Practicing Gratitude

gratitude-quotes-picsOne week to go before the big 5-0. It occurs to me that before I look ahead at the feats to come, I want to take a little glance back to remind myself of all the joys in my life for which I am thankful.

Brene Brown (brenebrown.com) has done extensive research on the benefits of gratitude.  After conducting hundreds of interviews with people living joyful lives, she noted a commonality among them: they all practice gratitude.  They did not just having an attitude of gratitude, however, they made thankfulness a conscious act.  Our brains are wired to be more attuned to threats, which was important when our Neanderthal ancestors were battling wild animals for survival, but can make our present day focus skewed towards negativity.  The practice of gratitude reconnects us to an awareness of the positives in life.

I have practiced gratitude through keeping a gratitude journal, participating in thankfulness-based meditation, and by speaking aloud three things for which I am grateful before going to sleep, and upon waking in the morning.  It may sound hokey, and to be honest, it felt a bit artificial when I first started, but it has changed the way I see the world.  There are days when it is easy to bring to mind all the good stuff; other days, I am content with reminding myself that I am “on this side of the dirt” or that I survived to see the day’s end and that is enough. Either way, I begin and end with an awareness that I am blessed.

As I look back on my first half-century, there have definitely been lows as well as highs – I’m pretty sure that’s how life works. Today, I choose to focus my attention on just a few of the many positives that have made my years so meaningful so far:

  • I savour the memories of my boys growing up into wonderful, loving, caring young men and the fact that I have the privilege of continuing to learn and grow with and from them every day.
  • I  am thankful for the great friends that I have, old (oops, “experienced”) and young, near and far, past and present, who have been and continue to be my pillars of support, and pillows of comfort.  I love you all so very much.
  • I am grateful for all of the opportunities I have been afforded in my life – whether they turned out to be brilliant successes, or raging failures, I gained immeasurably from the experiences (this is certainly easier to see looking back than it was at the time).
  • I appreciate the gifts I have received from living with mental illness. As a result of the struggles I have dealt with due to my illnesses, I have come to know a great deal about my authentic self.  I discovered my strengths, developed resilience, recognized the importance of compassion and kindness, and opened myself up to living a life with personal meaning and purpose.

T-minus one week and I am truly grateful to have the ability to not just experience 50 new adventures, but to share the excitement through this blog. For those events that lend themselves to group participation, I will give advance notice in case others would like to come along for the ride (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally). For those who can’t join in on these feats in person, maybe you can begin your own new feat: how about a gratitude practice?

I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.  -Brene Brown

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