Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I have been practicing gratitude.  I think the reason I was so healthy before this year (for two years I didn't get sick) was because I was so grateful for everything in my life.  It's not that I'm not grateful recently, it's just hard to be grateful after you feel like crappy things happen to you for no reason.

It's like people who have someone close to them die.  They either find God (or something to believe in) or they lose God with the death of a loved one.  I guess I had lost my ability to be grateful and I'm trying to get it back.  I'm trying.

I went to the copy room at school and found a paper sitting there titled "How Gratitude Can Change Your Life."  I am a believer that everything happens for a reason and that I was meant to find this.  I copied it, left the original and said to myself right then and there that I would try to be more positive and thankful from now on.

The paper defines gratitude as "learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you've been given."  It says to "shift your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present."  Gratitude, through behavioral and psychological research, "makes people happier and more resilient, strengthens relationships, improves health and reduces stress."

I guess there was a study done where several hundred people were split up and asked to keep a diary every day.  The first group was told to write about all the events of each day, good and bad.  The second group was told just to record their unpleasant experiences and the third group was to make a daily list of all they were grateful for.  The group that did the gratitude exercise "reported [higher] levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy."  They also experienced "less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly, and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals."  So, I guess focusing on the good every day CAN really change your life.

I used to think I was a very lucky person, I used to lay in bed at night and thank God (or whomever is up there) for everything I had.  Then, my grandpa died, my step-mother passed away, my dog got out and hit by a car, and we lost our baby.  I started to focus on all the bad things that have happened and wondered if I wasn't lucky after all.  I wondered why bad things happen to good people and questioned whether anyone was there listening to us after all.  I started slipping away into a pool of nothingness, and the surface got further and further away from me.

Then, I had an alright week and found this paper and read it.  And now, this week, I feel even better.  I started very simply, just kneeling in my bathroom at night before bed, taking deep, belly breaths and trying to relax.  I was still so sweaty while I slept (and knew it wasn't my hormones after all this time) and read somewhere that it could be depression.  Was I really depressed?  I guess I was - something I had never been before.  So, I had to make a change and pick myself up and move on.  After the deep breathes each night, I would say one thing I was grateful for, even if I had to search for it.  I wanted it to be something specific, and something that was new each night - not the same old "family," "friends," "my life" stuff.  So, that's what I did.  I was tired of feeling so sad, tired of being sick (I've been sick so much this year), and tired of crying and feeling empty - I had to do something else.  Something that would make me feel lucky again.

Here I am.  It has been a little over 6 weeks since we lost a blueberry and I'm feeling better.  And, wait for this next part --->  I'm actually enjoying not being pregnant.  (Are you shocked?!)  It has been nice getting back into working out, being able to rush around at work, having time to lay around when you don't really have to and getting things done around the house (not to mention my flawless skin and all of this energy!).  We got a new roof, are working on getting new insulation and hope to have the house painted and a few windows replaced before we start trying to get pregnant again.  I also really feel like myself again, something I haven't felt since last summer, before I went into anaphylactic shock.  I was short of breath after that and couldn't really do all that I wanted, and then got pregnant, but now I'm back and feeling good. 

Don't get me wrong, I definitely wish I was still pregnant (I would be a little over 17 weeks) but it HAS been fun being able to drink, eat brie and work on the house - even though I HATE to admit it.  I do miss my friend and I can't wait to try again, but I am enjoying where I'm at right now too. 

So, I guess practicing gratitude has increased my happiness levels just like the paper said.  Now, I encourage you to try it too.  You will be more creative, bounce back quicker through adversity, have a stronger immune system and have stronger social relationships if you learn to focus on the good things in your life (according to Dr. Emmons of this book).  He says, "to say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great.  It just means we are aware of our blessings."  We tend to take things for granted, good things, every day.  Well, imagine losing some of the things you take for granted like your house, your ability to see, your ability to walk or anything that gives you comfort.  Then, imagine getting each of these things back, one by one and consider how grateful you would be for them.  Find joy in the small things instead of holding out for the big ones, think of what makes you happy EVERY DAY.

"Remember that every difficulty carries within it the seeds of an equal or greater benefit.  In the face of adversity ask yourself:  What is good about this?  What can I learn from this?  How can I benefit from this?"  Or as a good friend said to me, "Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open."  I like this.  This isn't that stupid "when you close a door another one opens" quote, but instead a way to look at everything that happens to you and how to find goodness after. 

Bad things happen to good people.  They don't happen for any reason and it doesn't matter what kind of life you've led before (I used to think differently).  They just happen.  Instead of looking for the good in it, because let's face it - sometimes there isn't any, look at what it's taught you or how you can come back from this situation.  I have a quote on my classroom wall about failure (from Gandhi):  "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."  And someone posted something similar on Facebook today (by Mary Pickford):  "You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down but staying down."  So, get back up, dust yourself off and come out smiling on the other side.

Find your happiness.  Even if it's hard to see, find it.  And apparently, if you find it more often than not, it will be quicker to find each time something knocks you down.  So, practice gratitude tonight before you go to bed, see what it does to your mood and your day tomorrow.  Find one thing every day that you are thankful for.  Pass this on, and let's see what happens.

Today I am thankful for all of YOU.  Thank you for picking me back up and allowing me to find my happiness again through these words. 

(Oh and btw - this post almost made me cry, along with yoga last night.  Sometimes there is so much joy in your life - you forget about it until you find it again after a fall.)

(Thank you also to "Daniel" the student whose paper this was and to the teacher who left it in the copy room for me to find.  There ARE no coincidences, I needed this.)


  1. Wow...profound message from my beautiful daughter, who in writing this also eases the tight knot her mom has carried around inside herself. Nothing has been right in my world worrying and praying about your sadness. And I know that God is there and listening. Do you know what I found sitting at church tonight when I went for Ash Wednesday? It was one of those rubber band message bracelets. The bracelet is blue and reads, "I am Grateful!" Can you believe that I found this today and then read your post! No coincidences! Know what I'm grateful for? You!

  2. Thank you for sharing this — it reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, "It's always darkest before the dawn." That's also the thing about yoga and gratitude — it's life changing. It seems like you are finding the light again — keep writing, it will be a cathartic lesson and release. Sent this link to two of my best girlfriends, too.

  3. To the poster who posted above - thank you for reading! My hope is that this blog will not only help heal me, but will one day help others in their journey as well. Thanks for posting and sending this on. :)

  4. Love this. I agree that you either go with god, or go away. I have experienced both during all my losses. I am so glad I read this, as I havent been able to do yoga in awhile, and I have forgotten to keep the gratitude peace of mind. Stop by and link up some of these wonderful posts at our linky party going on right now :) Here is the link - everyone is invited! Have a wonderful day!