November is National Gratitude Month. Gratitude is so much more than giving someone thanks—it’s an emotion that can fill you up and spill over to reach others. Gratitude is the free antidote to depression, frustration, anger and resentment. Go ahead, try to hold thoughts of gratitude and painful emotions simultaneously. It’s impossible.
I remember after my husband died, Valentine’s Day was a challenging holiday. Not because he was a particularly romantic guy, but because commercials kept repeating, “Buy the one you love…” and “Take the one you love…” and nobody loved me. So Valentine’s Day turned into my annual big, fat pity party. Until one year, I decided to do something different. I knew Choice Theory and understood that if I was feeling an emotion I didn’t want to be feeling, I had to change what I was doing or thinking to alter that emotion. What I didn’t know then was the amazing power of gratitude.
On that particular Valentine’s Day, I decided to write thank you notes to all the people who had helped me raise my sons since my husband’s death. There were relatives, teachers, coaches and friends who had given up time, energy and resources to help my sons through that time. I spent that entire day writing notes, listing specifics of what I appreciated about them. The important piece is, I didn’t do it for them—I did it for me. At the end of the day, I felt more loved than I had in a very long time despite spending the entire day alone. That is the power of gratitude, and that gratitude spilled over to touch others. I later heard from many of the note’s recipients how much those messages meant to them.
In honor of National Gratitude Month, I crafted a list of things to be grateful for. I decided to do one for each day of the month, but it is my practice to also make an entry every evening in my Gratitude Journal. I work at listing three things I’m grateful for just before going to sleep so the gratitude will stay with me all night.
- Water… it sustains life
- Chocolate… because it’s yummy
- Salt lamps… they purify the air
- Parents… without them, we wouldn’t be here
- Warm sweaters… they keep me warm
- Velvet… everyone wants to touch velvet
- My lungs… they breathe for me
- Freedom… it’s good for the soul
- Computers… I can speak with people around the globe
- My ankles… they survived a crazy accident
- Love… makes my world go around
- Music… the universal language
- My arms… they hold the ones I love
- Friends… support you no matter what and tell you when you’re wrong
- Choice Theory… helps me see clearly
- Wolves… my spirit animal
- Peace… a feeling I crave and love
- Children… when we go, they will carry on
- Purple… my favorite color
- Traveling… new places, food and people
- Mountains… keep me humble
- Puppies, kittens and children… all make me smile
- Hope… sometimes it’s all we have
- People who put their life on the line for others… selfless bravery I don’t possess
- Grandchildren… is there anything better?
- Summer dresses… just because
- Sun on my skin… nurtures me
- Wind in my hair… when it’s 60 degrees or warmer
- Mentors who share unselfishly… because they can
- Family… love and history create connection
Taking the time to be grateful for what you have in your life instead of complaining about what you don’t have will immunize you against painful emotions. Give it a try… it’s free therapy.