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Gratitude: A Gift to Yourself

Carolyn Jennings

Our country has set aside holidays for giving thanks, exchanging gifts, bringing light to a dark time of year. I cherish these ideals. But the actual experiences of the winter holidays often revolve more around food and complicated relationships, busyness and loneliness. Gratitude can seem far away.

I’ve found that practicing gratitude can open the door to celebrations of the heart. It shifts my focus from what's problematic to what's good. It uplifts my negative tendencies, softens my harsh edges, invites my spirit to come out and play. With gratitude coursing through my veins, even what's problematic seems more possible.

Here's a fresh way I've found to practice gratitude, a List of 100. Just as it sounds, a List of 100 is a list made up of 100 items. I’ve made lists on many topics in recovery, but during the holidays I like to write 100 things I’m grateful for. I think you might enjoy the process too – here’s how to start:

Number your entries. You don't have to write in complete sentences, just let go and write as fast as you can. Don't get intimidated—repeating items is not only OK, it's an integral part of the process.  In your list, be sure to include all of the things that you are grateful for about yourself: qualities and values, things you've done for yourself, things you've done for others.  

When you've reached item #100, read the list. What does it inspire in you? Is there someone you'd like to call and thank for what they're done for you? Are you sparked to pay a gift forward, pass it along in some creative way? Maybe you can sprinkle in some of your list's feel-good activities and practices, people and places into your holiday season. 

Gratitude is a gift that begs to be shared.

I recall that holidays early in my recovery could be tender and tough times. I wasn't the same person doing the same things as I had been in prior years for prior holidays. But I didn't quite know how to acknowledge or incorporate the new me into the old holidays. Focusing on gratitude can reveal more about who and how you are now and how many gifts your life holds. If you're helping a friend or family member through disease and recovery, writing your own list can reconnect you with the goodness and love underneath uncertainty or tenderness. 

Use gratitude as a guide for getting through the holidays in the most authentic, self-loving, self-caring way.

For me, there is a quote that I live by. Zen Guide Cheri Huber often says, “The quality of your life is determined only by the focus of your attention.” When I focus on all of the good things in life, I step out of the bleak eyes of my disease and into the truth of abundance. With this focus, every day glitters a bit more, every day holds a little more of the holiday spirit of light, connection and thanks.

 

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