Choosing Gratitude

gratitude and rustBecause November is the month that includes the American holiday of Thanksgiving, I have seen lots of posts about gratitude, giving thanks, counting blessings, etc. And that doesn’t even count the Facebook gratitude practices (because, as we’ve established, I’m not that awesome at Facebook).

I understand how people can begin to feel overwhelmed by all the reminders to feel grateful.

I understand that watching other people publicly count blessings you wish you had can increase feelings of isolation.

I understand why some people may feel “over the whole gratitude thing, already.”

And yet, here I am, writing about choosing gratitude.

There are some very good reasons for this post. First of all, it is what I felt called to write about today, and on day 13 of 30, I’m paying attention to my writing impulses. More importantly, there is a growing body of research that suggests gratitude might be good for your health. And things that can improve health are definitely on my radar. Especially if they are low-cost, low time investment choices that can be under your control.

Gratitude is the world's most beautiful language and the most genuine way for people to interactI do think that sometimes gratitude gets misunderstood. People think of gratitude as being a dismissal of what is real and hard in their lives. I think that, sometimes, when people hear the word gratitude, they default into a story about their pain being unheard. That story includes lines like, “How can I be grateful when I am in pain every day?” or “What is there to be grateful for when I feel so alone?” or “Why should I give thanks for the pain and loss I’m living through?”

My definition of gratitude is different than that.

I am in the business of acknowledging pain. One of the beautiful things I get to do is create safe space for people to express and explore pain–space where they won’t be silenced, rushed, or dismissed. So, when I talk about gratitude, I am not talking about ignoring, diminishing, or dismissing pain.

Instead, when I talk about gratitude, I am talking about broadening the story. I’m talking about opening our hearts to the recognition that there is beauty alongside struggle. There is love alongside loneliness. There is hope alongside grief. One does not erase the other. Instead, they both live here.

So, my invitation to you today is to look for a chance to choose gratitude. Maybe your gratitude will be for something as small as a smile from a stranger, or a door held open for you. Maybe it will be as big as acknowledging a friend or family member who is quietly there–even when it’s hard. Maybe your gratitude today is for health–or for the journey toward health.

But I hope that you actively choose to notice and feel your gratitude. You don’t have to register it on Facebook (but you can). You don’t have to speak it out loud (but you can). I hope that you are able to let yourself feel that gratitude and recognize that, even in our hardest moments, there are small glimmers of grace.

If you’d like to share a gratitude story, the comment section is all yours!

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