Gratitude in a Jar

Written by: Natalie Dormady, contributing writer.  Follow more of her story on her Instagram, @littlearthlings.  

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” 

-Brene Brown.

It’s around 10 in the morning. I’m sitting at my computer desk, attempting to write my first blog post on gratitude. There’s a slight breeze coming from the window to my right, and I can hear a bird chirping somewhere down my street. The suns out today, there’s a patch of it hitting my arm. I can feel its warmth, which is deceiving because it’s still a bit cool outside. But spring is on the way and I’m excited about that. Right above my computer, on a shelf, is a little mason jar with pink pieces of paper in it. Written on almost all of those pieces of paper is a moment that has brought me contentment, that has filled me with happiness. Essentially, gratitude in a jar.

I was completing an outpatient program when I was first introduced to this jar, to this concept of gratitude. Around this time last year I was deep into disordered thoughts and behaviors, so gratitude, the idea of being thankful, was not something I was practicing. In fact, I never thought I had the choice to practice gratitude. One day during the program, both myself and the others in the group were handed these little pieces of paper and were instructed to write down something, or someone, we were grateful for, subsequently placing these reminders in a jar – the jar that now sits on my shelf. I stared at my piece of paper, asking myself over and over: what am I grateful for?

Gratitude, or practicing gratitude, hadn’t crossed my mind for quite some time. Sitting with those slips of paper, I started to search for some grand event, some big thing in my life that happened that I could point to and say, now this, I am grateful for. But I couldn’t think of anything worth writing down. Nothing felt like it was enough, so I folded up the pink slip in my hand and put it back in the jar. Maybe next week I would have something worth writing. Over the course of the next seven days, I thought about what I could write down on those slips of paper.  I thought about gratitude and being grateful and what brings me joy.

Believe it or not, I started to look forward to writing on that little pink piece of paper and putting it into my jar. It was like a vault for my happiness – something that the disorder had taken away from me for such a long time. The act of practicing gratitude slowly started to bring me away from the negative thoughts of not being worthy, of not being enough or having enough. I began to realize that I do have a choice. That I can, and I am allowed to, choose gratitude.

Looking through the gratitude jar now, I can see that the little pink pieces of paper act as a timeline. They start out with bigger events or moments that I’m grateful for, but at some point, there’s a shift.  The pieces of paper, instead, begin to focus on little moments – a conversation or the warmth from the sun. By writing in the jar each week, I learned that what I already have is enough. Who I am is enough. These little details bring me just as much, or more joy and contentment, as the extraordinary ones. This jar was, and still is, a way for me to express my gratitude, and by practicing, by choosing, I am learning more and more every day that I am enough. What I have and do is enough.

Gratitude is a choice, and we can absolutely choose to be grateful. I found it hard to make the choice at first, but think of practicing gratitude as a muscle – the more you use (or practice) it, the stronger (or easier) it becomes. And it will become stronger. There are plenty of ways to practice gratitude, as well.  For example, you can write in a journal, say ‘thank you’ aloud, put your gratitude into a jar or even in a note on your phone. Expressing gratitude in a way you connect with is essential for continuing your practice. I found that writing in a journal didn’t work as well for me as tearing up pieces of paper and putting them in a jar. I hope you are able to find a way that connects with you.

So, friends, I will leave you with this gentle reminder. You are allowed to choose gratitude. What you have and what you do is enough. YOU are enough.

 

Featured image by Jody Summers

A Grateful Heart

Written by: Marcela Sabía, contributing writer.  Follow more of her journey at marcelailustra.com, or on her Instagram, @marcelailustra.

The other day I posted on my Instagram story, welcoming hundreds of new followers. I was moved and inspired. Three years ago I had less than 1,000 followers and was starting over in nearly every area of my life. I no longer had a relationship, my business, or the stability I was accustomed to. Going to therapy in the midst of this uncertainty allowed me to reconnect with an old hobby: drawing. This reconnection led me to the decision to share and invest in my art.  When I first chose an illustration to post on my Instagram, I wondered if anyone would like my artwork or would even consider paying for any of my pieces. When people asked me what my job was, I stuttered – illustrator? With insecurity mounting, I couldn’t bring myself to believe I had the talent or experience to consider myself a professional.

Today, as I write this post and reflect on the number of people who follow along with my journey and the countless clients I have worked for, my heart is flooded with gratitude. Gratitude for life, for my love of art, for my ability to share and connect with others, for having met so many wonderful people who saw in me some kind of inspiration and supported the work I do with such dedication. After a lot of difficulties and uncertainties, I shared and achieved and dared to be vulnerable. Now, I am able to use my illustrations to inspire and connect.  For all this, I will be eternally grateful.

And while I am grateful for this part of my journey, I also believe gratitude must be present in our daily actions, in the little things. Even though we have not yet arrived where we want to be, we need to appreciate all the hands that are extended to us and all the little joys we find along the way. We always have reasons to be grateful, and it is an exercise rooted in happiness and self-love.

Thank you universe – for what has already passed and for what is yet to come.

 

To check out Marcela’s artwork, visit her website at marcelailustra.com.  

Featured image source.

Change Your Attitude by Choosing Gratitude

Written by: Megan Lawrence, contributing writer.  Follow more of her journey at HealingHopefuls.com or on her Instagram, @in.my.own.words.  

