It’s that time of year again when Pinterest and the internet blows up with fall decorations and ideas for how you can celebrate Thanksgiving and all the year end holidays. Autumn is in full swing and seriously what’s not to like about pumpkin spice lattes and mulled apple cider?
But instead of talking about Thanksgiving traditions, I want to talk about how we can keep fear at bay and bring gratitude into our daily family rhythms all year long. I’ve realized that it’s necessary to address the relationship of fear and gratitude before I move on to sharing some practical ways our family practices living in gratitude on the daily.
Moments You Don’t Want to Miss
[2:28] This is why we have to understand the relationship between fear and gratitude
[4:42] This is what's at the core of all fear
[9:12] Discover why I will always call this the "practice" of gratitude
[13:57] Have you tried habit stacking before? This is how I use it in my evening routine!
[17:39] This is the impact of gratitude in action!
Why Fear is Toxic & Gratitude Cleanses
The problem with fear is that it fuels anxiety and overwhelm. It wreaks havoc on our immune system and many key metabolic processes in the body. It can impact our memory. Fear can be the bitter root of anger and angry outbursts. Relationally, it causes division and breeds isolation. It causes us to hold on tight to things which cultivate an environment of scarcity and lack.
Fear short circuits the brain’s ability to be rational and can give you a negative lens to view the world and your circumstances regardless of what’s going on. But how do you and I live a life that isn’t shadowed by fear? It’s a question I come back to often because I struggle with fear just as much as anyone else.
Getting to the Root of Fear
I’ve found that at the core of fear is the absence of absolute unconditional love and for me, that love comes directly from Jesus. I’m not talking about religion, church, or the Bible, but the person Jesus. He is the very embodiment of love itself and His presence - His life-light demolishes fear.
He gives peace in overwhelming amounts. This kind of peace is beyond understanding and isn’t fabricated through human effort. It’s simply a gift from a dear friend who died and conquered death so that I’d have the freedom to live a life of peace without fear.
So before I can talk about any tools or daily gratitude practices, I want you to know that at the end of the day, I personally find the most peace and rest for my soul in the presence of the living God and through a relationship with Jesus, who holds all things in his hands, and who cares more about my own well being than even I do.
Long ago, I learned that if I want to thrive - I mean truly thrive, I have to rely on a power greater than myself. My own humanity can only get me so far and it doesn’t take long for me to run amuck. Trust me, I’ve dug myself into some pretty deep holes.
The truth is we become what we behold and the more I draw near to Jesus, the more He changes me and my heart. If he is light, and if light conquers darkness, then sign me up!
It’s this type of heart work and mindset shift that gives me a new lens to view the world - even when my circumstances haven’t changed a bit. When I’m changed and there’s now an ability to stand in the midst of the storm that wasn’t there before - that’s the ultimate gift.
Because of all this, my life has become this journey of growing in communion with God and allowing him to love me, change me, and carry my burdens. Who else in the world can I hand my fear and anxiety or my shame over to and be given peace, love, joy, acceptance and hope in exchange?
Wrestling With Fear in Motherhood
A few months ago, I gave birth to my son, but this pregnancy was so different for me because we had miscarried previously. (We actually shared his home birth story on the podcast that you can listen to!) I had way more anxiety and fear that something was going to go wrong. I wasn’t sure I could handle that much pain again.
Now, God didn’t magically remove my fear in this instance - though that does happen sometimes. I will say that His presence brought hope and comfort. And I was continually met with an exchange of my fears for His peace.
Now on this side of the pregnancy, I have an unexplainable peace about my son’s safety. Though as a mother, I think there is always a tinge of fear that something terrible might happen to our kids.
Elizabeth Stone sums it up well. She says “Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” And this is precisely why I need a power higher than myself because so much is out of my control and I need to know God cares way more for my kids’ well-being than even I do.
So please, if you take away anything - know this - fear is no match for love, peace, gratitude, and joy. It is possible to live without fear encroaching on your daily life when you allow Jesus to become your friend.
Practical Tools for Developing a Habit of Gratitude
I also want to share some practical tools and daily rhythms that God has given our little family that helps us live from gratitude regardless of what’s going on in our life.
Practicing gratitude is so powerful because it’s very difficult to be grateful and anxious or fearful at the same time. Not only do I practice gratitude to combat fear but for my physical, mental and spiritual well being too.
