by Tara Dixon
Before sitting down to brainstorm the contents of this article, I first took a survey of those around me: “What word comes to mind when you think of the Great Flood of 2016?” Not far into my survey, I realized that the people of Baton Rouge had much more to teach me about gratitude than I could ever write. Research, years of schooling, and daily gratitude practice soon melted away as strength and resilience poured out of local citizens. I surveyed 105 locals, and the top answers were, Cajun Army, rebuild, home and community. Why wasn’t I hearing words such as tragedy, devastation and disaster? Although perplexed, I sat down at my computer with tears in my eyes and proudly began describing how gratitude has greatly impacted the city I call home.
It was once described to me that true gratitude is when you realize that what you already have is enough. Unfortunately, our materialistic world can make it difficult to achieve true gratitude. It’s easy to get wrapped up in worldly things and forget to be thankful for the basics – our life and each other. As time stopped on the days when we watched the water rise, Baton Rouge got back to the basics. Worldly possessions were quickly realized as replaceable, and our lives and communities became the priority. However, as the city rebuilds, new stressors and defeats can easily cloud our once overwhelming sense of gratitude. Although the benefits are endless, gratitude can leave an impact on those who have recently suffered trauma by lessening panic and increasing the ability to seek creative solutions.
But in the hustle and bustle of sheetrock, donations, new school schedules and contractors, how do we ensure that gratitude will continue to be a part of our daily lives? Keep in mind these few ideas:
- GET SPECIFIC: Expand your gratitude by being thankful for the specifics in life. For example, instead of, “I’m thankful for my children,” you might say, “I’m thankful that Lily helped me by loading the dishwasher today.” If you are up for a challenge, identify the emotions involved as well. “I’m thankful for my husband for recognizing my stress and being thoughtful by bringing dessert home.”
- MAKE IT A FAMILY AFFAIR: Why not decorate the center of your table with a gratitude jar? Throughout the year, add gratitude statements to the jar. On a special holiday, join as a family to count your blessings and read all the times you were grateful throughout the year.
- MIND GAMES: Especially during times of stress, our mind has a habit of attaching to negative situations around us. Challenge yourself to reframe your negative thoughts in an effort to turn them into gratitude. For example, I sometimes find myself groaning, “There’s not enough time in the day!” By reframing my statement, I might say, “I accomplished my top three tasks today.” It is easy to reframe anything and positive statements do a world a good for self-esteem and self-worth!
- COMPLIMENT COUNT: No one accepts a challenge like a Baton Rougian! Challenge yourself to a quota of compliments each day. As you sprinkle the world with compliments, you will also begin to notice the less obvious things you have taken for granted: the color of a co-worker’s office, the smile of your Starbuck barista, etc.
As our community continues to change and adapt to the aftermath of the flood, there will be plenty of examples of what is not going well. We have shown a nation and the world that our community thrives on faith and united support. Continue to be strong for Baton Rouge and cultivate what is going well. After all, look around, gratitude is all around us.