My gratitude practice started one snowy day in my car on my way to work.
In January of this year, I had spent the morning shoveling nearly a foot of snow from my driveway. When I was halfway done, a plow came by and piled snow even higher at the end of the driveway. My initial reaction was to cry because I had already done so much work and was going to be late for work as it was. Within this time of me silently reacting to what had just happened, the plow driver turned his truck around, scooped the entire end of my driveway (including the snow that had fallen there in the first place) and I waved furiously with a huge smile on my face.
I had been frustrated because I wanted to shovel the entire driveway that morning. Aric was out of town and I didn’t want it to be obvious I was home alone. I ran out of time to do both sides, but between the kindness from the stranger in the snow plow and my feelings of accomplishment in removing the heavy snow from one side of the driveway so I could back out – I felt on top of the world.
On my drive to work, I noticed a father and son out in their own driveway, shoveling away. Usually on my way to work, I was rattling off a list in my head of things I needed to do or wouldn’t have time for – with the news pouring over the radio to only add to the stress. As I drove past, the dad looked up and gave me a big smile and wave. And suddenly – it just hit me. I couldn’t help than suddenly feel incredibly grateful. I not only had the physical ability to shovel my own driveway, but I had the ability to feel joy no matter what the circumstance. No matter how high the snow had piled and no matter how inconvenient it was to be shoveling that morning – I had the choice to feel happiness. Whether the plow driver would have removed the piled snow or not – I could still choose happiness.
On my drives to work, I began focusing on this more and more. I spent my short commute listing off other things I was grateful for, instead of turning the radio on. I spent these few minutes to work clearing my mind from any anxious thoughts and focused on what I was so grateful to have in my life. This practice become much more significant than my stressful to do list rant ever was. This practice was what initiated my shift in perspective – that this life I lived was abundant and was never lacking.
When you’re between tasks or waiting for someone or something, how can you utilize this time to positively affect your life? Instead of burying your nose in your phone or worrying about the things that require your time, take a moment to release all that you don’t have and focus on what you do. You’ll even begin to re-frame the way you’re looking at the things that “require your time” and realize these are the things you “get to do.”
If you don’t know where to begin, here’s a short list of things to always be grateful for. And when we don’t have one of these things on the list, replace it with the things you do have.
- a safe place to live
- smiles from strangers/neighbors/coworkers
- dogs on walks (I know I can’t help but be so grateful to see dogs as happy as they are when they’re on walks)
- a mode of transportation to get you to where you need to go (and where you simply want to go)
- clean water and an endless supply of it
- your health (I’m thankful for this absolutely every day)
- delicious food (you know, if you’re into that sort of thing)
- dark chocolate (or milk chocolate for you who prefer the lesser of the chocolates)
- other beings who love you unconditionally
- other beings you encourage you to grow
- the great outdoors – the squirrels, the trees, the bees, the flowers, the sun, the moon, the snow, the rain, and snakes and spiders too
- George R.R. Martin (enough said)