For a while, I diligently and excitedly completed daily entries in my 5 Minute Journal. For those not familiar, the 5 Minute Journal is a structured writing space for gratitude where every morning you identify 3 things you are grateful for, what would make today great, an affirmation for the day, and then at the end of the day you write 3 amazing things that happening and how could I have made today even better?
I found this practice calming, centering, and rewarding. It really did seem to make each day a little brighter.
When I was pregnant, I tried to keep it going through the tumultuousness of my depression and anxiety. It was such a struggle that I eventually just abandoned it altogether. The last entry was just a series of “F*CK”’s scribbled madly across the page; ink smeared by tears. It began to feel too forced and inauthentic to continue this practice, so I took that pressure off of myself and shelved the journal, not knowing if I’d ever come back to it.
Although I haven’t pulled the journal back out, I have had many, many super sweet swells of gratitude almost take my breath away since then. For this, I am grateful.
This morning, before jumping out of bed, I do what I try to do on the mornings that the kiddo isn’t calling to immediately get out of his crib and checked in with my body.
I felt a call to place my hands over my heart, so I did. I breathed deeply for a while. And I felt one of these surges of gratitude. As I was feeling the gratitude, I reflected not on what I was feeling grateful for, but on gratitude itself.
How did I get back to gratitude from the dark place I found myself during pregnancy and postpartum?
What came to me was the answer that I have given myself over and over: I came back to gratitude when I came back to my body.
Gratitude is a felt sense. It’s something we experience energetically in response to what we appreciate. And if we aren’t connected to or aware of our bodies, the practice or forcing of gratitude won’t take. Our bodies are smarter than that. Trying to trick them by just force-thinking we are grateful will just further drain our precious energy.
When we are experiencing a significantly stressful season of our lives, this connection suffers. Sometimes it happens in reverse; the disconnection can come first and then the struggle ensues.
I will tell you this—I did not think myself back to my body. It was a little by little, non-linear process that involved intentional movement & breath coupled with reflection, meditation, and a whole lot of spacious patience.
If you are having a hard time conjuring gratitude right now, stop trying. Check in with your body, breathe, extend your exhales, and for the love, give yourself a break. Start small by acknowledging sensation in your body and reflecting on what those sensations might be trying to tell you. Your gratitude will return the more you work on this connection.
When we work on the present moment felt sense, we are creating the space for the appreciation of beauty and wonder. And this space is a most precious one.
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