I count my intense battle with Lyme Disease as one of the worst things that's ever happened to me...and also one one my greatest blessings. It was the catalyst in my life that pushed me from living small to dreaming big and taking action to go after my dreams. For that, I am grateful. It was also the life event that made me realize that the things I obsessed over and worried about were so small when I stepped back and looked at the bigger picture. It made me realize that health is wealth, and so long as I had that, I really couldn't complain. It made me realize that not only were things I previously worried about not actually that bad, but that there was a lot to be grateful for, a lot I'd taken for granted. And it pushed me to get back to what was most important to me: the little things.
Dealing with Lyme Disease has changed me in a number of ways for the better, but one of the biggest changes it's instilled is a constant flowing sense of gratitude. I often go through my day just thinking: thank you. Thank you for this gorgeous day. Thank you for this incredible dog. Thank you for this food I'm about to eat. Thank you. It's an ongoing mantra, a constant prayer throughout my day.
Yesterday, we all woke to the news of the shooting in Las Vegas. I wrote to my representatives to urge for common sense gun control. I talked with friends. The sadness hung like fog over my day, especially because this is not the first time a mass shooting has taken place. At a certain point, you just begin to feel like you're losing hope, you know?
It feels like every time something horrific happens in our world, I go through the stages of What To Do. Sometimes I can do something - donate money or give blood or write to my representatives. And sometimes it feels like I personally can't possibly make a difference. I sometimes feel like I am so small in such a big world, and that no amount of effort will ever impact anything.
And that's where the gratitude comes in.
I feel like the only real thing I have control over is how I act. So I try to act from love. I try to be kind, especially to people I pass on my walk, or when I'm at the grocery store or the gym. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm not striking up full-on conversations with a giant grin on my face with total strangers. But I try to put aside my ego and my own sense of urgency (ugh, I have stuff to do!) and just slow down. I'll try to take the time to make eye contact. Take the time to smile and say hello. Ask the person at the register how their day is going. Offer to help someone if I can. In turn, I feel gratitude. Gratitude for the people I encounter, for the kindness they offer in return, and for the tiny bud of hope I can feel growing with each encounter.
This month I'm going to be writing down one thing I'm grateful for every single day. I've found in the past that when I actively search for the thing that'll make the gratitude list, more and more positive things show up during my day. When I am actively trying to make the space around me better, and actively trying to create more positive interactions around me, well, more good things show up throughout my day.
It doesn't feel like a whole lot. And it likely will not change the world. But it impacts my days, and if it can make just the tiniest difference in someone else's day, then the effort is worth it. Join me, if you'd like, in being kinder, actively looking for ways to positive affect the immediate world around us, and keep a gratitude journal for this month. If you're on board, let me know down in the comments section below. Together, perhaps we can make a difference within our communities.
PS - This book was tremendously helpful to me when I first started to actively look for ways to feel gratitude. It explains, citing various scientific studies, how gratitude directly affects our physical and mental health.