Try on a year of gratitude
We make so many New Year’s resolutions and it really is a beautiful thing. It’s a time we put out intentions into the world for ourselves, possibly for the world as a whole. The caveat is to have compassion for the resolutions coming to fruition fully or maybe being tried on and lasting as long as they need to (That’s a more compassionate way to view “failed” resolutions for me.) So here’s another one to try on and trust me, it’s one that takes no extra time, no extra finances. Just your commitment to see the world differently and in the process, you may just find you see a whole new world than the one you were used to.
It’s a resolution to Grateful Living. An entire year of gratitude. Every day, no matter what. You can share it if you like with our private Facebook gratitude community (we have already started the momentum over there!), you can privately write it down or tell it to a loved one. But please, share it with yourself or others outside of just your thoughts, at least for a good while. Something about the way we connect our right and left brains by writing our thoughts down does something for the power of the gratitude we feel. Get a pretty book to write it down in. Make a sacred time of the day that you share it. Include it in a family ritual. We often do it at dinner or bedtime together. And if I forget, my kids remind me! You could try the gratitude jar if you remember that beautiful tool. You could make a mantra like we did at New Year’s to honor all the challenges of 2017 being a beautiful part of who we are in 2018. Eventually, it will just be the way you think all of the time.
I can attest to that because I committed to doing this for more than a year, several years in fact. And my entire being has transformed. When something challenging happens to me, the first thing I ask almost simultaneously with the anger or grief is what can I be grateful for right now? And I find something right in that moment and eventually even more encompassing things later. And yes, sometimes the moment is so painful that all I find in that very moment is, “I am feeling pain and that lets me know I am human and alive.” Yes, at many points the gratitude is just to feel the emotion. Because what most humans can relate to is that we all suffer at some point. It is inevitable. We do not have a choice. But we have a choice of how we respond to the pain each and every single time.
I practice medicine and in that privileged context, have seen countless patients over the last two decades. I can tell you without a doubt that I have not seen any medicine we have humanly constructed work more powerfully than this tonic you have access to anytime. I see it work every day in my exam room. I see it in my own life. If someone had told me that one day I would feel grateful for my son having a life limiting illness, I would have thought they were insane. But it is true. It is not that anyone, including myself, wants pain or suffering. It is that gratitude practice teaches us that all of that is included in life and when we accept life as it is, we can live more fully and be more fully alive. I am so grateful for all of life, whatever it brings. The sorrow I feel is a reflection of my love and aliveness.
Gratitude is a salve to any pain I feel.
It is the nurturing hand I need when all seems lost. And studies show that there is scientific reason I feel this way. When individuals express gratitude, our brains light up in the same regions that light up when our hands are held by someone we love. Let gratitude be that nurturing someone who is there for you all the time, unconditionally there for you at every step. We could all use that constant companion.
Try it. Let me know how it goes. Either by email or in the Facebook community, I would love to see changes you notice. We are all learning together and your challenges and triumphs are teachings for us all.
Start this year off with a daily dose of gratitude. You can thank me later.