November 25, 2013

Today I Choose Gratitude

Thanksgiving provides space for reflection and gratitude. It's my favorite holiday. We give thanks for the harvest. We give thanks for each other. 

Gratitude is good medicine. Years of research shows its positive impact. When grateful, we're happier, healthier, and more resilient. Some days the gratitudes naturally flow. Other days we're clogged. During life's challenging moments, anger and frustration flare. Gratitude might feel like foreign land, but it's only a few breaths away. If we pause and soften the heart (just a little), we can rest in thankfulness (or at least gain perspective).

My cranky-clogs clear more easily when I attend to my gratitude practice. At bedtime my body rests, but my mind often spins. I process the day, working through ideas, counting undone tasks, or replaying conversations. When I observe the spin, I first sink into my body, noticing and deepening my breath. Then I re-focus my thoughts--for what five things am I grateful today? (A stranger smiled back at me. I received a letter in the mail. Mark made me laugh. I noticed my busy mind and paused. My bed is comfortable and cozy.) Small things, big things, it doesn't matter. The practice reconnects me with my grateful heart.

Recently I found another practice: write a letter of gratitude to someone and read it aloud to them (while staying awake to your own and the other person's emotions). This suggestion deeply moved me. In particular, it seemed apt for my mom. Life with mom is complicated, but I easily filled a page with my genuine, heartfelt gratitude toward her. And during this Thanksgiving week, I'll read her the letter. It'll be an interesting part of our journey together--whatever the outcome.  [Post-Thanksgiving update: Reading the letter to mom was a surprisingly different experience than just writing the words. My heart opened wide, the tears spilled, and our connection deepened. Mom listened and she smiled. Indeed, this was a wonderful part of our journey.]

The ritual of gratitude is both sacred and basic. It's always within reach. Not as another self-improvement or to-do item. As a buoy during the storms of life and a friendly companion when all is good. Today I choose gratitude. Will you join me?


  1. Simply beautiful...and may we PRACTICE gratitude all year long!

  2. Yes the practice of gratitude is pretty amazing. I have read about the letter thing, but have never done it. Pretty amazing I would think. Lovely photos Joy.

    1. i admire the gratitude practice you did this november, cathy. reading my letter aloud to mom was really special--an unforgettable visit, in the most lovely way. thanks for your comment about the images.