I’ve been fascinated with the idea of gratitude lately. It’s such a simple concept on the surface. My earliest memories include singing “Give said the little stream” in the children’s Sunday school at my church. Every meal we quickly raced through the prayer with a quick thanks, not wanting to let the prayer go long for fear our food would go cold.
Gratitude was simply a courtesy, something to express because it’s the polite thing to do. Actually feeling it in the moment was not an important part of the equation. Thank you was somewhat hollow.
I’m a bit surprised (maybe even a little disappointed) as I contemplate my childhood memories. Our family was pretty typical in that we didn’t have a fancy life, but we had what we needed. My life was far from perfect, but I certainly had a life that should warrant a steady stream of gratitude…
I didn’t really grasp the power of gratitude until I was in my 20’s. I was reeling in anxiety and mild depression in the aftermath of sexual abuse that had happened to me years earlier. My life was consumed with memories, fears, sadness, and confusion.
At the that time in my life I was an avid Oprah Winfrey viewer (I really miss that show!) and happened to catch an episode that would teach me something vitally important. I don’t remember the details of the episode but she introduced something to the audience called a “Gratitude Journal”. It was something she had tried herself and swore that it had profoundly impacted her life for good. She explained that you simply write 5 things in a journal every day that you are grateful for. If you don’t feel like it, you do it anyway. If you can only think of 3, you’d better sit there and think of two more. It spoke to me. I could try this. I needed help and the magic that she seemed to experience from this simple practice.
I bought myself a beautiful little journal and started. Some days it was easy to grab my journal and write gratitudes, others were so dark and sad that I had to remind myself to just have faith in the process. Those days my entries were simple… “The blue sky”, “I have food to eat”, “I watched my favorite show”, but the most curious began to happen.
I started to feel happy. I started to feel peace.
Writing these simple gratitudes seemed to bring an energy to my body that I hadn’t felt in what seemed a very long time. I looked forward to my minute or two with my journal each night knowing that something was happening inside of me. I could not explain it, but I could feel this subtle mystery.
I don’t have a strong memory of when I stopped using this journal, but one day I realized that I hadn’t written for awhile. I paused and contemplated this. I thought about where my soul had been when I had written in its first page – and where I was then.
I was a different person. I was no longer living with anxiety and drepression.
Gratitude had changed my life.
I have never forgotten this lesson. There is a power in gratitude. It holds it’s own life force that when we bring it into our lives, it has the power to heal.