Now, you might be wondering why indoor plumbing might even be on my radar. Well, I am not terribly old. At least, I hope 40 isn’t elderly. But I remember being around 8 and being told that my Aunt Irene had not had a bathroom inside her house longer than my mom had been alive, and I should be appreciative of it. Now, how long had she had it? For about 20 years, but hey when you're the last in the family it's a big deal. No matter what, I am sure Irene was grateful for it. But in that moment I was so grateful I didn’t have to use an outhouse during a blustery winter, I could have probably jumped for joy.
But you might be wondering why I am rambling on about this weird fact. Well, I didn’t understand how much gratitude could really help my mental health until my mom reminded me about this indoor plumbing story.
One day we were talking about my horrific job. I was weeping. I couldn’t imagine life being any more stressful. The commute felt like it was longer than the Appalachian trail, and the job itself wasn't worth it's weight in beans. All I wanted to do was crash on my couch next to my husband.
Probably most of us can relate to this scenario at least one point of our lives.
My contemplative mom however reminded me how gratitude had changed her life.
Now in my teary snot filled state, I asked, “What in the world can I be grateful for?”
Her response was priceless, and I will never forget it. “Indoor plumbing.” She calmly reminded me about my terrified childhood thoughts about an outhouse, and I laughed. After the giggling had died down, she kindly pointed out how the gratitude had changed my foul mood.
No matter if you were alive before phones, computers, and Wi-Fi connections, you probably aren't thinking about how uncomplicated they make our lives.
Do you consider the importance of the cup of coffee you are drinking in the morning? The pillow that you cozy up to on the couch? The couch itself?
Not many of us ordinary people do. So why thinking about tiny things is important.
Well, I used to think that the gigantic things were the only important ones. My husband, my son, my home. But what if we sat back were creative and added up all the itty bitty things. The favorite pen we use to make our grocery list or the tree growing outside our bedroom window.
Can you imagine how long our lists would be? We could go on perpetually. That is the point. If you were able to create a considerable list that you felt made a difference in your attitude, wouldn't you feel different in that moment?
I am not saying that you need to write down a list that takes up page after page each day. When you're on the train to work or sitting by yourself eating your lunch at the park, why don’t you come up with 10 things that you are glad for. You don’t even have to write them down. Writing them down does have advantages, but sometimes that isn’t possible. So doing it in your head counts.
I want to strengthen this idea by reminding you of how you brighten when you think of your partner. Or how excited you get when you think about the long walk you’ll take after work. I know just how excited I get seeing Charlie the squirrel
outside my office window every morning.
But what if we were deeply about the gratitude we felt for those items. I could say I am grateful for Charlie's bushy tail that makes me giggle.
Now it’s your turn. When you think about something that excites you, why are you grateful for it?
Is it your partner, and you are grateful for how they sing off-key in the shower every morning, and it makes you smile? Or is the way your dog meets you at the door all unbelievably happy?
Now, you might be thinking that I am a little over the top about gratitude right now. But I want you to try it out. Go through your day and come up with 10 little things that you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be all at once. You don’t have to write them all down or put them in your journal. I just want you to think about them. Take some time. Take them and spin them around in your head for a bit. You know, like a piece of really awesome bubble gum that you are trying to savor for as long as you can.
And when you are done, compare your outlook before the gratitude and after. What’s different about how you are looking at all the things in your life? What was the little thing that brought you the most happiness?
Okay, so Go. Try it out. See what happens. It might be the change that makes you see the cool side of the pillow as nice more often.