It’s September 11 and here in the United States it will probably always be an emotional day. People remember where they were when the planes hit.
One of my best friends from college worked on one of the top floors of the World Trade Center. I was out of my mind wondering if she was alive.
She was late for work that day. The majority of her colleagues were killed.
She had the absolutely brutal task of coordinating benefits for the next of kin, and rehiring to fill all of those vacant positions.
I truly don’t know how she made it through those dark days.
I think it was a combination of gratitude and perspective. Gratitude for being alive. Perspective on being able to be of service and comfort to the grieving.
New York was a different city after the attacks. It rose up and came together.
People supported their neighbors. People looked each other in the eye, which was something they had previously avoided. New York residents rebuilt and renewed their commitment to themselves and their city through gratitude and perspective.
Cultivating the power of gratitude is easy and incredibly powerful. When you get up in the morning, think of three to five things you are grateful for. They might be that you woke up warm, safe, and dry. Or pain-free. Or next to a loved one. Or to a sunny day. Or to an exciting day of meetings.
Often, gratitude for small things is a good place to start. It’s easy to be thankful for the big things, but the small things, the ones that are often overlooked, can be a foundation for contentment and even joy.
End your day thinking about a few more things you are grateful for to boost your benefits.
There is scientific confirmation of this. In “New thoughts about gratitude, charity and our brains” published in The Washington Post:
Psychology researchers recognize that taking time to be thankful has benefits for well-being. Gratitude not only goes along with more optimism, less anxiety and depression, and greater goal attainment, but also is associated with fewer symptoms of illness and other physical benefits.
Perspective is the way we evaluate our current situation. It’s also the stories we tell ourselves to explain our lives.
If you are struggling or judging yourself harshly, dropping into gratitude can shift things. It’s hard to be upset or unhappy or angry and be grateful at the same time. (I’d say it’s impossible.)
Another way to shift your perspective is to dive deeply into someone else’s issues as a friend, volunteer, mentor, coach, or consultant. However bad you think your life is, I promise that most times you’ll happily keep your own struggles instead of wishing you had someone else’s.
Helping someone else is the fastest way to get out of a funk. We get a hit of happy brain chemicals when we help others. We’re social animals, so we’re wired to have a payoff for helping others.
While I generally don’t advocate comparing yourself to others, it usually is true that someone else has it worse than you do. (Conversely, someone else is also doing better than you are, which is why comparison isn’t always a great thing.)
Today is a good day to start or recommit to your gratitude practice.