How cliché to write about gratitude on Thanksgiving, right? Kind of feels like professing love on Valentine’s Day. At the same time it’s nice that we have a day designated to acknowledge all that we are thankful for, it also feels a bit contrived, perhaps?
But seriously, gratitude really does make us all better. Read more about this here and here. In summary, practicing gratitude seems to correlate with improved physical and psychological well-being, better sleep, increased empathy and self-esteem, and decreased aggression. But how do we feel this on a daily basis?
As some of you know, I started a daily thank you note practice in January. I’m proud to say that on average, I have written at least one note per day since I made the commitment. Occasionally a few days go by and I write none. But many days I write multiple. I love to use my washi tape cards, but sometimes it’s an email or Facebook message, other times I post on a website or in feedback comments to a company. It’s become a habit now. Every day I feel gratitude acutely. I recognize the people who make a positive difference in my life, repeatedly, reliably, and without expectation of anything in return. My expression of gratitude connects us further, holding us all up through days of mundane grinding. If I use my washi tape cards there’s also a flourish of color in there. This practice has given me leave to reach out to authors, companies, people and organizations who may not otherwise know the positive impact they have on any given individual. It feels good.
Tonight I’m grateful for so many things—nature, the most meaningful work I can imagine, all of my first world comforts and resources. But no question, I am most thankful for people. My parents, holy cow. My sisters, husband, children, extended family. My friends—the family I choose. Colleagues, students, patients. Fellow activists and volunteers. Challengers and worthy rivals.
I will pay more attention and reflection to this last group in the coming year. When I accepted my new leadership role two years ago, Coach Christine had me identify my ‘allies.’ Of course all of my loving, supportive friends and family came to mind first. But Christine also pointed out the challengers—those who vex me, the thorns in my side, the dissenters–they are also allies. Of course! Some of my best growth and progress is born of struggle, interpersonal and otherwise. So how can I be but grateful for the people in my life who make it a little harder? Whatever doesn’t kill us, right?
I hope you all had a loving, delicious, and fulfilling Thanksgiving, friends. May we all carry some of this warmth and connection forward through the holiday season and beyond. We only have one another. We will not always agree. We will all struggle. We can only do our best every day. Grateful for each day to try to do better, again and again.