For those of you who know me, you know that Thanksgiving is my day – and not just for the food (for which I am also grateful) – gratitude is important to me. Every day, at the end of the day, I compile a list of about 10 things that I’m grateful for that day. I send that list to my family and a few friends who have asked to be on the list. At first, it kept me accountable. Now it just is what I do. My gratefuls can run from “running my fingers through the softness of Hef’s fur” to “getting a new client for my consulting business” to “getting married”. The idea is to be in the moment and realize that there are so many things to be grateful for in each day. For me, Thanksgiving is a day where the whole nation gets to participate something that provides me daily joy and grounding.
I have been doing this for over 10 years. I started this as a Lenten exercise to bring more positivity into my life and to my family’s perception of my life. My family is very much a “pray for me because…” type of family. That is not a bad thing. We all benefit from the support that prayer can offer. What I realized, though, was that this always focused on challenges in our lives and never highlighted the joys. So, the impression I was getting of other family members was that their lives were joyless and filled with troubles that we needed to pray for. I wanted to provide for myself and for my family, a glimpse of the joys in my life. My gratefuls highlight things that are important to me.
Gratefuls, for me, are not about a PollyAnna approach to life but a realistic approach that says that, while I may be having a “bad” day, not everything in the day is bad and I can pull myself out of that and focus on what is good. For example, I know that coming up in the future I will have to make a very hard decision for my dog, Borrego, and probably another for my cat, Tobee. Those days will hurt and they will be sad and there will be little that is joyous in them. However, there will be things I can be grateful for – hopefully the kindness of my vet, the release from suffering for my pets, the support of friends. These “gratefuls” will provide a pillow for my pain.
Gratitude is a way of life for me now. It used to be a conscious effort, a “task” to be completed. If I was having a “bad” day, I’d think, “crap, I have to come up with 10 things to be grateful for. I’d better go do things that I can write down”. So I’d go out and watch a sunset, or cuddle my pets, or savor a piece of chocolate. Now those things are automatic. I’ve since learned that this is called mindfulness – living in the moment. It helps my life be so much more full. I write gratefuls in a Google doc (which I can access on my phone, laptop, computer, kindle) throughout the day, as I experience the gratitude. This helps me stay in the moment and helps me not to have to rely on an aging memory bank.
If you want to live a life of gratitude too, I strongly encourage you to keep a journal or do an email even to just one person. I rarely actually look back on mine but I know that, if I need to (on particularly low days) I could look at past gratefuls to remind myself of how rich my life really is. You can also join my gratitude group on Facebook to simply gain inspiration from other people’s gratitude or to share your own joys.
I am grateful for YOU.