Gratitude: It’s a Feeling and a Practice

Gratitude: It’s a Feeling and a Practice

My brother’s birthday is tomorrow. November 22. He died nearly 20 years ago from suicide.

Even after all this time, Thanksgivings spent at my parents’ are still hard. We don’t talk about his absence. Yet, when we greet each other with a hug and give that extra squeeze, we all know that’s code for “I know, I know, I miss him, too.” 

We’ve all been taught to envision Thanksgiving as a perfect family, gathered around a perfect meal, with plans for perfect fun – football on TV, card games, laughter on the couch… Sometimes it is. But sometimes, despite our best intentions, we just can’t get there. There’s something in the background that’s weighing on us:

  • Unemployment or work frustrations
  • Challenging relationships
  • Concerns about our personal finances

What makes this time of year hard for you? 

If your answer to this question is “nothing,” then I’m really, really happy for you. Please, spread your light. Share your positivity. The world needs you. Be a SPARK!!

If you’ve got your own, unique challenges, know, though, you’re not alone.

Personally, this year has been very disruptive for me and the people around me. Things that I thought were going to be easy, ended up being really hard. Several family members went through significant health scares, which weighed on me tremendously. 

The heavy stuff can dominate our minds. It can force us to forget that there’s lightness and brightness in our lives, too. That happiness and sadness can co-exist. In order to find your joy, I urge you: begin practicing gratitude. 

I’ve been practicing gratitude since 2018, which is when I went through my divorce. (No coincidence there.) To me, it’s no different than practicing yoga. While gratitude doesn’t make me physically flexible, it helps make me mentally agile. Meaning, when I’m feeling down, frustrated, or on the edge of jumping into a pool of intense, negative emotions, I’m able to turn inward and redirect my attention to all I have … vs all I’m without. 

After all, what captures our attention is inevitably going to influence our life experiences. 

Practicing gratitude is relatively simple:

  • Reflect on Gratitude Daily (keep it brief) – Every night I write down three things I’m grateful for. That’s it. Just three things.
  • Clear Your Mind through Exercise – In the morning, I run … or walk. Whatever it is, I spend time clearing the mental garbage from my head.
  • Turn to Inspiration – During commutes, I listen to podcasts/YouTube clips that pick me up. (Friends, I’ve got to tell you I love TD Jakes. The message, the performance, the conviction … it all blows my mind!!) 
  • Acknowledge Your Emotions – When I feel weighed down by negative emotions, I pay attention to them … I listen to them … and I make a conscious choice not to act on them. 
  • Consider Outcomes – When I confront someone who I’m in conflict with, before I say anything, I ask myself: Does this help, or does this hurt? You can always assert yourself without hurting someone.

All you need to practice gratitude is intention and commitment. 

You can imagine, too, that before family events like Thanksgiving, I get in the right headspace: 

I am ready to show up at my best and enjoy the experience – whatever it may be. 

It sounds cheesy, right, like I need a game plan for a family event? Yet, I’ve discovered that setting the right intention prepares me for the moments I’m about to enter. It helps me be my best … and being my best isn’t being perfect. It’s being real and being really, really cool with imperfections (like dry turkey, the Detroit Lions losing … again, or getting the short side of the wishbone).  

The thought that I want to leave you with is that while things are imperfect, the goal isn’t trying to fix them. Rather, it’s showing up as our best in a way that honors our spirit and respects those we’ve chosen to journey within this experience called life.

Warmest Wishes for a Peaceful Thanksgiving,