This article originally appeared in “Chicago Tribune.”
You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” It’s a line I frequently use with my kids when things don’t go their way. But it can be an uncomfortable mantra.
The Cubs win the World Series. Donald Trump is elected president. You do (or don’t) get the stomach flu, a promotion at work, the closest parking spot, etc.
These past couple of weeks have been filled with monumental events for America, and maybe some personal triumphs or setbacks for each of us. Some of us might feel like we just got handed the red sucker, while others feel like we’re stuck with the broken yellow one.
If you find yourself in the latter camp, is it possible to get what you get and not get upset? Or, more realistically, is it possible to be upset, but still be grateful that you got any sucker at all?
Gratitude doesn’t mean settling. It means putting things into perspective and recognizing that you are never truly defeated.
We’re approaching Thanksgiving, a time when we are supposed to celebrate and be grateful for what we have. We know gratitude is good for us. It’s been linked to happiness, empathy, better sleep, mental strength and even improved physical health. But practicing gratitude can be hard. When things don’t go our way, we might feel like throwing the darned sucker on the floor and walking out the door (or country).
I’m not an expert on gratitude and I didn’t interview one for this piece. I don’t keep a gratitude journal. I’m not good at meditation or prayer. But I can share with you two things have been crucial to my own gratitude practice: Movement and nature.
Movement has helped me make it through some of the toughest times of my life. When I move my body – whether lifting weights, running, climbing trees or simply carrying my groceries into the house – I feel powerful. And when I feel physically powerful, I feel empowered in other aspects of my life. Self-defense expert Jarrett Arthur, whom I recently interviewed for Experience Life magazine, said it best:
“When you’re able to express your body in powerful ways, you’re going to feel more powerful. You literally are more powerful … This becomes more of a way of life than just how you feel at the end of a workout.”
That’s where gratitude comes in. It’s much, much easier to feel grateful when you feel empowered. If it’s raining, you don’t have to be grateful for the rain. But you can be grateful that you have boots and an umbrella. When things don’t go your way, you don’t have to be grateful for the circumstances. What you can be grateful for is your ability to respond and create positive change.
Nature is my reminder to put things in perspective. When I stand in the woods, surrounded by vast trees, breathing in fresh air, I tend to think about the world on a bigger scale. I feel more connected and less stuck. I’m able to reflect on the good things in my life and let go of the things I can’t control. I feel grateful to be a part of this world and its beauty.
And apparently I’m not alone. Studies have linked spending time in nature to improved mood, better health and decreased anxiety. The Japanese tradition of “forest bathing,” which simply means taking a mindful walk through the forest, has been shown to promote both physiological and psychological health. Nature grounds us and renews our spirit.
So if you’re holding a smashed, sour, yellow sucker right now, my advice is to get outside. Take a walk in the woods and look up at the treetops. Pick up a heavy rock. Maybe even throw it. Get your mojo back. You are a powerful woman in a beautiful world, and nothing can change that.
Nicole Radziszewski is a freelance columnist. She lives in River Forest and is a certified personal trainer and mother of two. Check Nicole out on Facebook at Facebook.com/mamasgottamove.