Tag Archives: creative nonfiction

Building a Gratitude Practice (and Especially During Times of Struggle)

One time when I watched Oprah, back when she had her talk show, she had a guest who talked about keeping a gratitude journal. I can’t remember who this person was, or why they kept one, or even what Oprah’s main topic of the show was about.

What I do remember is the rule this person set up for herself (and which Oprah confessed to adopting):

Write down five things every day that you are grateful for.

The only other rule was that you couldn’t repeat items.

Being a teenager at the time, I probably let my busy life get in the way of actually trying this practice. After all, I had swim practices, piano and clarinet lessons, musical rehearsals, and schoolwork.

As an adult, as a mother, as I came to terms with my long-standing issues dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I found my way back to this idea.

A couple years ago, I started a journal. I began with writing down my five items dutifully every day in a small book I could carry around with me. It gradually became a mental practice, one that I would remind myself to perform every night before I fell asleep. What happened that day (or didn’t happen) that I was grateful for? That I should be grateful for?

As I added therapy, medication, yoga, and meditation to my treatment for anxiety, I continued with my gratitude practice. Again, though, it morphed. It took on a shape that was needed in the moment of life I was living. Whenever panic arose, when I felt my thoughts race about how I would accomplish all I had on my to-do list, I made myself stop, breathe, and mentally list five things I was grateful for in that moment.

Through the iterations of my practice, one thing never wavered. It never ceased calming my thoughts, my quickened heart, my shallow breaths. It never failed me when I needed to ground myself.

And so now, in this time of extreme uncertainty, great sadness for opportunities lost, for lives gone, for human suffering, I once again rely on this simple practice. In the past, this blog has always served to connect me to community when I felt the most isolated. Today feels like a perfect day to call again on this incredible gift I have to connect us.

Every day I will share my gratitude list. As uncertainty is the theme of our lives right now, so is the progression of this project. I plan to share often. That may look like a lot of things. With my anxiety trying to find the cracks in my stability, I find myself stopping several times a day to do this reflection. I may not share them all. But be assured they are there.

I encourage you to share with me–with my readers–your gratitude list. Reply to the blog, comment directly on my Facebook or Twitter posts, retweet, share. Do whatever feels right to you. Whatever makes you feel like you can make a difference for yourself and others. The biggest lesson I have learned from my writing, my sharing my life with others, is that I never know whose life I have touched. Whose life did I affect in a positive way today?

Let’s share. Let’s stay connected.

Gratitude:

  1. The sunrise this morning was brilliant with deep pinks and oranges. I caught it just at the peak of colors, before the cloud cover swallowed it up.
  2. My daughter is healthy enough to still go to her daycare.
  3. Her daycare is willing to still be open today for her and the few other of her friends who were there.
  4. In the face of chaos, my writing peers offered many generous suggestions, thoughts, and praises on my writing for my thesis project.
  5. I have the means to listen to music, to lift up my mood, to sing as loud as I want in my own kitchen (because the virus can’t take that away).