Dictionary.com says that gratitude is: the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.
A long time ago I took a Best Strengths Test from The Positive Psychology Center @ The University of PA that measured my top 24 strengths. The concept of positive psychology is to list and rate your top 24 strengths, teaching you how to focus on the strengths you already possess and how to strengthen them more, rather then focus on your weaknesses, as this strategically allows you to be more successful by focusing on what is already natural for you - and just making it stronger. It was suggested that gratitude is the single handed most important positive personality trait that one could benefit from possessing.
The Pursuit of Happiness Organization quotes a great Roman Orator Cicero stating that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” (http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/positive-thinking/)
You will find verse upon verse in the Bible on gratitude.
Can an overwhelming feeling of gratitude really make that much of a difference? If you had the ability to just bring gratitude into your daily ritual, would that in and of itself have the capacity to enrich your life? Your love? Your soul? I believe it will, and I believe this through personal experience. Several months ago I woke up one morning, a bit on the groggier side, not extremely excited to get out of bed, when I realized, that I didn’t want to be that person who took life (and everything it offered) for granted. I didn’t want to fail to appreciate the vastness of our Earth, the beauty, and what I was surrounded by. I didn’t want to neglect honoring my friendships & relationships with those special people in my life. So I sat up, took the deepest breath, enjoying every second of it as the cool air filled my lungs, and as I let it all out I thanked the Universe for that breath of fresh air. I thanked the Universe that my eyes awoke to yet another day of perfect life. And in that moment I made a commitment to practice daily gratitude from that day forward. Thus far, I have done a great job with this. While I admit, some days, in the midst of a crazy rushed or a busy morning I have forgotten to say my thanks before getting out of bed, but I usually quickly remember on my drive to work, then enjoying the moment. Lately, however, I find this becoming a regular practice on my daily walk with my dog, usually in the morning. What better time to appreciate the simplicity and shear beauty of life, then when on a walk: feeling the ground beneath my feet, inhaling fresh air, enjoying the gentle warmth of the morning sunlight falling onto my face, all while appreciating the crisp cool air, admiring the silly excited innocence of my dog, and thanking God for another day of life!
The best part about incorporating this daily practice into my life, is that like with anything, practice makes perfect (or so the saying goes). But with practice I have found that I definitely get better and better at gratitude! It’s like with each passing day I find more and more to be grateful for, and I feel that on some level the more I find to appreciate in my life, the more God brings me to appreciate!
Around December 2011 I started having serious pain in my groin -the intensity would vary. I found it was often interfering with my olympic lifting workouts. Some days were good; somedays not so much. However, most of the time, once I warmed up I could usually work through the pain. Well by the first week of January 2012 the pain worsened and worsened to the point that I was no longer able to work through it. Then on one specific day, January 7th, instead of listening to my body, I went to the gym despite my better judgement. I was hurting really bad, and I knew something wasn’t right, but I was also stubborn and determined. I thought if I kept the load light I would be ok. Needless to say 2 lifts into my session I felt this sharp and worsening pain. I backed off and by that night the pain had traveled from groin into low back and there was no looking back. As it turns out, the doctors explained that I more then likely bulged a lower back disk. Groin injury and lower back injury commonly occur together. What comes first... The chicken or the egg? One will never really know, but what I do know is that if you suffer from one and neglect it, the other is likely to occur as well. So here I was faced with 2 intense injuries at once. It is now June 7th. If you would have asked me 6 months ago if I thought I wouldn’t be olympic lifting in 6 months I would have thought you were crazy, but 6 months to date and I still haven’t gotten back into the studio. My body hasn’t been ready.
Point of my story? People often hear briefly whats wrong with me, find out I couldn’t olympic lift all this time (knowing how much I loved it), and how I dramatically had to downshift my level of fitness and make a lot of changes. The first thing I usually hear from everyone with their kindness is empathetic statements of apology. My first response is usually “Oh it’s all good - it’s actually been a huge blessing in disguise... it’s funny how sometimes it takes something like this for the best outcome to happen.” And, naturally, with that comment people are often mesmerized and surprised. But this is truth, I have spent every day for the las several months (well since I started praying) thanking God for this injury, while still asking for his strength and support to continue the healing process. So why would I be gracious and thank God for something that altered my life, took me out of my element, took me away from something that I absolutely loved? Because, with any situation, good or bad - happy or sad, we have an opportunity to learn and to grow. Had I not had this happen to me then I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. And while it has only been 6 months I can not emphasize the amount of awareness, knowledge and growth it has allowed me to obtain! For that - how could I not be grateful?
Plus, I look around me: I have a great roof over my head - a healthy dog - an abundance of amazing people in my world - my health - knowledge - eagerness to constantly grow & learn - desire to help people - an amazing brother that I also get to call my roommate and one of my best friends - an amazing best friend who supports me and brings out the best in me - not one job - but TWO jobs both with an excellent staff of people - I live in one of the most gorgeous counties I’ve ever been to surrounded by hillsides, and vineyards, and cows, and greens - I’m a close drive to the Northern Cali coast - a hop skip and jump away from beautiful Tahoe - I have two arms - two feet and 10 toes! And hey - those are just to name a few things... Therefore, I can’t think of a reason to not practice gratitude, to be quite honest.
I think it is important to remember to “stop and smell the [coffee]” as often as we can remember. Practice appreciating even just the smallest things - because the reality is - in the end - those are the biggest of things! And like I said above, the more we can practice gratitude - the more we become gracious of - and the more I believe God brings into our world for us to be grateful for!