While cleaning out a closet the other day, I stumbled upon a familiarly frayed journal that had been a close confidant during my bout with cancer over fifteen years ago.
Thumbing through the pages, it felt like a different time and space – almost like I was reading about someone else rather than myself – yet the memories and references are a bit too familiar to ignore. And while viscerally impossible for emotions not to swell up as I peruse my most intimate thoughts, I noticed a definite pattern to each entry - albeit long or short, each entry ended with a 1-2-3-4-5 of what I was grateful for that day.
Each day’s list told me much about the state of mind I was in. There were days where a sunrise, with gratitude, became an awe-inspiring Technicolor dream that only Divine Intelligence could paint so masterfully. And a moment in the garden, diving into a blood red peony, became the optimistic version of the opening scene in Blue Velvet. And even in the darkest days, even when the most I could muster was that I didn’t throw up after treatment, I became thankful for two legs, two eyes, a caring call from a friend – for in that moment, gratitude defeated the opportunity to be self-pitying, depressed, angry or stressed – all states of mind and spirit that do not serve me.
There’s no shortage of research about the health benefits of gratitude and its impact on one’s psychological, emotional and physical well-being – such as the adult research study group that, after ten weeks of jotting down what they are grateful for, reported less health complaints, exercised more and were a full 25% happier than the other groups or the college students who slept better after grateful reflection of the day’s events. And while I generally live my life in gratitude for the blessings around me, the daily practice of writing (yes, there’s an app for that) five things for which you are grateful is an amazingly simple and powerful one.
So allow me to start again today:
1. My truly ‘colorful’ family and friends.
2. My cancer experience – what a teacher you’ve been – and a catalyst for an amazingly intentioned health and wellness community.
3. Esteemed colleagues I work with that champion provocative thought leadership, inspiration and principles of goodness out into the world.
4. The inherent beauty and wisdom all around me that is simply one quiet and unplugged moment away.
5. The opportunity to share this story with you.
Wishing you a warm, gratitude-filled Thanksgiving today, tomorrow and everyday this coming year.