Yesterday, for Thanksgiving, many of my friends posted notes of gratitude on social media. If you were with your family, you might have shared what you were all thankful for this year.
That was the first thing I did when I woke up, and it’s something I’ve been doing pretty much everyday for almost three years now as part of my bucket list goals.
I wanted to make gratitude a daily practice because I have a tendency to be a bit pessimistic. At least, that’s what my friends call me because I’m rarely over the moon jumping with joy at every new development.
I prefer to call myself a realist. I have a solid understanding of the fact that things might not work out and I definitely don’t believe the universe is just waiting to reward you for thinking positively.
However, I can’t deny that I’ve seen the power of being thankful in my own life. Over the last couple years, I’ve chosen to express my gratitude daily by praying. Every morning (or before bed if I forget), I thank God for waking me up, giving me strength and allowing me to see a new day. This is the minimum: a sort of stock list to which I add things like family, my apartment, my job, etc. Sometimes, I get really specific which is when the magic happens.
Once you switch your mindset to recognizing all the things you do have, instead of what you wish you did, it’s much harder to complain. Things like health insurance, being able to eat well or the ability to pay my rent on time every month without issue – which I take for granted – are luxuries for other people. And acknowledging that has been powerful for me.
Most days I feel lucky. I know how many people don’t wake up everyday. Just thinking about my dad, who passed away from ALS just over a year ago, and how he suffered in those last few months makes me realize that my life is pretty fucking comfy. I don’t know what it’s like to be wheelchair-bound or to be too weak to move around or dependent on someone else.
It’s easy to feel angry and like life is unfair when you lose a loved one. But thinking about all the things I still had, including my own life, made it a little bit easier to deal with. I realized I wasn’t the first person to go through this situation, and that some people didn’t have either parent.
I’ve never truly gotten over my dad’s passing, but choosing to value and appreciate the time I had with him, instead of fixating on his absence and feeling like a victim has made all the difference.
None of this is to say you’ll never have bad days. A couple weeks ago, I sat on the floor and cried because of how much I missed my dad. There are days when I am whinier than a baby and I rant to anyone who will listen about how much this thing or the other sucks. There are days when it feels like a black cloud has set up residence in the airspace above me. Sometimes, I even worry that I’m prone to depression.
But I’ve seen a strong correlation between those black moods and forgetting to give thanks for a couple of days. Being thankful is what keeps me grounded. It’s much harder to be depressed when you realized how blessed you are. And the thing that always saves me is stepping back and taking stock of what I am grateful for – it’s realizing that nothing is ever truly that bad.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who you thank – God, the Universe, your fairy godmother. Just the act of pausing and appreciating makes a huge difference.
Today, I’m thankful for the opportunity to have another day to have an impact on the world; for my family; for the fact that I am able to travel and pursue my passions; for my health; for my home; and for my freedom. None of it is perfect – my apartment is ridiculously tiny and sometimes this country feels so terrifyingly hostile – but it’s something.