“Gratitude: The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Oxford Dictionary
Every morning, while drinking my cup of tea, I watch the news on TV. Lately, it’s not been a great way to start my day. The news is filled with images and events that are disturbing and stressful, and at times I’m overwhelmed by the state of our nation and world: bombings, shootings, horrific natural disasters, cruelty to children and animals, disrespect for differences, the list goes on and on.
Every evening before I go to bed, I read from a booklet that contains daily meditations, inspirational tips and advice for living in these very troubling times. At the beginning of each issue there’s an essay that’s connected to the monthly theme, written by a spiritual guide, therapist or religious leader. This month, as is fitting as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, the theme is gratitude.
The author of the essay for November works as a therapist, counseling clients working in a variety of high-profile professions. She believes that, for our emotional well-being, we are obliged to take stock of our lives and instead of feeling angry when life doesn’t go the way we want, we must focus on what’s going well. She suggests keeping a gratitude journal, writing down three things each morning and evening for which we feel grateful.
I’ve thought a lot about that word, gratitude, and take time most days to be thankful, not always for what’s large or life changing, but instead for those everyday occurrences that help to keep my life in balance. I feel grateful when I awaken after a good night’s sleep. I feel grateful that I can enjoy that hot cup of tea. I feel grateful that I can see the lake from my bedroom window and hear the crashing of the waves. I feel grateful for glorious bright colors of autumn leaves, or the crunching of the snow on winter walk; the sip of a good red wine. I feel especially grateful for the love that encircles me and the love I can give back: to my husband, children, relatives, friends.
The list, really, is endless, and I try and focus on what really matters rather than what brings status and recognition. It’s not the size of the house, it’s that there’s a roof over my head. It’s not the filet or lobster, it’s that we have food on the table. It’s not the make and brand of the car, it’s the vehicle that can get me safely where I want to go. It’s not the number of friends, it’s the quality of relationships.
What I’ve discovered is that even in the bleakest of times, those days and weeks where it seems like the stress will never end, there is something to feel grateful for. And, it’s amazing how one’s perspective changes after taking a minute or two to count one’s blessings.