You might have guessed that from the title that I want to talk about gratitude. However, I want to start by clearing the air of a problem I hear all the time, which is what I refer to as “toxic gratitude.”
Toxic gratitude is akin to toxic positivity, which is the belief that we must always maintain a positive attitude no matter what.
Toxic gratitude sounds like, “Things are hard right now, but they could be worse, and I have so much to be grateful for. Life sucks, but I know I’m so blessed, and I shouldn’t complain.”
When we minimize our pain in service of showing gratitude, we don’t get the impact of either.
We don’t get the opportunity to be honest about where we are or fully experience and understand what we are feeling and why. Instead, we are trying to sweep it under the rug so we can “be grateful.”
But when we do that, we then take away from the pure and simple pleasure and the gift of feeling authentically grateful.
We need to separate the two experiences. First, we need to allow ourselves to be honest about things sucking.
We don’t have to stay in this place forever, but it’s a powerful gift to ourselves to acknowledge where we are and to accept the reality that how we are feeling is based on how we are choosing to think. It is a necessary step that facilitates us being able to move on.
Then we need to allow for the flip side of the coin to just be the flip side of the coin. We don’t have to be grateful.
We get to be grateful authentically because we create a separate space for it to exist. It is not contingent on anything else.
I watched a movie recently called The Map of Tiny Perfect Things that got me thinking. In the movie, the main characters start a quest to collect these tiny perfect moments. This begins with noticing that they are happening.
We go through our lives and big things stand out—significant milestones, accomplishments, and happenings that we remember. However, those are few and far between compared to the everyday magic that is all around and in us.
A quote I loved from the movie was, “Most of life is just junk. It’s filler. And then there are these moments when all of the randomness turns into something perfect.”
This movie opened my eyes to that more. It brought to light the tiny, perfect moments, the gifts throughout my day, the magic in the mundane.
I’ve made a concerted effort to seek them out, to see them and acknowledge them, and I am amazed at how often I’m amazed.
My brain’s default setting is to notice the problems and what needs to be fixed. I am an expert at that. Noticing what is working and appreciating the things that just are has been something I am expanding my capability for.
One of the unintended consequences of my concerted effort to do this is that my eyes and my heart have been opened to these moments even more.
What we seek, we find more of.
Choosing to notice the good in others
One of the ways that this stood out to me recently is in my relationship with my husband.
For some of my almost 25-year marriage, I have focused on what needs fixing about him. As you can guess, looking for and seeing the problems was not great for the relationship.
Nevertheless, we are still together and happy because, for most of my marriage, I have chosen to focus on how to contribute to it, show up how I want to, and accept him as he is.
I still get annoyed. I still feel frustrated. I still don’t love everything. Relationships look like a mix of annoyance and adoration. But I choose to show up with love through the combination.
My husband is amazing at a lot of things. He’s good at almost everything he tries the first time. He wins at every game, including the loving unconditionally and being selfless game.
However, one of the things he’s not amazing at is hand washing dishes. He’s just not as detail-oriented as I am.
So, most of the time, when I get out a pan that he has used, washed, and put away, I have to rewash it before I use it. I certainly choose to think it’s annoying a lot of the time.
But here’s what stood out as a contrast to me recently as a result of me looking for the magic and feeling more gratitude daily. I pulled out a pan to use that was not thoroughly cleaned, and I smiled.
Of course, washing the dishes like I want them to be cleaned is not his strong suit. But what jumped to my mind at the same time was all the tiny perfect things about him that I’ve been intentionally focusing on.
He has strengths that I admire, and I appreciate outside of this one little thing that I don’t. I love all of that other stuff so much more than this annoys me. Oh, and by the way, this doesn’t have to annoy me. I can smile at it and move on.
The impact of negativity
My husband recently showed me a TikTok that was a snippet of Trevor Moawad talking about the impact of negativity. He shared a study that found that negativity is four to seven times more powerful than positivity. Crazy, right?
Even crazier is the fact that when you say something out loud, it’s ten times more powerful than if you just think it. So if you’re saying something negative out loud, it’s 40 to 70 times more powerful.
Expressing gratitude out loud
I’ve noticed a huge difference between what it’s like to think something in my mind, compared to writing it down and reading it with my eyes, or hearing it with my ears.
The more senses we can involve in the process, the better. It requires different areas of your brain to process and comprehend what you see and what you hear.
This study that quantified the impact of our thoughts spoken out loud compared to the thoughts just existing solely in our heads kind of blew my mind. I started to think about it in the context of this tiny, perfect things practice I’ve recently embraced.
If looking for the everyday magic makes the difference when I am just living inside my head, imagine if I acknowledge these things vocally. Imagine the impact if I not only notice and think about the magic and feel the gratitude, but if I say it out loud.
When little magic happens around me, I take a deep breath, and I lean into the belief, “My life is so good. I have such a great life.”
Believing this, even in my head as I have shared, has shifted something and opened my mind and heart up to the feeling of gratitude more often than anything else I’ve employed in the recent past.
Consistently and intentionally looking for—seeking out, noticing, and acknowledging—the tiny perfect things has reinforced the belief that my life is so good.
A positive thought loop is just as possible as the negative ones that are so familiar.
Instead of a shame spiral, I’m looking for magic. Because I’m looking for it, I see it. Then, I’m feeling gratitude about it, and seeing more of it. Now, I wanted to experiment with the power of saying it out loud.
The acknowledgment happening in my head was one thing. But me proclaiming it out loud, even just to myself… felt a little awkward.
Letting it out felt like telling a secret. I’m not sure why. Maybe it felt a little braggy, or like the magic gratitude bubble would burst if I exposed it to the air outside my head. Regardless, I started by just mouthing it in my car by myself. I just mouthed it. No sound.
The next time, I experimented with whispering it very quietly. Still by myself in my car, where I knew no one would hear me. And hearing it, even in quietly whispered form, was different.
Now, how might we apply this to weight loss? How could we implement the power of seeking out tiny perfect magic and experience the resulting feeling of gratitude along our weight loss journey? How would expressing our gratitude out loud affect our experience and results?
We spend so much time nitpicking our bodies and being frustrated with our brains for taking so long to change. It may feel nearly impossible for you to find and feel gratitude right now. But start where I always recommend you start—start where you are and start tiny.
You don’t have to be all in on loving your body unconditionally and loving everything about it to see some tiny perfect magic and generate some gratitude. So start even in general terms.
Can you just be grateful to be alive?
This might sound like, “I am so grateful to have a body that lives. I’m so grateful that I woke up this morning. I’m so grateful for the legs that walk me around this world.”
Now once again, separate what’s hard and what’s not working from what is. We don’t need to mix these two things together. We don’t need murky, toxic gratitude. That will not be helpful. Separate the two.
Even if it’s the tiniest and most general thing you can find to appreciate about your body, look for it, seek it out, choose to acknowledge it and speak it out loud.
If that sounds too scary, start with a whisper as I did. Then, decide to notice the impact it has on your life and how you feel.
Tiny, perfect moments
The last quote I loved from that movie says:
“It’s true that we are losing time every day, all the time, until one day it’s all gone. But you’re gaining it too. Every second, perfect moments, one after the other, until by the end, you have your whole life.”
Choose to seek out the tiny, perfect moments and watch how it changes your life.