“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.”
– Amy Collette
The other day I went for my routine mammogram. As I was getting undressed in the little changing room and figuring out how to tie the cutely patterned pink hospital gown on, I was struck by an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.
Gratitude that I live in a time when there are medical innovations like mammograms and 3D ones at that.
Gratitude that I live in a place with easy access to these technologies.
Gratitude that I have medical insurance that covers these vitally important preventative tests.
Gratitude that I have an exceptionally high-rated and nationally recognized facility that’s nearby and simple to get to.
And gratitude that a mammogram is a quick, easy, and painless way to monitor my health.
As I was experiencing this swath of thankfulness pouring over me I began thinking about the women who choose to not get mammograms because they are afraid they will be painful. (They’re not. They are at most, slightly uncomfortable for about 10 seconds total.) Or the women who opt out of this kind of prophylactic care because they are afraid of what might be found. That makes absolutely NO SENSE to me. If there is a concern then that is all the more reason to have it done, right?
Being a women who also already has two colonoscopies in my rear view mirror I was also reminded that as much as I detest the prep that goes along with that particular procedure, I’m also super thankful that the procedure and technology exist. Colonoscopies save lives and also provide important information for people who are at-risk or in danger of getting a dire diagnosis later rather than earlier.
I did not mean for this post to be me on a soapbox encouraging all of you to get preventative medical procedures (although while I have you, a little reminder certainly couldn’t hurt). My point is that no matter what we’re going through in our lives we always have the choice of how we’re going to look at it. Standing there in that tiny little room I could have been nervous, upset, annoyed, scared, worried, or filled with anxiety. Instead, I was calm and happy because the only thing I focused on was my gratitude for getting to be in that place at that very moment.
It’s all in how we choose to look at things. Just today when I was rearranging things in the refrigerator I dropped my big glass baking dish filled with last night’s baked ziti leftovers. It shattered when it hit the floor and there went my plan for “L.O.s” dinner. Instead of getting upset, as I cleaned up the mess I was grateful that I actually had another 9x13 pan in the cabinet (I don’t know how I ended up with 2) and also filled with excitement that now I was going to get to try out a new Indian recipe that I had been planning on making tomorrow, but instead got to attempt today. YAY!
I’m not saying it’s not okay to get angry or upset about things. Oftentimes when I talk about this I get accused of being “too Pollyanna-ish.” Or that for someone to look at things in a good light instead of a bad one is somehow unintelligent or oblivious. That’s not my intention here at all. I firmly believe that in some cases it is both healthy and important to experience anger or sadness or frustration or any other negative emotion that you need to feel at the time that will help you work through whatever you need to deal with. But in a situation like dropping my dish on the floor, destroying both my pan and the food I had taken a long time to prepare, what would getting angry do about the situation? Would allowing that split second of unfortunateness to completely ruin my day make me better somehow? Would getting angry at the inanimate objects or berating myself for my clumsiness improve the outcome somehow? Instead, I saw the situation for what it was: just a minor mishap that was easily remedied, I took care of it and went on with my day. I made the conscious choice to keep my psyche and demeanor in a good place by focusing on my gratitude that it wasn’t something worse.
I have said it many times, we get no mythical points in life for being upset or worried about things that are out of our control. There’s no “martyr award” for putting ourselves through needless suffering. And there’s no reason to get angry or bothered by things that aren’t worth our trouble.
When we choose to look at things with a gratitude mindset we can be thankful and appreciative for what we have and not always be yearning for what we DON’T have. We can focus on the magnificence of things like continually advancing medical technology, and the simple joy of having a vacuum cleaner and a mop to help us clean up life’s (and kitchen) messes. And if you have people in your life to help you clean up life’s metaphorical messes, make sure to be grateful for them too.
Our time on this earth is limited. If we spend that time focused on gratitude and what we have to be thankful for, it will shift our entire existence to one filled with joy and contentment. Choosing gratitude is synonymous with choosing happiness.