Inspired by so many people this week, this Coach Poppy newsletter-writer is chock full of gratitude for those who make her world beautiful. From her fiancé, children, family, friends, co-workers, students, and clients, she has become a “gratitude maker.” Gratitude is not just in her heart at this time of year, it is a cornucopia of abundance throughout the year.
Revisiting friend and art therapy colleague, Gretchen Miller’s, wonderfully creative altered book on Gratitude always warms my heart, as does Gretchen, the person behind the art; she is a lovely, genuine person through and through. And while most of us celebrate Thanksgiving week with appreciation in our hearts, more than enough food in our stomachs, along with travel (and the tales of traveling), and football – (for no Thanksgiving is complete without play-by-play announcers, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms) – I wonder how many of us hold the intention of gratitude throughout the day? The month? The year? How many of us can easily pull up and acknowledge people and events for whom, and for which, we are grateful?
In one of my last Psychology classes, crickets chirped when I assigned a creative written and art project with the theme of gratitude. And like most Coach Poppy newsletters, it got me to thinking about why this seemed so challenging: to document and transcribe those thoughts and feelings that reflect one’s appreciation and gratitude. Why did this suggestion stop people in their tracks? Why was it difficult to articulate the words and behaviors that we both offer and receive, that reflect our appreciation? Why is it that when some of us are asked: “What’s wrong?,” words easily spring forward from our mouths, yet when we are asked to comment on what’s right and wonderful in our lives, we are often times, stymied?
I can be as guilty as anyone on the ease with which I can offer up a quick injustice; however, since the beginning of the year, I have enrolled in a course called: The Art of Gratitude. As opposed to a distance learning course, this one is what I would call “close learning,” in that, it is close to my heart, and as the only enrollee, I have the opportunity to learn from those with whom I share life experiences. The art part comes in as choice: the choosing I do to bathe all of my life experiences in a positive light.
And I believe it is this choice part that gets us tangled up. Perhaps it is that many times, some of us allow external events to be our default setting; we just react to outside influences without the recognition that we have the complete freedom to choose exactly how to respond to anything or anyone. What I have discovered in the last few years, is that when I begin to feel the stirrings of negative emotion, I pause, ask myself: “What is the good in this situation?” and then, mindfully choose to let the art of gratitude wash over me. Perhaps it involves an extra step in our moment-to-moment interactions, but I believe it is a worthy step to take.
Consider letting gratitude roll off your tongue. Instead of a finger, consider flipping a smile. With a near-10% unemployment rate, consider appreciation in the job you currently have. For achy joint complaints, consider dropping in the nearest cancer clinic where it appears as if there is SRO in the chemo chairs at many facilities. For family drama, consider choosing 3 wonderful traits for each person on which to focus when you share a Thanksgiving meal. And if you want to get an “A” in the Art of Gratitude, ladle some of those positive thoughts and compliments on each person as you pass the gravy.