Like many others, I’d made plans (not resolutions) for the New Year and greeted it with excitement and hope. But shortly after singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ to ring in the new year, my world began to tilt and spin in unexpected and uncontrollable ways. As the adage goes, ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell Him what your plans are!’ So went the way of mine. Death, illness, financial distress, career uncertainty, natural disaster …life left me whining like a disappointed toddler. “Why this? Why not that?” I started comparing and contrasting my life with the carefully curated Insta-Stories streaming on my computer. It was depressing and I was depressed. Then something happened to shift my focus. A dear friend and colleague ended one of our conversations with six words that left me awestruck: “Have a good day on purpose.” (On purpose?) How? The statement resonated. I sat silently for quite a while trying to figure out how to start this ‘on purpose’ good day. Finally, it began with a hummingbird. The tiny creature that visited the trees outside my bedroom window each afternoon fascinated me enough to cause me focus on something other than myself. Watching it move so quickly and effortlessly between the trees was like therapy. I was grateful for the little bird’s visit and was grateful for the spontaneous smiles that resulted because of it. I was thankful that my gratitude journey had begun.

Gratitude is POWERFUL. Like the petals of a blossoming flower, each one revealing another, so was this journey. The more I focused on being grateful, the more I found to be grateful for. It was fantastic! I spent the entire year focused on gratitude. The practice of intentionally viewing my life and the world around me through a lens of thankfulness was humbling and liberating. Focusing on gratitude didn’t create a perfect life or eliminate its challenges but it helped to put my experiences in perspective. It also helped decrease my stress level and gave me a greater sense of connection to world and people around me.

What about you? What are you grateful for? Take some time to look at the world around you differently. Use that time to begin to renew your focus. Sometimes the things we give the most attention are the least important. In case you need a little help, here are a few tips to get you started on your own gratitude journey:

— Write it down: Take some time each day to think about and journal what you are thankful for (be specific).

–Start a gratitude jar: Grab a jar (plain or fancy). Use a small piece of paper to capture something for which you are grateful and add it to the jar. Repeat daily/often. At the end of the year, you can review the contents of your jar to remind you of all the great things that happened!

–Practice a daily physical gratitude exercise: Begin or end each day by sitting quietly with your eyes closed. Starting at your toes and ending at the top of your head, focus on the function that each body part performs and express gratitude for it.

–Write a gratitude letter: Write a thank you letter to someone (living or dead) who has had a positive impact on your life. This simple exercise has amazing benefits.

–Be Social: Share a simple gratitude statement periodically on your social media accounts. This will keep you focused and may inspire someone else!


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The PlaygroundA Year in Gratitude