Sometimes life is rough. The smooth seas of childhood won’t last forever: the blissful days in the sun, drifting peacefully to sleep after a long day, the sweet, positive outlook on life that makes everything seem radiant and beautiful.
The angry torrents of problems will crash over you, pushing you beneath the surface sometimes. You turn away genuine compliments, swatting them away as meaningless and untrue. Question each emotion, each thought, a happy moment shattered as you stop to analyze the feeling, thinking, Am I actually happy? Stressing over nothing. Riddled with anxiety with no cause, clouded by doubts when you should be enjoying yourself. New relationships and the doubt that ensues, constantly questioning, Should we have stayed friends? Or am I just overthinking things?
One day this will come for everyone, as it has for me. It is simply a part of life and of growing up and being an adult or teenager. But you don’t have to let it control you. Stressing, overthinking, and being constantly anxious doesn’t have to be the norm. People will dismiss these as “normal feelings,” saying that everyone experiences them. And that’s true. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t an issue.
My lifeline? Gratitude. I’d always shied away at the idea of gratitude, dismissed it as a stupid concept. The problem? I was thinking too generally.
When asked what you are grateful for, what do you say? Family, love, a home, food, shelter, my pet. That was always my response, but afterward, I was left feeling dissatisfied. Not because those things aren’t wonderful and things to be grateful for. They are. But they are just too GENERAL! To grab hold of gratitude and swim to the surface, first, you need to step back. Take a look at the little things.
Little turtle- Taking a look at the little things in life
Tiny sources of joy. Natural things. Small trinkets. Sweet moments. These are the things that truly make life great. And yet, we overlook them so often. Why? Because we are swept away in those waves, and when looking at gratitude, we automatically go for the big things. But sometimes the big things in life are just as good as a bunch of little ones.
When I was on vacation recently for spring break, we went to a souvenir store. There were a lot of nice things, but the main thing that caught my eye was a little metal turtle charm. So small, not even two centimeters long with a shiny green shell. Something about that tiny turtle struck me, made me smile as I rubbed my finger along its belly carefully, tracing the etched designs.
The immediate thought went through my head: you don’t need this. Don’t buy it. There’s no use for it realistically. Did I need the little turtle like I needed a home or food? Absolutely not. Did I buy it anyway? Absolutely.
You see, I bought it because it made me happy. I took it all over with me that trip, taking pictures of it along the way, setting it on rocks and smiling as I snapped pictures of Tuttle (yes, its name is Tuttle) and his gleaming green shell (some of the pictures I took are shown above). That small turtle charm brought me so much joy, that the next time I sat down and thought to myself, “What am I grateful for?” the first thing that came to mind was that little turtle.
Having realized that taking a look at the small things could bring so much happiness, I formed a new list of natural sources of joy, of little things: fuzzy socks, warm clothes fresh from the dryer, the swish-swish of my ponytail as I walk, the smell of fresh Sharpies, braided bracelets that last a lifetime, inside jokes with friends, the surge of adrenaline during a performance. Tiny moments like that bring so much happiness but can be overlooked so easily, making gratitude a challenge.
Now I understand why when I was young, my mother would always ask what my favorite part of the day was instead of a general, “How was your day?” She let us focus on the little, favorite moment that made our day. In retrospect, that question made me a better person, one that could better understand gratitude later on in life.
So take a look at the little things. Stop in the store. Buy that turtle charm. Focus on those moments that bring you joy. The key to gratitude and gratefulness is as simple as that, and can help drown out the anxiety, stress and perpetual overthinking that are a natural part of life. Take a look at the little things. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference they can make.