HIGH ALERT: IT’S MASHED POTATO WEEK! Ok, you know it as the week of Thanksgiving, but tomato, tomato. This is when gratitude spends its day in the sun. People momentarily turn their attention to the cause, have a little chat about it during the mashed potato dinner. There are a boatload of articles about it in every publication your eyes set their sights on (Here’s a good one from Forbes, for instance). But what is it really and why should you stop yourself to think about it as not just a thanksgiving dinner tradition, but more of a daily practice that can improve your life? Well, you’re probably not surprised that we here at the gratitude-a-thon (meaning ME here at the gratitude-a-thon) have a little something to say about why.
It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong, to hang every word on that challenging fill-in-the-blank part of your life. The shit things that happen are as long as a receipt at CVS (and no wonder so many are going out of business, they’re paying too much for receipt paper, OBVI). BUT A GRATITUDE PRACTICE IS NOT FOCUSING ON THAT STUFF, IT’S ZEROING IN ON THE GOOD STUFF, ANYTHING THAT’S POSITIVE. And if you’re looking, you’ll find there is a whole bunch of it.
Doesn’t sound true, but it is true. The fact is that there is always something to be grateful for. No, really, in the most dire of circumstances, there is a crack of light that is coming through somewhere in there. And it’s that little light that it pays to focus on. I remember when my mom’s cancer had gone to the lining of her brain. It was right after thanksgiving and she was already in the hospital when I got to her. I didn’t know about gratitude back then, but when I look back, on one of the hardest, most excruciating moments of my life, I think about how she she was lucky enough to be in a hospital, how we could get her into an amazing hospice, and just every single thing that made the horrible better than it could have been during that hideous time. Good things make us feel good, yes, but focusing on them, really pointing your handy dandy i-phone flashlight on them is the big payout. Your happiness improves. Your health improves. Your relationships improve. Your whole freaking life gets better. I’m telling you, I devoted a whole blog to it!
Here’s how I do it (it’s not hard). I just make myself aware of what the good stuff in my day is. It could be the hazy calm of right before sunrise coloring the sky a soft pink right before the yellow of the sun makes its debut. It could be the miracle of a flower. It could be some small kindness someone threw my way–a smile, a hello. It could be a good hair day, the endless loyalty of my dog. It could be my husband, or kids. It could be a call from a friend that makes me laugh my face off. It’s that simple. Thats the whole thing.
The act of focusing on the good, the great, even the mediocre, but not tragic can help fuel you up for a more content life. When you turn your head for the positive and let it rest there for a while, the rest of your life looks and feels better. Maybe you think that sounds ridiculous, because it’s not a drug, or a class, or a magical potion some Glinda the good witch showed up with during your darkest moments, but this is real, studied, tried and true reality.
So, that’s my pitch for extending your interest in gratitude from one week of the year to 52. I’m not lying, or exaggerating when I say it can improve your life. This is as honest-to-goodness real as life gets. You can make yourself happier by noticing what makes your life happier. All you have to do is look. Happy Mashed Potato Day to all.