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Practicing Gratitude


The Thanksgiving holiday is right around the corner and in my MOP’s Facebook group we have been answering certain thankfulness questions. This has caused me to remember when I thought gratitude was just an expression of thanks in a mannerly way. Gratitude is something I recognized as powerful several years ago, so it is fun to participate and recognize gratitude in many different aspects of life. Gratitude is actually the opposite emotion of fear.

When I married Gus, my friend and wedding officiant told me to thank Gus for being him. Be grateful for who he is and what he brings to my life and our family (I’m paraphrasing, however that was the gist). At the same time, I also started keeping a small gratitude journal in my bedside table. Each night for about a year, I wrote down 3 things I was grateful for in my day.

It wasn’t a “quick fix”. Over time, I started feeling better in my body. An anxious feeling I carried a lot in my chest, a questioning of sorts was lifted. The desire to be more, to do more (in a hardcore, unpleasant way) shifted and I started feeling more secure in my life and my decisions.

What is gratitude? defines it as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”.

How does gratitude change things?

When we feel grateful, we feel full. We feel full of love, inspiration, ideas, and creativity. This is actually quite powerful. We are born to create, we have the ability to create a life of our own design. Sometimes it is difficult to find the light in life when things look or feel bleak, but taking just a moment to recognize and feel gratitude can start to shift our¬†perspective, and even what crosses our path. And there’s actual research that feeling gratitude can literally reduce the risk of heart disease.

I hope I can gift my children with the knowledge of the power of gratitude. I know as an adult, feeling the true sense of gratitude took practice, especially when “getting over” any sort of trauma or emotional pain. I hope I can model gratitude as more than just saying “thank you”.

Here are a few ways to recognize gratitude and practice it for yourself or with your family and begin to shift and fill your cup.

A Gratitude Journal: a simple tool, nothing fancy– just recognizing 3 things each evening before bed and writing them down.

Thank You Cards: in our digital age texting a thank you may be the simplest way to communicate. I have always valued thank you cards and write them myself. My oldest is good about doing it too, and I want him to truly appreciate others and what they do. Instant gratification and expectation is a tough habit to break and writing things out in a personal note can open up a stronger awareness.

Gratitude Alphabet: This is fun and something I read in a book when my oldest was a little guy. Write down the letters of the alphabet and write down something we are grateful for that begins with each corresponding letter. We will do this right before Thanksgiving and display them on our dining room wall just for a tangible reminder.

These are 3 simple things that can be incorporated in daily life or family rhythm and can foster an open heart so that kindness comes naturally. In my world, I am now grateful every evening. It hits me after I put the kids to bed, do the final clean up and take a moment to look around my house. I truly feel grateful for my home and who’s in it and for the process it took to achieve this kind of peace. It is a good feeling and something I want to maintain and expand on. How do you express gratitude and what have you noticed from it?

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A Season of Gratitude

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Those of us in America recently celebrated our Thanksgiving holiday. I have so much to be grateful for, and although the holiday is over, I want the feeling of gratitude to spill over into my everyday life. Keeping my mind on what I am grateful for helps ease any fears I have about my future or misgivings I have about my past. You see, gratitude is the opposite emotion of fear. Fear is something that can keep us stuck, spinning our wheels, staying victim to our circumstances, and can keep us from attaching to the good around us. Staying grateful can help us rise above any negativity, worry, or doubt.

As we are in the holiday season, our calendars are filled with Christmas activities. This is one of the things I am putting at the top of my gratitude list. Friends are extremely important. Moving to a new city really put this into perspective for me. January marks my 3rd year of being a Floridian, and only this year I have started feeling grounded in the social department. I moved from a place where I lived for 35 years, and the 6 degrees of separation felt very real. Everyone knew everyone. I am also incredibly grateful that even my work is social in nature, and I can help people and meet friends that become like family along the way. A tribe, so to speak.

Each day during this holiday season, I am going to wake up and note something that I have immense gratitude for. Today was one of the days I woke up and just took life for granted. I did not quite feel like fulfilling my obligations for the day. In an essence, taking my day for granted and not noting its incredible beauty, is being greedy. By focusing on what I have, and being grateful for it all keeps my mind away from the negative thoughts that tell me I am lacking. The feeling of lack, of not having or being enough is what creates the fear, anxiety, or whatever keeps you stuck. Making this a practice during this season may spill over into the New Year– creating a new positive habit and removing one that is often a stumbling block.