Just over a decade ago – due to mental illness – I lost everything that I held close to my heart: communication with my two teen aged daughters, my entire family, all of my friends, I lost my job, my cat, my housing and eventually all of my possessions, including my car. Some would say that it was as if aliens came in and took over my identity as well.
Prior to losing everything, as things were beginning to unravel, a good friend of mine advised me to write a gratitude journal – “list 3 things you are grateful for, every night before going to bed.” WOW! What a challenge, I thought. I could only write about one thing per day. I had a cup of tea, I entered into my journal. I had a long, hot bath, the next night. At that time, my two daughters were living with their Dad full-time and I could only see them while in the presence of a social worker with the Children’s Aid Society – once a week, for a couple of hours. I missed them terribly and I felt lost being unable to fulfill my Mom role. I was sad, angry and very lonely – dwelling upon my losses.
However, starting this practice of a gratitude journal set me up with a resiliency and positive frame of mind that has served me well ever since.
While living in a women’s shelter, I was tremendously grateful to have a roof above my head, thankful for the amazing meals they served every day, the fashionable clothes I received, the bed I laid in, the sewing machine to alter second hand clothes, the brand new shoes I was given, and the list goes on. While living in my car, I was grateful for my car! I appreciated The Well for providing me with a place to watch TV, shower and sleep during the day and for other women to socialize with.
I realized that no matter how much I was struggling, there was always someone else who was struggling even more. There was always something to be grateful for. And if you think of all of the little things, you will find that indeed there are always many things to be grateful for.
I still to this day practice and attitude of gratitude and I credit this practice for my happiness and feelings of abundance despite my many losses. By recognizing the numerous things we do have in life and not focusing on our setbacks or losses, we can feel more satisfied, fulfilled and happier!
Even among the greatest difficulties in life – you can always find things for which you are truly grateful.
Try it! Start writing a gratitude journal before going to bed – Jot down 3 different entries every night. It will grow on you!