You can’t really skip a day on social media without coming across a post, an ad or someone expressing something that revolves around the topic of gratitude. Being in the moment, guided meditations, slow food… The list is almost endless. Just when I began to find the frequent posts and invites to join this or that app or page annoying and intrusive, I was hit hard with some life events that, retrospectively, turned into life lessons. And I am living proof that gratitude works, heals and transforms.
About a year ago I started actively practicing gratitude. In the beginning it felt somewhat odd. I was used to waking up early, rushing straight into a routine to get everyone including myself washed, dressed, fed, teeth brushed, lunch box packed and out the door. No surprise that the thought of waking up and lying there quietly for a while expressing gratitude did not come as the most natural habit to me. But I persevered. I would wake up and take a few moments to express thanks for, well, anything that crossed my mind. It was not easy at first and I can tell you some pretty crazy and distracting stuff would cross my mind in the mornings when I let my thoughts flow. Looking back now I realize I was so stressed and on edge that I came close to giving up. Life had thrown me such a curve ball that I grasped on to the daily routine with such a might to keep myself standing that, for example, I would express gratitude for being ahead of the game by having written my to do list and grocery list the night before. Naturally, thoughts of the shower drain needing to be unplugged and the hallway light bulb needing to be exchanged would creep right back in. Not very zen is it? Expressing gratitude almost became another chore.
Setting boundaries was a big learning topic for me at that same time, so I decided to set a small boundary for myself in my gratitude practice. I would focus on things that really, really mattered to me at that moment. And that helped. Slowly but surely I built up my practice each morning and over time also each night before falling asleep, and before I knew it practicing gratitude was part of daily routine, one I rarely missed. I could not have imagined how much I would get out of this practice. It gave me back my confidence, it helped calm my thoughts when these were overwhelmed with anxiety, it enabled me to rediscover my inner strength that I’d lost over the years, and I retrieved my sense of humor which had seeped away quietly, almost unnoticed. The first months I developed an almost standard evening gratitude mantra: ‘I am grateful for getting through today.’ Over time this evolved to include moments of joy, laughter and strength.
A practice I’d believed was out of my reach ended up becoming a lifesaver. I want you to know it’s within your reach as well, at any time of the day and anywhere. When you’re waiting in line to pay for your groceries or doing your weekly twenty laps at the local pool. When you are stuck in traffic or on hold with your Internet provider. You’ll find it helps you get unstuck, helps you to see the humor in things and let go, and gives you a sense of calm.
My favorite gratitude time is still at night, when all is dark and quiet, and I listen to my sleeping children breathing. My own breathing starts to match theirs, deep breaths in and out, and I turn the negative of the day into a positive force that moves me forward, focusing myself on what is of the essence and leaving all that is not by the wayside. Simply being, simply breathing.