Thanksgiving is upon us, and with it, the opportunity to slow down, reflect, and acknowledge the goodness in our life. For many among us, the days, weeks, and months preceding Thanksgiving have held trials, struggles, or disappointments. Maybe the pace of your daily life leaves little room for the things that bring you joy. Maybe your income just don’t quite seem to cover your expenses no matter how hard you try. Perhaps health concerns nag at your sense of well-being and you can never quite shake the fear that something is really wrong. Life is filled with highs and lows and we all get stuck in the lows a little longer than we should sometimes.
One of the tools that I use to start shifting the momentum in my favor is to make a gratitude list. I don’t remember the exact origins of this habit, but it came about one night when I was assigned to monitor a patient in the ICU suffering from the effects of a drug overdose. These are not choice assignments in the medical profession as typically they are less than appreciative of your care. This one was no exception. My children were very young at the time and with my night shift schedule, sleep was a rare and priceless thing. Exercise was not a regular part of my life and I walked around in a partially functional haze. When I look back on that time now, it is priceless. At the time though, there were some dark days. For whatever reason, as I sat next to this patient’s bedside, I started to make a list of the things in my life for which I was grateful. Not only did it give me perspective on that night, it was the beginning of a habit that I have used many times since.
These days, I make gratitude lists almost daily. They are not always written down. Sometimes it is just a way of interrupting a negative thought pattern or settling my brain down so I can sleep. Gratitude is a regular conversation around our house too. Rough day at school? Anxious about something happening next week? Feeling overwhelmed with homework? Many of those conversations begin or end with “three things that you are thankful for”. It is like hitting the reset button and clearing away all the distractions so that you can find your focus. No…it is not a magic unicorn that will take all your problems away. Done correctly though, it will help you step off the treadmill of “overwhelmed” and gain some perspective on your situation.
During this season of “being thankful”, I challenge you to develop your own gratitude habit. Direct it toward someone in your life, your Higher Power, or just acknowledge it as a gift. Make a list, write a note, or just say it out loud. Then, figure out how you make it a part of your life when Thanksgiving the holiday is past and you are back in the scrum of your daily routine. Let me know if you try it and how it works.