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How's Your Gratitude?

I am about to tell you a secret. Turn off the television, put down your phone, close your other tabs, silence your alerts. Here it is. Do you know what the secret to success is? You don't? You should. Thought leaders around the country are telling you all the time. It's all over the internet. There are actually thousands of books and articles written about how other people became successful. If you are really paying attention, you will start to notice themes among these thought leaders and others that our society holds in "high success" status. One of those themes is that the successful people and thought leaders all express their gratitude for their lives.

Expressing gratitude seems like it's easy to do, but for so many people it's difficult. They are distracted by all of the things about their lives that aren't exactly what they wanted or what it should be. Let's admit, too, that there are people who do have challenging lives. They have had to overcome a lot of obstacles and life has thrown them not only curve balls, but foul balls and strikes, and they find continuing to stand in the batter's box a struggle.

If you have read the blog for this site in the past, you know that I have had my own life challenges. However, there are two things that always get me through. First, I truly believe that all situations are temporary. Change is inevitable as a fact of life. It's biology. Even if you sit still and do nothing, you will change as a person. Your hair will grow, your nails will grow, your cells will die and regenerate. Second, I believe that things will get better in the future. There is always hope and faith for something better just around the corner. In order to maintain that hope and faith, you have to remember the good things that are happening in your life right now. You have to express your gratitude for where you are at the moment.

Photo by Jeanette R. Harrison, MPH

When I am talking about expressing gratitude, I don't mean the whole "fake it till you make it" philosophy. You don't need to show gratitude for a bad relationship or a serious illness or loss or financial hardship. You don't need to pretend things in your life are great in areas in which you are struggling. I am talking about finding those good things in your life. Even in your worst moments, there is something good, maybe even wonderful and amazing, happening to you.

Every day, I write down 10 things to express my gratitude. I write "Gratitude" at the top of a journal page, and then number down 1 through 10 of all the things I am grateful for at the moment. Some days my gratitude consists of simple things. I write down that I'm grateful for the nice weather, the quiet in my neighborhood, my dogs, the food I have to eat, my friendly neighbors, the rose bush in my yard. Other days, I go deeper and express my gratitude for things like long-time friends who put their heart and soul into caring about me and watching over me. I am grateful for my education, my work, my talents, my accomplishments, and the things that make me the person I am. I am thankful for myself. Being grateful to who you are isn't conceited, it's a recognition that you are someone important, that you matter, and that you value and respect who you are.

After a few days of expressing your gratitude, you will notice your life changing. I can tell you because I started looking at my own life differently after looking for my grateful moments. In the places I couldn't express how grateful I was, I decided I needed to make a change in those areas. I also started realizing I was doing better than I thought I was, and that I deserved to be happier in all areas of my life. As time goes on, also, you will notice that you won't have as hard of time expressing your gratitude. You may struggle to come up with 10 items at first, but eventually you will be listing off 10 items in a matter minutes. You may even start listing more than 10 items every day.