Almost four years ago to the day, I sat down at my desk in my newly renovated downtown Chicago townhouse struggling to write a couple of things I was grateful for in my life. Looking from the outside in, this made no sense. I appeared happily married, was living in my dream home and had started and sold a website inspiring women to live the life of their dreams. What could be missing? Why didn’t my interior world, which painted a very different picture, match my exterior facade?
When I committed to this new practice, I had recently finished a 32-day juice fast to detoxify my body and hopefully improve my mortifying adult cystic acne. After twiddling my thumbs, here’s what I wrote: I am grateful the skin on my body is soft and beautiful, and my face is improving daily. While there’s nothing wrong with that answer, albeit somewhat superficial, that’s all I could write!
The next day I struggled just as hard to produce a list of what I was grateful for. The day after wasn’t any easier. I painfully continued this practice for weeks, merely writing down one or two things each day. Eventually, I wrote down three to four ideas. Once this occurred, like magic, gratitude began to pour out of me and onto the blank pages of my journal. It dawned on me; I was grateful for my eye site that allowed me to witness life vividly. I was grateful for my legs. They gave me the freedom to walk all over Chicago, get my butt kicked by Coryn on the spin bike at David Barton Gym and so many other things legs do! I was grateful for my health, health insurance, and healthy food in my home. My gratitude list grew and grew to half a page. Then grew to a whole page. Until I reached a point where my appreciation for all the big and little things in my life was endless.
I religiously journaled gratitude until my focus shifted from what I didn’t have to what I did have. Today, I give thanks daily for all that I have in my life, regardless of my cancer diagnosis, through prayer, silent recognition or by dropping a note into the gratitude jar sitting on my table. I make sure to offer gratitude in one way or another every single day. However, if I’m having a bad moment, day or period, I will sit down and start writing. Doing this snaps me out of my funk, and reminds me how remarkable my life is.
If life is not going the way you’d like. If you feel unhappy, angry, frustrated, discontent or off-track, start a practice of gratitude. If you experience trouble jogging your mind like I did, keep going, this is exactly what you need. Buying a beautiful notebook to journal in can spark creativity and make this exercise more enjoyable. Alternatively, if you prefer journaling online, Evernote and Penzu are two apps I love and have been using for years.
Journaling gratitude can produce radical shifts in your life by decreasing stress and increasing happiness, which can lead to improved relationships, career success, and better health. We all view life through a different lens. Most of how we see life was ingrained in us at a young age by our family, culture, and society. If you don’t like what you see, you have the power to change your thinking. You’ve probably heard the phrase, what you put your attention on grows. It’s fairly common to focus on what’s not going well in your life. But the choice is yours. You decide whether to dwell on the crap, misery, and unhappiness in your life or stay centered on what is going well. The more you shift your attention to the magic that is happening all around you, the more extraordinary your life will become.
“When you wake up every day, you have two choices. You can either be positive or negative; an optimist or a pessimist. I choose to be an optimist. It’s all a matter of perspective.” -Harvey Macka
A few things I’m grateful for:
-I’m grateful to be alive.
-I’m grateful for all the people who have prayed for my recovery, put good juju out to the universe and wished me well.
-I’m grateful to be receiving treatment from an integrative cancer clinic that takes a whole body approach to healing.
-I’m grateful for the people who have stuck by me during the most challenging period of my life.
-I’m grateful to the strangers who have come out of the woodwork to help me in one way or another.
-I’m grateful to have my breasts intact (no surgery).
-I’m grateful for my home away from home in AZ.
-I’m grateful I started learning about wellness in my twenties, which has made the last ten months easier to navigate.
-I’m grateful to live in my little one bedroom apartment nestled in the mountains of Vail, CO.
-I’m grateful I feel strong and healthy and can do the things I love like skiing.
-I’m grateful I’ve been able to help others by sharing my journey.
-I’m grateful to be alive.