January 14, 2016

Finding Gratitude in Grieving


Just as I get my thoughts sorted on one celebrity death, what should happen but we lose another one of Britain's greats. Alan Rickman -- or the definitive Professor Snape, as he will always be to me -- left us at the same age and for the same reason as David Bowie. For a moment this morning I hoped it was a hoax, but I knew better when sources like BBC and The Times were offering their headlines.

It isn't a great start to 2016, to be sure. And yet, in the midst of all this heartbreak, I can't help but feel... gratitude. Grateful that personally I have lived to die another day. Grateful that I've been blessed with the privilege to lead a safe, healthy, worthwhile existence. Grateful that, if I manage to avoid rogue buses and dodge dread diseases, I just might have 2/3 or maybe 3/4 of my life left to explore.

It's important to log our gratitude whenever and however we can. The more dedicated among us might keep daily records in a gratitude journal. For those of us with less time on our hands, though, it's often easy to forget to count our blessings.

If you're anything like me, the last thing you hope to hear when you're having a crappy day is "Look on the bright side." Complaining, fretting, and objecting feel so much easier. But when it comes right down to it, these actions zap our energy. They may even push the perspective of those around us into bleaker corners.

Here are some methods I've found helpful in encouraging gratitude flow:

1) Surround yourself with positive people. This is something I've truly just come to understand in the last year, and it was only through meeting more positive people that I was able to identify the negative and/or toxic individuals in my life. Here are behaviors indicative of a positive person: They ask questions about your life, maintain good eye contact, honor others and celebrate their successes, and remain respectful regardless of their mood. And here are those indicative of a negative person: They talk exclusively about themselves, constantly appear bored or distracted, talk about others behind their back, and use their moods as an excuse to be an asshole. Not cute.

2) Engage your senses. This is going to sound kind of hippy-dippy, and that's probably because it lies at the root of most meditation practices. If you're able to engage in an active way with the world around you, though, happiness is constantly at your fingertips. Music bumping at the neighbors and driving you crazy? Give your cat a comfort pet and luxuriate in her soft fur. Feeling stressed and crunched for time? Pinpoint the overlooked fascinations of your morning commute -- like gargoyles and graffiti art. Trembling in the aftershock of a breakup? Redirect your passion toward painting or learning the guitar. With the right focus, these practices will awaken a curious joy.

3) Honor others. There are probably a handful of people in your life who are in constant deserving of a thank you card. Sit down and write them. If you don't have time, text them something genuine and appreciative. Remind them of an awesome thing they did. Ask if you can take them out to coffee. Tell them you love them. Tell them now. And when, in their cloud of confusion at randomly hearing from you on Thursday at 9pm (and with no apparent reason for such a declaration), they ask, "After all this time?" grant them with the only acceptable answer: "Always."

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