I am normally a thankful person. I am even reading a book right now about how gratitude can change your life. (Voscamp, 2011). But last week I was irritable. I did not feel thankful, and somehow my mind seemed to gravitate toward my shortcomings. The more I focused on trying to fix the icky feeling, the more I slumped down into irritability. This went on for several days (ironically while reading a book on gratitude) until I started consciously practicing being thankful. The practice part is HUGE. I got so caught up in reading about how to be grateful that I was missing out on practicing. I know this sounds a little contrived, but when I get into a hole I can spend so much energy flailing to get out that I miss the ladder right in front of me. It dawned on me that I need to incorporate an intentional practice (project) into my life that does not depend on mood or daily circumstances. A daily/weekly/annual practice. So here goes:
1. Gratitude: Each day for the next year I intend to write down three things I am thankful for. If you would like to join me as an accountability partner, I would love to hear your three things so we can celebrate together. We can form a small community and walk this gratitude project together. The comments section has plenty of room!
2. Encouragement: Each day for the next year I intend to write a note of encouragement to someone else. This can be either in the form of a handwritten letter or a facebook message. This is an important piece because it helps me to focus outward, look for strengths in others, and move away from occasional self-pity parties.
3. Sabbath: I intend to set aside each Tuesday to practice Sabbath. This is an important because I find it challenging to stop. Sundays are always busy. I tend to gravitate toward housework on Saturdays. My personal intention is to stay off the computer and take a day away from professional reading. This will make space to savor God’s good gifts. I intend to share recipes and other enjoyable things I learn from Sabbath practice.
4. Community: When I have a difficult day, feel down or struggle, I will call a close friend. Also, I want to be sure to pick up the phone when I am having a super duper day! I believe that God created community so that we do not have to walk this journey alone. A gratitude practice does not have anything to do with having to be happy all the time. On the days that are challenging it is important to reach out and connect with compassionate, loving friends and/or family. Dr. Brené Brown talks about the three Cs (courage, compassion, and connection) as being core components of resilience. When we have the courage to share our struggles with others and are met with compassion, we experience healing and connection. (Brown, 2007)
I intend to write about my journey over the next year and would love for you to join me on any part of this project.
So here goes:
Today I am thankful for:
1. The 70 degree breeze on my three mile hike around Memorial Park this morning.
2. Cottage cheese. It is like cheap brie (in my mind) after I go for a walk.
3. My husband’s gentle presence. We have been best friends for a lot of years, and it amazes me how being around him makes things better.
Brown, Brené, (2007). I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough.“
Voskamp, Ann (2011). One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.