Many years ago, when my son was little and bedtime routine was a sweet, gentle close to the day, he and I began the practice of gratitude. Before he could write, he would tell me what he was grateful for and I would record it in journals which I still have. There were many little-boy-things on that list like Legos, and playing in the creek, and of course, more Legos.
This year, a few days before Thanksgiving, my son who is now an amazing, courageous young man wrote me a letter sharing how grateful he was for many things, including me. Reading his letter, I knew the seeds of gratitude planted years earlier had become deeply rooted in him and our connection.
That experience reminded me how important it will be to keep our hearts focused on what is truly important as we emerge from Thanksgiving and head into a holiday season filled with anticipation and celebration of miracles. How can we ground ourselves in what is life-giving and good instead of what calls us into consumption and numbing?
The holiday season can make it more difficult for those of us struggling with grief, anxiety, and loneliness to wonder what there is to be grateful for. This wondering, which so many people wrestle with, is why approaching gratitude with a sacred respect and a sense of reverence is critical.
Gratitude is about being present and mindful. It helps us to be intentional about the beauty and the beast found in life. It encourages us to live in the “and”. To accept that life is good AND hard, magical AND messy.
Gratitude is not meant to sugarcoat reality or push us into denial. It is not designed to lull us into emotional dishonesty or toxic positivity. When practiced in an authentic way, gratitude means we learn to hold the tensions of life lightly. We can be grateful for numerous things AND be completely honest that there are parts of our life that leave us filled with sadness, regret, loss.
Gratitude holds the power to transform our neurological architecture and the way we move through life. Research study after research study indicates that living with gratitude as a cornerstone, enhances health, relationships, resilience, and emotional wellbeing.
To step into the life-giving gift of gratitude, I encourage you to keep these things in mind:
- When you are feeling grief or sadness, anger or regret, allow yourself to be grateful that you are able to acknowledge and accept a genuine emotion.
- Over time, a gratitude practice helps us to see our part in life’s unfolding more clearly and clears our cognitive and behavioral patterns from things like blame and resentments.
- Acts of gratitude deepen the sense of connection to yourself, to others, and to a higher purpose. So write that thank you note, tell someone how grateful you are for what they bring to your life, and find a way to thank your higher power (whatever that is for you) for the blessings and lessons that fill your life.
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin “gratia” which means grace.
As I was reading my son’s letter I knew I was being held by the goodness of life. Gratitude is more than an attitude; it is a path that connects us with something larger than ourselves, a Grace that holds us through each season.