There is no such thing as recovery without gratitude, and if there was, it would be hard to maintain. While gratitude is not required to start your recovery journey, I want to ask you to just think about it for a second. Gratitude most certainly helps when it comes to accepting yourself, your circumstances, and your decision to pursue recovery in the first place. It may seem impossible at first – the whole idea of being thankful for the things that were destroying us – but when we change our mindset, we begin to see how beneficial, and quite frankly, how necessary gratitude is in recovery. Regardless of what you are recovering from, the journey will be a lot smoother if you’re able to be thankful for the journey traveled up until this point – both the good and the bad.

Gratitude Begins & Ends with a Positive Mindset!

So much of our ability to make it through this journey alive begins with the mindset we choose each day. You have two choices: seek the light or keep yourself in the dark. The latter is the easier of the two choices, but what kind of life would it be if we didn’t at least try to see the bright side of things? When we are intentional about practicing gratitude, and I mean honestly giving it a chance to change the way we look at the world, we often find out that our situation was not the only thing that was making life seem hard but our perspective, too.  We find that the way we choose to perceive our circumstances is what will heal or hurt us the most. Do not underestimate the power of your thoughts. By being grateful for the life you have been given, you will be able to make the most of what you’ve got, instead of focusing on what could be. So often we get caught up with wanting our life to be better than it is that we can’t even appreciate what is. A positive outlook reminds us to be grateful for what we DO have so that it’s a little easier to handle the bad days when they come our way.

Start a Gratitude Journal!

Is it hard for you to be actively grateful on a daily basis? Start a journal to track your progress, and monitor the days where your recovery seems a bit harder. When we start to write down our goals and hold ourselves accountable, eventually practicing gratitude will come automatically, and with much less struggle. Sometimes, just by writing down what we are grateful for, we often discover parts of ourselves that we weren’t even acknowledging before. While recovery may convince you that something is wrong with you, a gratitude journal can correct this truth by reminding you that recovery is a part of your story – that alone is something to be thankful for. You are stronger because of your journey with mental illness, and you will continue to get stronger the more you choose to put one foot in front of the other. Challenge yourself this next week! Wake up each morning and write down three things that you are grateful for. They do not have to be big, monumental parts of your life. Instead, think of meaningful reminders for yourself that recovery is worth it, and ultimately, something to get grateful for.  

This is YOUR Journey! Own it! Love it! Be Grateful because of it!

Who we are today is partly due to the person we may have disliked in the past. The rock bottoms, the moments of despair, and the feelings of inadequacy – they were all a piece of something much bigger. Your story and the person you have been thus far is NOT who you will be in the future. And who is that person? Well, that’s up to you. Instead of ruminating on the negatives in your life, try to focus on the exciting journey ahead of you that exists in recovery. Getting your life back, and taking control of who YOU want to become, and be known for, is always your choice! How awesome is that? We always have a say in who we are yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I hope after reading this you begin to see that approaching your struggles and your past with a grateful heart will ALWAYS take you further than regret or disappointment for who you have once been. That person was necessary to become the person you are today and the person you will become. This is your journey to living to the best of your abilities. Don’t get stuck in a chapter that is no longer who you are.

Keep writing your story, beautiful, and be grateful each step of the way. You are headed exactly where you are supposed to – home to yourself.  

 

Featured image by Johnathan Sautter

It’s Okay to Struggle to See the Good

Written by: Zoe Speirs, contributing writer.  Follow more of her journey on her Instagram, @boporecoverywarrior.   

In a day and age where self-care is finally being made a priority, we find ourselves bombarded with messages of how we should practice gratitude – and whilst practicing gratitude is important and feeds the soul, it’s pretty hard to be grateful for things when life is hard.  It’s hard to be grateful when the world feels like it’s against you, but you know what? You know what we don’t get told? It’s okay to feel this way. It’s okay to struggle to see the good and be grateful for the small things – your feelings are valid, and sometimes it’s not easy to see beyond the clouds and find the rays of sunshine.

I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, no matter how painful it might feel at the time.  Despite this belief, it can still be difficult to see past the pain you’re currently in. We are told to be grateful, but also be present – sometimes, doing both can be painful. You can lose a family member, and although you have an incredible support network around you and amazing opportunities coming your way, it can still be pretty impossible to feel grateful for anything. Seems valid, right? But with pressure to constantly show gratitude and see good in situations, there often comes feelings of guilt, a feeling that you’re drowning when you can’t seem to find the good. This guilt of not being some radiant, positive person all the time. Of not being like that really zen Instagrammer that has her life together.

When you feel this way, you need to hit the brakes on and take a step back. We are all human, and we feel. If you can find gratitude for the little things in life when things are tough, that’s something worth celebrating. But we need to take the pressure off to constantly find the good. Picture this: if you miss an episode of your favourite programme, is it okay to beat yourself up about it? Or are you going to accept that you had a fun dinner planned with your friends and just live in the moment? The same applies here – you’re trying to find gratitude in your day-to-day life, but when you can’t because life happened, why should guilt be the predominant feeling when this practice is meant to be uniquely good for the soul (and mental health).

So lovelies, take a step back, breathe, let yourself feel – the rays of sunshine will find you once again.

 

Featured image by Johannes Plenio