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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 11-03-23 – National Gratitude Month

The very joyful thing about seeing ourselves and life from a place of gratitude instead of entitlement—

is that this way of breathing allows us to be forgiving of difficult circumstances in life and of those people who delivered such difficult circumstances to us. Gratitude allows us second chances at joy; not with the same circumstances or those same people; but it alleviates the burden of bitterness that comes with not receiving what one believes he/she was entitled to have. We can instead look forward into life and see that there will be many good things

and we will be grateful for them.” ― C. JoyBell C.

National Gratitude Month is an initiative started by author Stacey Grewal. It is celebrated in the US and in Canada. In 2015, the year it was originally declared, she led a 30-day gratitude challenge explained in her web site here. Count me in. Gratitude is a huge tool in my recovery toolbelt. Focusing on it keeps me out of dark spaces in my thinking. It is a big part of recovery for many people. I have written about gratitude from so many angles over the last five years, what more could possibly be said? I don’t think I have ever written about the notion of a 30-day gratitude challenge.

What would the result of a 30-day gratitude challenge look like for you? Is there any possibility that your outlook could be better than it is now at the end of 30 days? What if a whole lot of people took the challenge? Can we imagine what would happen if there was a widespread commitment to a 30-day recovery challenge in America? We have much to be grateful for. For all of our deficits, blemishes and foibles, do we know we are a truly fortunate nation? Yes, it is certainly true that there is significant disparity, but who would want to live in North Korea instead of here? It puts things in perspective! Any of us, even in the most difficult circumstances, could have done worse! I do not intend this as an excuse for the status quo, we can and should do better for those with the least, but we need to put things in perspective.

We can all easily account for how we have not gotten the best hand in life. We can recall when a situation or life experience meant that we did not do so well, but how much time and effort do we actually put into accounting for our great fortune? Funny thing is that energy goes where attention flows. If we focus on how the world has slighted us, we become more bitter and resentful. Instead, when we focus on how we are fortunate, our sense of positivity increases.

I was born with a life-threatening medical condition. I am alive today because right before I was born, there was a flurry of interest in the condition. A doctor by the name of C Everett Koop ended up caring for me. That was my first lottery win. I have had many more. It is also the case in which times when I thought things did not go my way, when lessons learned from those experiences helped me immensely. As an old song notes, we should offer thanksgiving for every wrong turn, a song which has meaning to me as it is how I found my darling, Julie. I am grateful we had a mutual acquaintance with a pickup truck, and she needed to move out of her parents basement many years ago, and I was free on that Saturday morning to help. I suspect on reflection, the vast majority of us have much to be grateful for in life.

I practice gratitude because I need to do so for my own emotional wellbeing. I am not naturally grateful; I have to work at it. Gratitude is like a muscle; it gets stronger with exercise. At least from where I sit, it does not seem like we as a nation are particularly grateful in our era. I get it, we live in challenging times, but can our collective attitude have a positive influence on the direction of the nation? Can we imagine what might happen if a majority of Americans practiced a 30-day gratitude challenge? I suspect that such a process would change the very course of our nation.

We would be happier, and I suspect that even those who did not participate in the challenge would have a more positive outlook. If we are around a lot of people with negative attitudes, we tend to develop more pessimistic views, if the condition is reversed and we are around people who have more positive perspectives, we are likely to be more optimistic. A concerted effort on gratitude – a gratitude movement would really help our nation, in my estimation.

The research shows, that such a focus on gratitude would increase our empathy for each other and even reduce aggression. Can we imagine how such a change in attitude would mean for our nation? It is also good for our health. It is a thing we have very real control of in a world in which we really do not have a whole lot of control over what happens.

I can’t think of anything that is more in our control that could be more beneficial to us than a national, 30-day gratitude challenge. If this seems too ambitious, can we practice it on a smaller scale? Can we consider 30-day gratitude challenges at our places of work or where we gather socially?

It all can start with a simple question - What are you grateful for today?

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