As Thanksgiving approaches and I prepare to gather around the table with my nearest and dearest, I find myself reflecting upon gratitude. After all, giving thanks is what this holiday is all about, and I have much to be thankful for. I’m blessed to be thriving after an incredibly difficult battle with cancer. I’ve always been a lover of life, but being a survivor has instilled a deep appreciation for small moments within me.
Sometimes—when I’m walking through the woods with my husband and our Shepherds, when I’m listening to my grown children catch up over a cup of tea and coffee at the kitchen table, when I’m riding my mare and look up and notice the sky is that particularly brilliant shade of blue you only see in the fall—I’m utterly overwhelmed with joy. I feel the tears welling up in my eyes, it all feels so sweet, so precious, it’s as if my heart can’t hold it all.
And there are still those moments when I struggle to keep things in perspective. The hustle and hassles of daily life, the blessing and challenge of caring for elder parents, managing home and office, and the somewhat precarious state of the world, can take me away from my center and make it harder to feel and express my gratitude.
I can feel when I am in this place and have to consciously bring myself back into a more grounded state. While this can be something as simple as doing four deep slow breaths (don’t underestimate the power of this to calm!) there are also strategies I use.
It can be easy to sometimes get hung up on the annoyances of daily living. A hurtful comment from a friend, an endless wait on hold to end up talking to a machine, the flight that is delayed four hours, an unexpected expense that makes it hard to stretch the budget, getting sick, a nasty comment on social media; these little pinpricks can add up over time. They can start to dominate our thoughts and our mood. Trust me, I know.
This is why I think rituals can be so healing. Different than a habit, rituals are done with a purpose beyond the action itself. I keep quote and reflection journals. I write down quotes from a book, a movie, a song, that I find inspirational, motivating, or thought provoking. I’ve gathered many of the years. On days that I feel have been more stressful than others, I grab a cup of Spiritual Chill, open my journal, find a quote and then write about what it means to me that day. I write in cursive with a fountain pen.
As I enter this creative space, the tension dissipates. Ten minutes and I have regained my center. I can respond to the stress in a calmer, more reasoned way. You don’t have to create your own quote book: there are some great online sites and books. Find the style and flavor that resonates with you. If you’re busy and just don’t know where to start, consider a One Line a Day journal. Writing about gratitude or reflecting on the day will likely feel much more manageable when you’re just given a small amount of space in which to do it.
When we’re busy rushing from point A to point B, we sometimes neglect to recognize the people who help us on our way. But thanking someone—for holding the door, for bagging our groceries, for serving us food, for driving the bus—is such a simple yet fulfilling way to practice gratitude. When we say thank you, what we’re really saying is, “I see and appreciate you.” Who among us doesn’t like to be seen? Who doesn’t like our efforts to be acknowledged? It’s a small gesture that can make a huge difference in someone’s day. Your own, included.
For the people who touch our lives in a more meaningful way, sending an old fashioned thank you card is a thoughtful act of gratitude. Whether it’s a dear friend, a helpful coworker, or a teacher at our child’s school, these people whose kindness improves our lives would doubtless love to hear from us about it. I keep a stack of small cards just for this purpose. You don’t need to write a novel – just make it heartfelt.
No matter what social media would have us believe, nobody’s life is perfect all the time. Neither money nor a meticulously curated Instagram account can buy happiness, and we all have bad days/weeks/months/years. It’s during these hard times that gratitude can seem impossible—what could we possibly have to be thankful for? The road of our lives is filled with peaks and valleys. When we’re down, it can sometimes feel like we may never be up again, that we’ll never be able to move through what is miring us. But these are the times when gratitude can bring us the most grace.
Cultivate that which gives you strength. Your faith. Your family. Look within and look beyond…
While the Thanksgiving holiday is certainly an excellent time to count our blessings, gratitude has no season. When we set aside time in our schedules and space in our hearts, we can practice being grateful every day. It may take some getting used to, but intentionally working toward gratitude is a challenge that will reap massive rewards.
From myself, my family, and all of us here at Wildcrafter, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.