the world owes me nothing … we owe each other the world.Ani Difranco, “joyful girl“
Almost one year ago today I began writing a post about gratitude. It’s so important to talk about and I’m sorry that it took me this long to revisit the draft. But I kept getting a nudge to finally get my thoughts on this phenomenon out there, and I’m happy to be seeing it through now.
Let’s get things rolling with a quick reader poll…
In some of the above situations, expressing gratitude might be a reflex, but in others, even a silent nod of thanks may not cross your mind.
Here’s another question… How much effort does it take to say “thank you”?
It shouldn’t take much effort at all, right?
You’re running late for work and on the verge of missing the elevator, but a stranger holds the door open for you. You would probably say “thank you” without a second thought. You’d feel good for showing the elevator door holder your appreciation and he/she/they would feel good for doing something nice for someone else and pleased to know that the person (you) really appreciated it.
In this scenario, there’s an exchange of positive energy. They give and they get; you get and you give. The good vibes from the transaction radiate … outward to others in close proximity and onward through you for rest of the day. There is no downside here. It’s all helping you “vibe high” and reach your highest good.
But what if your situation isn’t all sunshine and rainbows?
Someone has done you wrong in the past, and years down the road they want to make amends. They reach out to you with an apology. But you’re still hurt; you were never able to completely heal from the trauma.
In this case, maybe a “thank you” in exchange for an “I’m sorry” is unfathomable. But words are only as powerful as you make them. Giving those two little words the power to heal and bring about closure could be what you need to move past the pain. Maybe taking back that control will be the first step toward your new beginning.
Last question (with two follow-ups, and I’ll even give you the answer)… What if you said “thank you” all the time? And what if you said it even when you didn’t have to? And what if it didn’t have to be out loud?
Gratitude is a universal language; its expressions are understood around the planet and even beyond this earthly plane. Like any other language, gratitude should be practiced every day until it becomes second nature.
I started my gratitude practice seriously about two years ago. I was listening to the audiobook format of Rachel Hollis’ Girl, Wash Your Face. She spoke about her habit of writing out a number of things she’s grateful for every day. So, I tried it.
I would try to wake up early and write down 10 things to which I was grateful, along with my intentions for the day. And you know what happened? I felt centered. I felt at peace. I felt joyful.
Unfortunately, this routine did not stick. I wouldn’t get up with enough time to do it before the rush of the day began, or I just didn’t feel like grabbing my journal and expending the effort to write something on paper.
But I knew it was important to do daily, so I changed what that looked like for me. I took the pressure of waking up early or trying to find time to sit and write out of the equation.
Instead, I do my gratitude practice when I get in bed each night. I close my eyes and recall everything that happened during the day. In my mind, I call attention to things that made me smile or brought me joy. After that, I extend my gratitude beyond just that day to people, places, or other steady things in my life (i.e., my kids, my husband, my house, my friends and family, etc.).
Focusing on the good things that I have in my life keeps me in the present moment. It’s also helped me to look for things that are good. Even if my day was really crappy, my gratitude practice forces me to pause and search the day for even the smallest glimmer of joy. I might highlight my morning cup of coffee, getting to watch an episode of Fixer Upper, or a text from a friend. Anything and everything should be up for consideration in this practice.
Remember—there’s no right or wrong way to do it. There’s no perfect science. Do it my way, do it Rachel’s way, do it through prayer, do it on your lunch break, or however/whenever you want to do it. Or don’t do it at all.
But I bet that if you start incorporating gratitude into your life on daily basis, a world of other opportunities open up for you. You’ll probably be able to shift your mindset more easily from negative to positive. You might also find that you have more grace for others who have trouble finding the good in their days, and feel inclined to guide them to that place.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether or not you want to express thanks for [insert literally anything]. I mean, what have you got to lose.