Dubbed National Gratitude Month in the United States, November has become the traditional time when we focus on more than saying a simple “thank you” to express our appreciation for people, places, things, etc.
If you hung around social media enough last month, you probably noticed a tremendous focus on gratitude. It was hard to miss. I even caught some news reports about gratitude and the health benefits of being grateful.
And, gratitude was the November theme in my Reinvent Your Wheels program. I challenged participants and myself to write a daily gratitude list for the entire month. We received encouragement from the amazing Tammi Salas who has written a gratitude list every single day for more than four years. No matter where I land with my personal gratitude practice, I will always stand in awe of Tammi’s approach and I invite those struggling with or seeking ways to express gratitude to explore and grab inspiration from her incredible work. Check her out on Instagram at @tammisalas and search the hashtag #TammisGratitudeCircle.
About halfway through the month, I noticed gratitude began to feel forced and overdone and terribly unnatural. I was losing gratitude for gratitude.
So, I took a step back.
Did this mean I was ungrateful?
Gosh. I don’t know. Maybe? Wait. No. Of course not. I was still just as grateful as ever. I simply resented and, ultimately, rejected the practice of writing a daily list.
Could I still be grateful if I didn’t document my gratitude?
Yes. Absolutely. In fact, I find myself growing more grateful every single day. And, I am becoming better at expressing my gratitude, to others and to myself.
The thing is, I have long held the belief that I couldn’t possibly be grateful enough without a daily gratitude practice, that I needed to write a gratitude list every single day to be doing gratitude “right.”
What I learned last month is the only right way to have gratitude, to be grateful, is what works for you.
I do an incredible job of expressing gratitude in the moment. As I am feeling it. Whether it’s out loud or something I keep to myself. I pause. I notice it. I feel it. I react to it. But, the process of making a daily list feels like a chore to me. I’ve started and stopped more times than I want to count. I sit with my paper and pen trying to remember every grateful moment from the past 24 hours so I can add it to the list. But memory fails and I feel empty.
That said, the list is something I turn to every single time I struggle with finding gratitude. It forces me to sit and dig deep at times when gratitude doesn’t come as easily.
And, when that happens, I love having special tools for my written lists. A set of colored pens and a big book of blank pages to sit and decorate as I write the words. And, my new favorite tool, Tammi’s Proof of Life 60-Day Gratitude Journal.
I guess I’ve known for a while that I will likely never be a person who writes a daily gratitude list. But, until recently, I thought I had to be. I realize now it’s just not for me; it doesn’t serve me. And, that’s alright. It doesn’t mean I don’t have enough or the right kind of gratitude.
What I learned last month is that my gratitude is fine just the way it is. When things show up that make me feel less than grateful, one of the very first things I do is look for the gifts. There are always gifts, and that’s where the opportunity to be grateful lives. To be able to end this year with a joyful, positive, fulfilled, and happy heart vs. resentment for all the stuff that has “happened to” me and my family, I am confident I do not struggle with gratitude. I don’t have to document it every day or even every week to feel it and hold it dear. I am finally at peace with the gratitude that lives in my heart and the fact I don’t always feel called to document it.
I am beyond grateful for this lesson and the freedom I now have from the self-doubt and comparison and feelings of inadequacy that came with struggling and failing (over and over and over again) to make writing a daily gratitude list part of my routine.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~Melody Beattie