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.
Yesterday, we addressed two ways in which we can practice gratitude: the first was to create a daily gratitude list; the second was to identify things we are grateful for in the moment to help reframe unwanted emotions and thoughts. Both of these practices are internal practices – gratitude practices that allow us to turn inward and reflect.
A third way we can practice gratitude is by sharing it outwardly, externally, and with others. In fact, the act of expressing and sharing gratitude engenders further gratitude: we are more likely to express it if someone has expressed it first.
During this pandemic, our local establishments have had to close their doors. I’ve been sad watching shops drop their security gates and post signs thanking us for our business, and providing hope that we would all see each other again soon. Recently, I made a purchase from one of our local businesses, Brooklyn General Store, a yarn and fabric shop. I was ecstatic that they were able to continue fulfilling online orders while they were closed so I could continue my knitting. When I received my package, I thanked the shop owner for her service to our community and for continuing to remain open virtually. The shop owner, in turn, thanked me! She stated she was grateful for those of us who are continuing to support their shop as she was continuing to pay her staff while they were home. Gratitude opens the door for more gratitude, creating a mutual symbiotic relationship. We both benefit from the other in our mutual caring for one another. Thus, we care, and we are cared for.
Several research studies have shown that expressing gratitude and giving thanks has marked improvement on our moods, relationships, and physical health. It also increases our resiliency to unwanted situations. Studies from the University of Pennsylvania compared practicing gratitude to other positive psychology interventions. The study found that those individuals who personally delivered a letter of gratitude to someone exhibited an increase in happiness scores, and the scores continued to remain elevated for a month! Simply put, if we express gratitude for and to another person, we are going to remain happier for a longer period of time.
Today, call up a friend or loved one and share your gratitude for them. Pull out a piece of paper, or print off a piece of stationary, get out your favorite pen, and write a note to deliver. If you can’t leave your house today to deliver it (social distancing comes first!), set it aside and deliver it at a later date.
I, for one, am grateful for all of you! I am grateful for the work you all continue to do during this challenging time. And I’m grateful to be a part of all of your lives.
 Seligman, M.E.P. (2012). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Freepress: New York.
Link to the book: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1439190763/braipick-20
Validation and mindfulness are primary tools we use to support our emotional wellbeing. They are the doors that help us recognize when we are suffering, allowing us to identify what we need to do in order to soothe and support ourselves.
What are validation and mindfulness?
Validation is an integral component to our wellbeing. Validation is the recognition and affirmation that our feelings are valid. Depression, anxiety, grief, irritability, anger, numbness, are not only normal, but completely valid in various situations. It is not until we validate our feelings that we are able to challenge them. Challenge without validation will only lead to negative self-talk, lack of motivation, and a decrease in self-compassion: “I shouldn’t be feeling this. I just need to get over it.” And yet, you’re not getting over it.
Mindfulness is the act of simply being present. Mindfulness allows us to identity whether we are happy, sad, anxious, or hurting. It makes us aware of our thoughts, “I am not enough,” or “I’m really proud of myself!” Mindfulness allows us to feel that tightness in our chest, or the lifting heaviness after taking deep breaths.
These two components together build our inner strength necessary for challenging our behaviors and thoughts. These two components allow us to make lasting change.
How many times have we all implemented these tools, only to find ourselves asking, “Now what?” What do we do to support ourselves once we become aware? What is the action step to feel better?
Gratitude is a widely practiced skill that helps us regulate our emotions. Research has repeatedly indicated that gratitude greatly improves our emotional wellbeing. By practicing gratitude, we are able to shine light on that which lifts us up and empowers us, without minimizing our hurts or our struggles. A key component to gratitude, however, is finding the type of practice that works for you.
Some people start or end their day with a gratitude list. Others practice gratitude in the face of unwanted feelings. For example, Remy, my French Bulldog, snores very loudly! There have been several nights that I become aware of the rising frustration (mindfulness), and even though I want to yell out in frustration to get him to stop snoring (validation), I instead say, “I am grateful, Remy, that you’re sleeping and breathing.”
Building a Daily Gratitude Practice
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, gratitude is one of the many practices that can support us during this time. All of us are feeling a range of emotions: grief, anger, sadness, anxiety, uncertainty. As we face this time together, I will be providing various practices we can use to support ourselves during this time.
The focus this week is on gratitude and how you can integrate it into your daily routine – a routine that presently is being upended and rewritten with every passing moment. Every day this week, I will provide you with another way to practice gratitude mindfully and intentionally. By the end of this week, my hope is that you will have practiced several gratitude practices, and have found yourself one step closer to finding a way to integrate it into your life in an effective and mindful manner.
Until tomorrow, please stay safe and healthy! I am thinking of you all.