, I can feel pain and gratitude at the same time.
We have enough. We are enough. We don’t need one more thing in order to maintain our happiness. And while we have heard repetitive adages throughout our lives (“money can’t buy you happiness”, or “the best things in life are free”), I can’t say I’ve ever allowed myself to feel the true sentiment of those statements before this past month.
In New York City, resources are definitely stretched thin. Even getting groceries at this time is hard. It’s scary to see no available timeslots for delivery on Instacart, Fresh Direct, and Amazon Fresh. And yet, we have enough in our refrigerator and pantry (albeit, it’s might require a bit of creativity in the coming weeks!). It is in fact this mindset that then allows us to give back to those who do not have what we have. When we recognize our own abundance, we can donate food, clothing, money, resources, time, energy, to others. This is one thing I personally have gained from the pandemic that I hope does stay with me once we are back to our daily lives.
For our final day, shift your mindset from one of scarcity to one of abundance. Look at your clothing, your food, the books on your shelf, your streaming services. I am living a life of abundance!
On Day 1, we spoke about validation. Validation is the affirmation that what you are feeling has merit. In the midst of a global pandemic, in a time of uncertainty, any feeling you are feeling is valid: grief, anger, apathy, resentment, depression, anxiety. Sometimes you might feel numb because the feeling is so overwhelming that attempting to feel it would be excruciating, exhausting. Sometimes you may even feel content that you get a break from going to work every day! It’s all valid.
Despite this, we are pros at invalidating our feelings constantly. Invalidation is believing that our feelings are not accurate. A good rule of thumb: any sentence that starts with “at least” is likely to be an invalidating sentiment. These are examples of things we don’t want to say to ourselves.
I’m really upset that my job postponed my raise indefinitely.
At least you have a job.
I’m sad and miss my mom during this quarantine.
At least you have a mom to miss.
My husband and I have started arguing since we are in the house together all day.
At least you have a husband. At least you have a house.
Yes, all of these statements are factual. But they ignore the underlying feelings of frustration, grief, loneliness, and irritability.
What if we reframed each of these sentiments?
I’m really upset that I’m not getting my raise. I am, however, grateful that my job has been able to continue paying me during this time.
I really miss my mom. I’m grateful I have FaceTime to connect with her every day.
I’m feeling so irritated with my husband right now. I’m grateful that I can go into the bedroom for some quiet time apart. We’ve been arguing so much less!
Very different sentiment!
This is gratitude. Gratitude by nature cannot be invalidating. Gratitude is not berating yourself, telling you to get over it, or pull up your bootstraps. Feelings pass naturally and in time: you will move through your feeling, you will “get over it.” But for the moment, it’s present, it’s there. And gratitude is the way in which we move through it.
For today, practice validating your feelings. I promise you won’t get lost in them! The feeling will naturally rise and fall. It will pass. Why not give yourself a bit of loving kindness to help it along?
An important component to practicing gratitude is not just knowing how to practice it, but when to practice it. Today’s gratitude practice will identify one of those times.
Work is going great. The kids are happy and healthy. My parents are healthy. My partner and I are happier than ever. Our bank accounts are in good order. I feel great!
Something bad is bound to happen soon. This can’t last.
How many times have we all felt this?
Joy is the most vulnerable feeling we feel. When we experience joy, we open ourselves up to potential heartbreak, hurt, suffering, and pain. By putting barriers on our joy, thinking when will the other shoe drop, we protect ourselves from vulnerability. Unfortunately, this also prohibits us from fully leaning into our happiness.
This is called foreboding joy: we are terrified that joy will be taken away from us that we push it away. We beat pain to the punch. As a result, we don’t fully experience joy and all that it has to offer. We limit our joy.
Gratitude as the Antidote
Oprah interviewed Dr. Brené Brown on “Super Soul Sunday” in 2013. In the interview, Brené said, “I have never interviewed a single person who talks about the capacity to really experience and soften into joy who does not actively practice gratitude.”
When we become aware that foreboding joy has taken over, we can practice gratitude. Gratitude centers us in the present-moment, whereas foreboding joy is future-oriented. A future-oriented mindset is anxiety-producing: we have no way of predicting when the other shoe is going to drop. We can, however, express gratitude for the joy we are experiencing in the present moment.