I learned in my psyc classes in college that a lot of how we survive, thrive, or struggle in the world is how we’ve decided to tell our stories. Some people tell their lives as redemption stories – like the Psalmist, who even on a terrible, terrible day, finds ways to circle back to the goodness that she’s tasted and believes she’ll taste again. Some people tell their lives as contamination stories, where every sunny day has a cloud coming, and every dark day was deserved, and probably the darkness will last for a really, really long time.
I think mostly, we all do both.
But the more we practice telling our stories as stories of redemption, the easier it is to see our life as movement “further up, and further in.”
I read an article this week that makes the astounding claim that guilt and shame activate the reward centers of the brain, which is partly what makes them so addictive. Guilt and shame may “feel” bad, but your brain is getting a little high off of them. So kicking the habit of guilt and shame is kind of like kicking an actual habit – re-training your brain to look for its rewards in healthier areas. And that’s what the article claims gratitude is – gratitude is the healthier reward that we need to train our brain to want. Apparently, gratitude boosts dopamine and serotonin, just like major antidepressants do.
“But I don’t have anything to be grateful for!”
Well, good news! What boosts your dopamine and serotonin production is not being grateful itself, but looking for something to be grateful for. The act of looking, the act of deciding to try to tell our story in a different way, changes our brain chemistry – whether we’re successful or not.
So obviously I read this article and got a HUGE boost in my reward center from the waves of guilt that I felt from not doing my weekly gratitudes faithfully.
And then I got a huge rush of serotonin and dopamine when I started looking for things to be grateful for!
1. I’m grateful for new friends at a coffee shop.
OK, how often are you sitting at a coffee shop and the nice people next to you are talking about progressive evangelical churches in Atlanta? Who does that? Except me and these nice people? Who I’m now Facebook friends with??
2. For pets who sleep in bed with you.
Dog/catsitting in the ‘burbs this week. Empress Calico Cat and Handsome Gentleman Black Lab have claimed 90% of my bed as conquered territory. I wake up with strange back pain from sleeping curled up like a pillbug. But like, who has the heart to kick them off??
Are y’all watching the new season of Kimmy? Because Titus is #goalsAF
4. Monks who write books
Finishing a good book is like saying goodbye to a good friend after a long visit. I’ve been reading a book by a modern Benedictine monk for the last year (I’m a slow reader when it comes to religious books), and I’m coming to the final chapter today. I love the prophetic voice of the monastic traditions, and Enneagram 1 Me loves their uncompromising, passionate, single-minded pursuit of the Holy. This book has been centering and re-focusing me for the last, damn, 18 months? I’ll miss it but I am so grateful for it.
5. Compliments from strangers
The girl working at the coffee shop today said that my “outfit rocks!” and I’ve decided that I’m going to start complimenting people all the time, because I will definitely be floating on my rockin’ outfit all day now.
6. Rainy Day Adventures
Watching Moana, eating Ben and Jerry’s, making brownies, drinking Moscow Mules, laughing too much, while it thundered and poured and hailed outside. #SquadGoals
7. Pop Radio
My car’s AC is broken, so that means lots of speeding down 78, windows down, Bruno Mars turned up all the damn way, arm stuck out the window, singing as loud as possible to drown out the feeling of drops of sweat rolling down my back and sticking my shirt to the seat of my car. But if Ed Sheeran and Rihanna and Taylor Swift and Train can’t make me forget that I’ll have to reapply my deodorant after this twenty minute car drive in the South, what can?
Hashtag blessed, y’all.
Join the other amazing writers in the #LinkUp community as we celebrate gratitude on Fridays! Follow the above link to Leanna Coyle-Carr’s blog, and all the other fabulous women who are practicing gratitude together.