On Gratitude

Well, we’re still here.

Happy winter solstice to you! Today marks the end of days getting shorter. Psychologically, I’m just so looking forward to the four more (theoretical) minutes of daylight from today till June 21. And it didn’t hurt that today was an absolutely gorgeous sunny day here in Seattle.

So much so that I actually had to take a picture of the blue sky I saw today—just to remind myself that it really does exist.

Sunny Day in SEA att

I’m sure many of you agree it’s been a sobering week. In the festivities filled with eggnog and holiday parties leading up to Christmas, our nation was rocked last Friday by a shocking and unimaginable tragedy.

Has it been a week?

Like many of you, I’ve spent much of the last week dumbstruck and speechless, reflecting and basically just trying process some of the horrific events that took place in Newton, CT. To be honest, I still have no words and my feelings have mostly vacillated between a combination of outrage, helplessness, and heartbreaking sadness. And I’ve repeatedly asked myself, what can be done to help stop this from happening again?

I’m just a random observer from across the country. I don’t even have children of my own yet. I can’t even begin to fathom what the families of the victims might be going through as many of them buried their loved ones this week—innocent six and seven year old children and schoolteachers who were senselessly slaughtered. All I can say is that my thoughts and prayers are with the community and the victims’ families. I don’t know what more I can personally do, other than to grieve, and to ask why and how can we stop this.

For me, the Sandy Hook tragedy put things into perspective, especially during this season. Instead of spending my time stressing about last minute holiday shopping and going mad trying to plan Christmas dinner, I’ve been reminded that I should take a moment to say and show love and gratitude. I’m not saying that doing all the holiday preparations doesn’t show love. But often times I get so caught up in the planning and logistics of running around that I sometimes find myself missing the whole point.

I’ve read many different responses to the tragedy, and this is one of the articles that resonated with me, as did this piece.

I should also say a word of encouragement and thanks to those of you who are teachers and who care so deeply about your students. You are brave and the work you do is heroic. I know that as a society, we don’t express our gratitude enough, or even at all. So I’m just going to do it now: Thank you to our teachers. May many of you enjoy some much-deserved rest during this Winter Break. Keep fighting the good fight.

I’ve been trying to practice a little more gratitude and mindfulness this week. It’s easy to forget. And to be honest, I haven’t been doing a very good job of it. Just last night I was having a total hissy fit because of a silly technology issue with a new phone. Unfortunately DH was taking me out to a nice Christmas dinner date, and all the while I was being kind of a bi$%*. #totalgratitudefail. I now realize just how silly my behavior was. Thankfully, DH was patient with me.

As it turns out, practicing gratitude—particularly if practiced regularly—can keep you both healthier and happier. Read this article by Dr. Alex Korb in Psychology Today about the Grateful Brain. One of my most interesting takeaways from this article is the discovery that gratitude is not just comparison, but a deep appreciation of the positive aspects of your situation. Often times, noticing what other people don’t have helps us see what we can be grateful for. But gratitude is more than that. Rather, it’s the next step, where “[y]ou actually have to show appreciation for what you have, for it to have an effect.”

Will you join me this weekend in practicing some gratitude? And by that, I mean really savoring the little moments. Let that ray of sunlight soak into your face. Enjoy the moment as your body absorbs the heat.

Tell that someone you love them, and look them in the eye when you say it.

Hug like you mean it. Forgive someone. Do it today.