"My sister gave me a book on gratitude. I dismissed it as an exercise in being nice. ... It was only in desperation that I finally opened the book." -- Marcia Hyatt
by Marcia Hyatt
A bowl of broth gave me a taste for living with gratitude. After surgery complications and more than one month of not eating, a nurse brought in a tray of food. In my life, I had never been so grateful for a first spoonful of anything as I was for the warm canned broth. I swore I would never take anything for granted again. I was 25. I forgot. It took me 20 more years to learn how to incorporate that incredible experience into my life.
I went on to school, married a man with children, worked full time, moved ... you know: modern life. It filled up my days. I lost track of my many blessings; I lost track of myself. My wake-up call came when my cousin observed that I never laughed anymore. He was right. My heart had hardened as I assumed more and more responsibility. I was dutiful, busy and numb.
I committed to changing; I knew I was losing the best part of myself.
One of the most impactful changes I made was to cultivate a gratitude practice. Initially, I was quite resistant to this. My sister gave me a book on gratitude. I dismissed it as an exercise in being nice. It would be just one more thing to do on my already overflowing calendar. It was only in desperation that I finally opened the book.
I started with a simple practice of reciting three things I was grateful for every night. At first, I could only come up with a warm bed, a roof and food - an embarrassing admission. I was surrounded by a loving family, had meaningful work, and lived in a safe community with clean air and access to many things that most in the world dream of.
Gradually, I could genuinely expand my list. Gratitude eventually spread into my days. I sometimes write what I am grateful for in my morning journaling. When I walk the dogs, I appreciate the fresh air, the snow, the quiet. And I am more likely to notice the little kindnesses I receive every day - the gifts of friendships or someone holding a door open. I began writing more notes of thanks. I just read that one of THE most impactful gratitude practices is to write a letter of gratitude and then read that to the person or group aloud. I have not done it yet. I will.
Cultivating gratitude has reminded me what that broth taught me so many years ago. Appreciating my blessings brings more joy into my days.
Marcia Hyatt lives near Lutsen, Minn. You can hear her weekly radio show, Best of Ourselves, by linking from her website, www.marciahyatt.com.