Grief and Gratitude
For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. I mean, what’s not to like about a four day holiday, lots of great food and hanging out with family and friends? A part of my yearly Thanksgiving tradition is to take stock of my life and express gratitude. Usually my appreciations are spoken around a dinner table of at least 12 loved ones.
And…as I prepared to write this article, I found myself grieving instead of feeling gratitude. Election drama, a global pandemic, global warming, systemic racism – these are big issues that often feel overwhelming. I feel the tears well up as I think about the suffering and sadness felt by so many people around the world.
A few long slow breaths…and remembering something I read recently: a reminder to ‘zoom in’ (no, not that zoom), to change my perspective: my life, my partner, my home, my neighborhood, my community. I can feel my body relax as I think about all of the good things that have happened to me this year. (You might want to take a minute here and do the same…and enjoy a nice slow deep breath or two)
Science tells us that gratitude is good for our health and can make us feel happier. Specifically, writing out our appreciations seems to have the most positive effect. Studies out of Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, and others reported significantly improved mental health after a few weeks of daily gratitude journaling. Researchers were surprised to learn that people that practiced daily gratitude also exercised more and had fewer doctor visits than those that focused on the issues that they faced.
It is also really encouraging that studies with patients experiencing mental health challenges like depression have similar results: with a daily gratitude practice, patients experienced improved mood, happier relationships, and better sleep.
So, I decided to take a break from work and write a letter of gratitude to my son. I let him know all of the many things I appreciate about him and our relationship. My mood lifted and the world seems a little brighter now. The reality is that in my own life, I have plenty to be thankful for – even in 2020. A beautiful home, a loving partner, fulfilling work and reasonably good health. When I focus on what I can control, I feel better.
What things can you find in your life to be grateful for right now?
Maybe the best thing we can all do for the world is to take some time to practice self-care in the form of written gratitudes. If more of us could get in touch with whatever we have in our life that we have to be grateful for, we might find connections easier, moods lighter, problems easier to face.
As I plan our Thanksgiving dinner for two this year, I expect that there may be some moments of grief. And I also know that by pausing for a few minutes and intentionally focusing on the good that surrounds me, I will feel better. I hope you will too.
About the author: Susan Chettle Rutherford has served on the HAI workshop team since 2009. She is also a writer and Certified Professional Co-Active Coach. Susan is absolutely passionate about helping people manifest lives of joy, love, abundance and fulfillment. Since she can remember, Susan has been committed to personal growth, and her biggest joy is being a facilitator of transformation in others. These days Susan is also on the Marketing team for HAI Global, helping them spread their message of love around the world.
About the editor: Kate Gillispie is the Marketing Director for the Human Awareness Institute and co-host of Human Awareness, a podcast about love, intimacy, and sexuality. Find the podcast by searching for ‘“Human Awareness” on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever else you find your podcasts. You can also join our active community on Facebook.
The Human Awareness Institute (HAI) holds a bold vision of a world where people live in dignity, respect, understanding, trust, kindness, compassion, reverence, honesty and love. We offer many online and in-person workshops designed to support you on your journey towards greater love and connection in your life. We hope to see you soon!