I had this topic planned for sometime this month, but in light of the turmoil surrounding the presidential election, it seems extra pertinent.
Gratitude is one of those things that helps us focus on what is bright and wonderful in our lives. It brings joy by forcing us to thing about the good things. It is like lighting a candle in the dark, it can help brighten the area around you. And the more candles you spark, the more light and warmth you surround yourself with!
It is really easy to be grateful when things are wonderful, but sometimes we don't really let that gratitude sink in. When someone gifts us with a lovely thing, we may feel that burst of joy and say thank you and in that moment we are fully in a state of gratitude. But sometimes, that state fades quickly, and it's not that we aren't still grateful or that we don't still love our gift, but it is hard to maintain that kind of emotional high.
It is also very hard sometimes to even think about being grateful when things are rough. But, not only are those the times where we can gain the most out of a gratitude practice, it is also when the smallest moments of gratitude can make the most difference.
The wonderful thing about gratitude is that it can start small and snowball into something much bigger. On our darkest days, we may struggle to find anything to be grateful for. We may have to dial it back so far, that we end up with gratitude like: I am grateful that I woke up this morning, I am grateful that I am not a hateful person, or I am grateful for friends to cry with. We may not feel like we can be grateful for the bigger things.
And we may feel this somehow makes us a lesser person...but it absolutely does NOT! Gratitude is something that spawns deep within, and there are times where we don't feel grateful for things that our brain tells us we should be. Gratitude is a feeling, it isn't a fact....and if you don't feel it, then you don't feel it! You may have to dig deep, or get creative with where you look for the gratitude within you. But it is so very worth it to find those tiny sparks when we are feeling most down.
Gratitude is very personal. What one person is grateful for might be something that upsets another person. Or what makes you giddy inside might seem sort of silly to someone else. Be true to yourself! Let your gratitude shine out and allow yourself to acknowledge all the tiny (or huge) things that bring you joy!
Every single second we can spend thinking about what we are grateful for is one second that we are NOT thinking about stressful, fearful or angry thoughts. It is one second of peace and calm in what may be a whirlwind of crazy. It is one more cry for MORE of what we want in life! The more we can spend time thinking about, focusing on and calling for the good things, the more we will find them around us.
Never beat yourself up if you are having a horrible day (or week...or year...or life)! Stop, and find one thing, just one little thing that you like. Even if it can't bring a smile to your face, even if you are in a place where you just want to curl into a ball and hide from everything, look for that one thing that makes everything a little less bad. Because sometimes, that is all you can grab onto. Some days you can't get to good or happy, all you can manage is 'not quite as bad'. But it is so very vital to find any hope, any light, any joy.
I am grateful for every day and every breath I take. I am grateful for a husband who may not always agree with me, but still supports my right to argue with him about anything and everything...and underneath it all supports my thinking, feeling and doing things that make me happy. I am grateful for a son who is growing into his own man, and who has always been loving and respectful towards us. I am grateful for crayons and scribbled drawings, for color and sparkly markers that turn my fingers rainbow colors when I use them. I am grateful for song, for chanting, for music. I am grateful for stories that carry me away when I need to be somewhere that is not here. I am grateful for flickering flames that mesmerize me. I am grateful for friends and family who make me feel needed and who miss me when we are apart.
Make yourself a gratitude practice. There are a million ways to start practicing gratitude..try different ones and see which ones you like and which ones work for you! When you wake up in the morning, before you even get out of bed, take a deep breath and be grateful for breath and for waking and for a brand new day. When you drink your coffee, or tea or water, think about your day and the things that you are grateful for that are coming up for you. When you sit down for a meal, say a prayer of gratitude for the food you are eating, for the plants and animals that sustain you, for the people you eat with, and for the people who are not with you at that meal but still important to you. When you get ready for bed, think about all the things that happened that day that you are grateful for. When you lay down and close your eyes, be grateful for rest and sleep and the ending of one day so that a new day can begin.
Start a gratitude journal! Set aside time every day to write down things that you are grateful for. Make a goal to write one or three or ten things that you are grateful for. Whenever you are feeling sad, write down something that makes you happy. When you feel angry, write down something that makes you calm. When you are frustrated, write down something that makes you laugh.
Make a collage of things that you are grateful for! Flip through old magazines and find pictures of things that make your life better, whether they are directly part of your life or not! I may not interact with wolves, but they are something that has impacted my life in great ways over the years....they would go on my gratitude collage! A gratitude collage is a great way to honor cycles of time, you can make them at the end of a moon cycle, at Sabbats or for each year. It can be a lot of fun to then go back and look at these slices of time and see what you were grateful for!
You can also take your gratitude practice and use it to build community! Write letters to people who have touched your heart, letting them know how much they meant to you. Share something you are grateful with on social media and ask your friends to post something they are grateful for in return. Start a gratitude chain: pick a friend to post something specific about them that you are grateful for, and then have them pick someone and so on! Or offer to do a gratitude exchange: let your friends post something about you that they are grateful for in exchange for your comment on something about them that you are grateful for.
The more we stop and notice what we are grateful for, the easier it becomes to honor the wonderful things in our lives. The more we start to feel that gratitude spread throughout the moments of our days and our lives. When we are full of gratitude, we can share that gratitude with those around us...we become a beacon of light that shines into the darkness of the world. The more we search for things to be grateful for, the more we start to notice all the things around us that we have to be grateful for!