Gratitude has been a key rhythm for me for years. In some seasons, it has looked more structured, and in other seasons, less formal. It’s also important to note that I call this a practice because I’m human and I’m far from perfect. What I do know is that it’s the consistency over time that’s helped me live out of a place of peace.
Start a Gratitude Journal
One of the most simple ways we can practice gratitude is through using a gratitude journal. I know this is really basic but it’s a great way to bring gratitude into your daily rhythm.
Digging this deep helped me to cultivate joy and positivity in the midst of the storm. It helped me see what in my life was actually good. It gave me eyes to see what was going well for me, what was working, and how God was present in my life.
And please don’t think I’m saying not to acknowledge the pain or to pretend life is all good. I actually believe quite the opposite. I think we have to acknowledge all the traumas and pain in order to be able to move through them and truly heal.
That’s why we’re not afraid to talk about the hard stuff of motherhood here at the Nourished Motherhood Collective. Things like fertility challenges or pregnancy loss. But I’m intentional to share stories that end in hope - because I believe there is always hope.
Simplify Starting New Habits
Another tip to help you make this a consistent practice is to incorporate your gratitude journaling on top of another habit you do daily. This is called habit stacking.
For example, if you take some time in the mornings to drink your coffee, then you could keep your gratitude journal and pen where you like to enjoy your cup of joe and then spend a few minutes while waking up to start the day in gratitude. Or if you’re a night owl, stack your journaling on top of your evening reading.
I know for me as soon as I start to move towards bed, my mind starts going a million miles a minute. So something I like to do is grab one of my favorite essential oils such as lavender, frankincense, or Balance and with a drop or two in my hands, I cup my nose and take some deep breaths and then rub my temples and the back of my neck with whatever residue is left on my hands.
Then I like to put on some calming tunes such as Sleeping at Last and end my day with journaling. I find both journaling in general coupled with gratitude journaling really helps me process through these thoughts and helps me sleep more easily.
And let’s be honest. I have a newborn and toddler, so quiet evenings or time to myself is really hard to come by. For this reason, I keep my journal and oils near my bed to make it easy and in this season it’s more of a weekly rhythm for me right now.
Practice Gratitude Before Meals
The next simple practice you can do daily - and even several times a day - is to take some time before meals to pause to be grateful. You can do this by yourself, with your partner, or as a family with your kids.
Before you eat, pause for a minute to take five deep, cleansing breaths. Then make space to give thanks aloud. If you have food in your fridge or on your table, be grateful. Seriously, that isn't a reality for everyone around the world. And, that in itself is something that we can celebrate and be grateful for.
The other benefit of connecting gratitude t your breathing is that it helps put you in that parasympathetic state- also known as a restful state. This mindset is going to help your digestion, which helps you absorb nutrients and fuel your body better.
Additionally, 80% of our immune system is in the digestive lining. So the more that we can support our digestive health, the better.
Gratitude in Action: Serving Others
Lastly, I want to encourage you to find ways to be generous. Whether it’s giving our time, resources, or what I believe is our greatest asset: love - giving is powerful.
Generosity is the fruit of living a life of gratitude. Its gratitude in motion and love lived out. When we are regularly aware of all the beauty and gifts around us, it also blossoms into a natural desire to give back all the goodness we’ve received.
Secondly, serving others is a powerful tool that helps us get our eyes off ourselves. Whether I’m caught up in my inadequacies or boosting my already inflated ego, either way, the focus is on myself. When I’m stuck in my overwhelm, it’s really easy to have a pity party when life is difficult or things are scary. Finding ways to serve someone else is a quick way to break free of this pattern.
So whether it’s creating space to take time to tutor the kids in your neighborhood, or serving at a local soup kitchen, or even just taking the time to encourage and uplift a friend or stranger can do wonders for your soul and community.
There’s Always Room to Choose Gratitude
However you choose to practice gratitude, it’s amazing to see that as you build it into your daily rhythm how fast it can shift the atmosphere, things in your own heart, and even your home dynamics. I can tell you the most growth I've ever experienced in my life has been in the deepest, darkest places, and in the greatest storms.
We were meant for community and connection and we need each other. If we continue to let fear have a heyday - our relationships will suffer. So my friend, my challenge to you is to choose love, to choose gratitude, and to choose joy.
Links & Resources Mentioned
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November 25, 2021