I posted on my Facebook page a few weeks ago that I was interested in speaking with people about gratitude, as I am working and marinating on an equation: gratitude + vulnerability = grace. Sara Cameron commented and I called her up. We had a grand chat on giving/receiving and the expression of gratitude. Her rad thoughts below, rock your gratitude practice. ___
We often hear the phrase “attitude of gratitude”, which is a great reminder to think positively and be grateful, though attitudes don’t always show up as behaviors. I've learned recently the impact of turning attitudes into practices. Additionally, if we unpack practicing gratitude, we’ll find gratitude’s best friend: vulnerability.
The impact of making an attitude a practice is that it brings subconscious thought into conscious thought. Often times our attitude is operating at a subconscious level until we do something that expresses that attitude, and even then, we may not be aware of our attitude since it operates largely at a subconscious level. If we intentionally practice an attitude, we bring it into the conscious mind and operate from a mindful space, becoming more aware of (and engaged with) our surroundings. Recently, I learned the concept of turning attitude into practice around the idea of doing one thing at a time. I had the attitude of doing one thing at a time, I knew the value of it, what is actually happening to our attention when we "multi-task", and yet I didn't practice doing one thing at a time... really ever. It wasn't until I was drafting a post for my blog about the subject that I realized how frequently I would bounce from one half-complete task to the next in the name of productivity. Once I turned that attitude into a practice, it was far more impactful.
If you apply the idea of turning the attitude of gratitude into the practice of gratitude, what changes? How would someone know that you're practicing gratitude? I must admit that I grew up witnessing gratitude being a practice; first it was in the name of manners, saying please and thank you. As I grew older, I noticed my parents expressing it frequently to each other, "Thank you for picking up the drycleaning", "Thank you for doing the dishes" et cetera, and responding with "You're welcome" to each other. They expressed it and received it naturally. For me on the other hand, while I expressed it without much of a problem, watching me receive gratitude was like watching a baby deer take its first steps; a little clumsy and unsure, and less than graceful. I usually responded to gratitude with "No problem!" "No worries" or "It was nothing", like a lot of people do. It wasn't until I got to grad school that I learned to accept other people's expressions of gratitude.
I earned my Master's in marriage and Family Therapy and one of my professors told the class "You need to learn to accept gratitude; you are going to be doing work that makes an impact on people's lives and when they thank you for it, if you say "No problem," it invalidates the not only the significance of what you've done, but also the way they feel about it. Get comfortable with accepting expressions of gratitude and say "You're welcome". I thought about the times I had thanked people and they had responded with "No problem" and that it did make me feel like they didn't understand how much something they'd done had meant to me. Why had I, and why do people avoid communicating gratitude (either expressing it or receiving it)? We're uncomfortable being vulnerable.
Vulnerability. One of gratitudes best friends. Allowing ourselves access to being vulnerable allows us to practice gratitude. When we can open up to the space where we acknowledge that we needed something/one and let them know, that is vulnerability. This can be difficult to do because we live in a society that values independence, and to ask, need, or accept help is often mistaken as a sign of weakness. We know this is not true if we sit and think about it, but when it is the societal norm, it takes conscious thought (ahem, practice) to not fall into the same habit. Stand in that space, take that moment to let someone know that you see and appreciate them and their actions. On the other side, when we can stand in the space of being or doing something good for someone else, that is also vulnerability. Society doesn't like a braggart, which is the perceived risk you run if you accept gratitude (or a compliment for that matter). Stand in that space, take that moment to let someone know that you hear and accept their gratitude.
Gratitude and vulnerability are like muscles; the more you work them out (practice), the easier they become to access, feel, and exchange with others.
Practice stepping into that space of vulnerability to express and accept gratitude and you'll find that it's really not all that scary, or uncomfortable; once you get used to it, it's actually pretty awesome!
Sara Cameron's Bio: Sara is a Life Coach and Performance Coach, with a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, and strong passion for living a healthy, active lifestyle. Sara loves helping people find effective solutions for their unique context and circumstances, and has refined these skills while working in psychiatric hospital, substance recovery, and hospice settings. Sara recognizes that living a life you love isn’t about resolving past issues, or simply envisioning a better future, or even forgetting both and just focusing on the present, but a balance of all three; she found that it is through the integration of your past, present, and future that you are able to live a life you love."