• Lucia Joyce

Don't Underestimate Gratitude

Gratitude is like the alkaline diet for your mental health.

The premise is: certain foods (like leafy greens and other veggies, fruits, superfoods, and herbs) are 'alkaline-forming', which means they help raise the pH of your body, and acid-forming foods (anything with refined sugar, meat/dairy, caffeine, and alcohol) lower your blood pH. So many things besides food contribute to your health: sleep, stress levels, relationships, addictions, traumas, but the basic idea is: when you maintain a 7.4 (slightly above neutral, or alkaline) body pH, your blood is more oxygenated and efficient, and it's a lot harder for your body to get sick. Upping your intake of fruits and veggies boosts your immunity and helps you relax on easy days and push through the harder ones ('Don't Underestimate Vegetables' could be its own separate blog post).

Stress, addiction, co-dependency, and shitty self talk are refined sugars, acid-forming chemicals, and saturated fats for the mind. Vacations and self-help are decent, temporary medicines for mental ailments, and daily gratitude, my friend, is the mother of all superfoods. Daily Gratitude is like Moringa Oleifera or Spirulina: it is a powerful, long term, healing tool that helps keep your mind the cerebral equivalent of pH balanced, and less likely to 'get sick' under stressors.

Gratitude (like Spirulina), is something that both the medical/scientific community and the spiritual community can agree on (unlike the alkaline diet, ironically). It is widely accepted by mental health professionals on a global scale. This Forbes article says: "In fact, gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that we all have access to every day. Cultivating gratitude doesn’t cost any money and it certainly doesn’t take much time, but the benefits are enormous."

Your daily gratitude can be small and quiet. It can be large and proud. It can be public or private. It can be sung. It can be silent. It can be danced, painted, played, or spoken among friends. You are not beholden to only one way every day at the same time either. You can utilize a minimum of daily minutes and reap the benefits, or you can dive as far as you want into its depths in myriad ways. Real, authentically felt gratitude will calm your stress levels, improve your physical health, vastly improve your relationships, and bring you untold, unbridled joy. It will regulate your cycle of emotions (yup, even men and non binary genders have emotional cycles) and increase your mental stamina for those times when you need it most.

Look, worry is a time-worn option that worked a lot better for us when humans had to survive in the wilderness and fend for their individual family/tribe. Worry, I'm certain, will always be there. It is a natural reaction to uncertainty, which is what we have more of than anything else these days. But it is not the only reaction, and it is not the reaction we must choose, despite what anyone else tells you. It is perfectly normal and OK to worry, but there's only so far worrying can take you before some other option emerges as more helpful. You can spend 99% of your day worrying, and 1% in gratitude, and that 1% is still going to benefit you. Celebrate it. The last thing you need is to create worry around how much you're worrying.

I don't really do gratitude the same way every day. I try everything. I thank the trees. I write little messages by hand or in type and distribute them in Youtube comments, dms, or on my neighbors' physical doorstep. I take time to listen to and prop up every one who loves and inspires me. I soak up as much information as I can in a moment and reprocess it into love which can then radiate from my heart at will. I look for the positive intent. I try to let things that could hurt me just slide right off--they're usually just projections, reflections of someone else's self abandonment or frustration with a problem that is not mine. When one modality of gratitude doesn't seem to be available to me for whatever reason (a busy schedule, poor sleep, or even a strained relationship), I try to just find another avenue. I didn't have time to journal so I made eye contact with someone I appreciated and gave them a genuine compliment. I didn't meditate but I did take time to read and say a sleepy 'thank you' to my body as I fell asleep. I didn't pull off the grand gesture I initially thought of for someone I love, so I just called them and listed off what I love about them and asked them really, how were they? I wasn't able to truly unplug and give myself a day of rejuvenation, so I took a full hour for myself in the yard, or a drive by myself to the store, just so I could sing at full volume for a few miles and pick up some chocolate for later.

GRATITUDE PORTION: My heart is ablaze right now. I could cry thinking about how thankful I am to be literally, right here in this moment. I am grateful to the people in my life even those who are there for me in the smallest way. I feel so loved and cared for and listened to by those in my home, my inner and outer circles, and even my social media. I am struck by this moment: in my fuzzy bowl chair in an airy bedroom, curtains billowing and leaves on either side of the windows. I have slept in divey hotels, on the floors of buses, in windowless Bed Stuy sublets with coked out roommates who never slept, in cheap, roach-infested Venezuelan hostels, and on dozens of stages between shows, all fairly easily. I have lived out of suitcases and backpacks. And in this moment, I have all of the experiences that made me resilient and steady, plus a fuzzy chair in my own corner of a beautiful California home? Plus a group of friends and a thriving artistic community that gets me excited to create for the right reasons? Plus, a stocked fridge and several hours left in the day to reciprocate my thankfulness back into the world?

HELL F**KING YEAH. This moment is what dreams and ever-forward journeys are made of.

I am grateful, too, for my experiences on the road, in foreign cities, in varied productions and circles of growth and friendship. No matter what I have to face today, or the next ten years, or the next ten lifetimes, my life has been mostly joy, and everything was worth it. I sang and danced and made money all over several countries for over a decade. I picked up people who embrace my authentic, imperfect self, who continue to make me laugh and make me better every year. Am I excited and enlivened by all the potential and possibilities of the future: undoubtedly. Am I concerned and careful to maintain safety and cleanliness at a time of caution? Of course. Do I always have a long way to go? Pretty much. But I am basking in this moment, because when it all ends, no matter what I've accomplished, either I made the most of my moments or I didn't.

What was it all for if I lived in fear and worry the whole time?

Don't sleep on gratitude, my friends.

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