Gratitude, for a simple word, it leaves a powerful impression. I remember many years ago when I was studying to be a licensed spiritual counselor. It was an intensive program where I had to take a long look at my values. I had to become clear about the beliefs I had and how they might impact me in serving my client’s highest good.
It was an intense process, but manageable. I thought I was doing well until I had to look at how I spoke to myself. Boy, did that hit a nerve, and it was painful. I resisted looking at it, but I knew if I wanted to be a certified spiritual guidance/counselor, I had to face it. If I didn’t, it would get in my way of providing quality support for my clients. I also knew it was hurting me and my life.
Feeling fearful, angry, and confused because everything appeared to be going wrong, I met with the head of the spiritual program. All I could do was talk about how bad things were and how nothing was going right. She listened until I was done. Then through her steely blue gaze, she challenged me to write a list of 100 things I was grateful for.
I looked at her dumbfounded. “A gratitude list of one-hundred things?”
“Yep,” she replied.
All I could do was stare at her. I couldn’t even think of five things to be grateful, let alone 100. I told her so, and then I asked her why she wanted me to write the list. How could that possibly help me? Didn’t she hear my litany of fears and concerns? What possible good could writing a gratitude list have for me?
She looked at me with compassion and simply said, “I think you will be surprised at what it will do for you. Regardless, you are to write a list of 100 things and turn it in as your homework assignment for our next class.”
I panicked. I knew I had to do that in order to grow and to complete the program. But all I could do at that moment was repeat the question, “One-hundred things, how am I going to do that?”
I went home and sat at my kitchen table with a blank piece of paper and wondered what I was thankful for. I knew there was something, but all I could think of was the problems I was having. At some point though, I knew I had to let go of focusing on my troubles long enough to write the list. And I did.
It was a slow start, but it was a start. I was grateful for my children, my husband, and my family (I wrote down every name to fill my quota.) I hit a dead space. What else could I be thankful for? I thought of my hands. I liked my hands. I liked how my body was strong. I liked how it was flexible and balanced.
I looked around my house and noticed things I appreciated and was grateful for. The computer, a computer desk, awesome neighbors, the beautiful grandfather tree in our back yard, our beagle, my singing voice….and the list began to grow. I was thankful for the many friendships I had, how I loved hugging my children, and how I fit inside my husband’s arms when we embraced. I was grateful for cartoons, music, my teachers who taught me how to write, paper and pen, math (I like math.), stars, the smell of roses….and the list continued to grow until it exceeded the 100 items I was required to write.
“Hmmm…,” I thought. “I did it.”
I continued to add to the list until I was complete. What an accomplishment! I felt great!
But that achievement wasn’t the true gift. What I found remarkable was what was happening inside me. As I began to write, I noticed a sense of release. The more I wrote, the more the heaviness of complaining and feeling fearful was transformed into a feeling of lightness and ease. This eventually gave way to happiness and joy. It was an amazing experience. The program director was right. I was surprised at what being grateful did for me.
What does this all mean for you? I don’t know. It all depends on whether you have ever made a gratitude list. If you have, then you have felt the release and the ease that comes when you shift your focus from the things you are fearful of, to what you are grateful for. If you haven’t created a list, then what I am sharing may not have value for you at this time. However, I guarantee that if you generate a gratitude list of 100 items, you will know the power that expressing thanks can play in your life.
This simple shift can make all the difference in the world when you are faced with making a tough decision where fear can stop you from taking action. Gratitude lifts your spirit and can be physically felt as lightness in your body. It not only allows your mind to open up to possibilities, it also improves your body at a cellular level which has been proven by multiple studies.
If you want to experience greater ease and joy, start by expressing gratitude anytime you become aware of a negative thought. Keep it simple and shift your attention to something you appreciate or that makes you smile. This action can help you to disrupt the ineffective pattern of judgmental thoughts as they happen. Then at night, before you go to sleep, write down 5-10 things you are grateful for from your day. This helps to nurture better sleep.
Practice gratitude as part of your lifestyle. It leaves a powerful and positive impression. Challenge yourself and your family to create a list of 100 things you are grateful for and pay attention to how much different you feel when you are done.