A Deep Dive into Gratitude at Year’s End
I can remember way, way back… back to December of the year 2020. (Doesn’t it seem like forever ago?) We were all looking forward to 2021 being an improvement over 2020. In many respects it was; after feeling locked down and stifled for so long, things did open up a bit. On the other hand, our society now seems as troubled and fractious as ever. Not to mention the new COVID variant—Omicron—that currently rages. So how are we supposed to wrap our heads around the end of a very complex year?
Why, with gratitude, of course!
THERE SEEMS TO BE A SEASONAL CONSPIRACY
It almost feels like the holidays, the calendar, and the short, cold, darkest days of the winter solstice all conspire to force us into a frame of mind that makes us pause and reflect upon the previous collection of months. Reflection is generally a positive thing to do, including reflecting on regrets. (Acknowledging regrets can be an insightful, constructive part of reflecting. Dwelling on regrets can be destructive.) And reflecting on the things for which we are grateful? Well, I consider that healing and life-affirming!
DIGGING DEEP INTO GRATITUDE
I like to give myself the task of bringing to mind an ambitious number of things—big and small—for which I am grateful. I am certainly grateful for my home, family, and inspiring job that lets me connect and help lots of people. But I also make a list of the dozens and dozens of little things that I am grateful for. Today, for instance, these would include:
Light traffic on my way to work
Heavy traffic on my way home that made my ride last longer than usual and so enabled me to re-discover a favorite song on the radio
A friendly interaction with a cashier at Trader Joe’s
The fact that the chair I am sitting on as I write this has a particularly comfortable seat cushion.
There is a reason I chose to frame my gratitude acknowledging in such an extensive way. It is easy to pick a few obvious things I am grateful for, and leave it at that. But if I have to reach deeper for the less obvious things, those things I haven’t been consciously aware of, I become surprised at the depth my gratitude encompasses. The small miracles, the minor wins that are almost insignificant by themselves, accumulate together like grains of joyful sand. A few such bits barely attract notice. But a growing mountain of them conditions me to feel a positive bias as a way of being. When I choose to put my focus there, I can see how the fabric of my life is woven with threads of tiny things for which I hold so much gratitude.
THINGS TO BE GRATEFUL FOR: FOUND IN ALL AREAS OF OUR EXPERIENCES
I have always pointed out that for most of us, our relationship with food and eating reflects our relationship with the other aspects of our lives. So embracing elements relating to food and eating to feel grateful about can be very healing, whether one has a fully functional relationship with these core elements… or one is struggling… or somewhere in-between.
In fact, people struggling will find value in connecting with their sense of gratitude. I firmly believe that it is important they do so.
NOT EVERYONE ALWAYS FEELS PERFECTLY GRATEFUL
I often hear the argument that it is easy to be grateful when things are going well… but embracing gratitude when things are less than wonderful is—to put it mildly—a huge challenge.
It is true that sometimes it might seem that there is little for which to be grateful, but it is when there are struggles or too few big wins that we must dive deeper. We can surrender to the feelings of upset and lack, or we can seek the barely-noticed things that spark gratitude—a small achievement at work, a kind word from a friend, a beautiful sunset, holding a favorite knick-knack. These things that spark gratitude may not be obvious at first glance, but their importance cannot be overstated.
Because it is when things appear bleakest that connecting with the small blessings is most important.
WE ARE THE STORIES WE TELL OURSELVES ABOUT OURSELVES
Choosing to dive deep for a wider experience of gratitude is not about simply putting a happy face on things or telling ourselves Pollyanna lies. Fully living in gratitude is about choosing the context that colors our world. Because we each have a perspective that influences our individual worldview. We can allow our knee-jerk insecurities and emotions of lack, of feeling not-good-enough to frame our worldviews… or we can embrace the subtle bright points that are already there. The almost imperceptible bright points that will enrich our lives, if we were to only look. It is sadly too-often the case that “what is essential is invisible to the eye,” as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry writes in The Little Prince.
I choose to live in gratitude when things are going my way, and I choose to take steps to embrace gratitude when I’m feeling low.
FAREWELL TO 2021
As this year comes to a close, I look back and reflect on all I have been grateful for in the past twelve months.
I am grateful for my home and extended community.
I am grateful for the disappointments that contained little lessons that have gone on to benefit me.
I am grateful that I have gotten back into music again, something I had enjoyed as a kid but somehow let go of as life took over.
I am grateful for friends and family.
I am grateful to have been able to help my clients along on their journeys toward better health and healing.
And finally, I am grateful for you, Dear Reader, for taking the time to read my words here today.