Updated: Oct 24, 2022
Cheryl Brooks RN, OCN, HNB-BC Holistic Health and Wellness Coach
The Practice of Gratitude
This morning I woke up to my 39th birthday. It is almost too easy to start thinking about the things I haven’t accomplished yet, or the places I haven’t been. It would be effortless to get upset that I woke up to my dog getting sick and a big mess to clean up at 2:00 am. Or to get fixated on the fact that I haven’t been able to fall back asleep since. I could begin to think about how busy my day ahead is, filled with a bunch of administrative tasks which are my least favorite things to do. And now an urgent vet appointment that will cause me to cancel a meeting with a dear friend that I have been looking forward to. But how would these thoughts then make me feel? I would feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and maybe even self-pity that this is how I am spending my birthday. And if I feel these ways, I most definitely will not have an enjoyable day.
Instead, I choose to practice gratitude today. I will spend my time and energy thinking about how grateful I am to be alive today. To be able to go for a walk with my dogs this morning and feel the cool breeze on my skin, smell the crisp fall air, hear the birds chirping, and watch the clouds slowly disappear from the sky. I am grateful that I have these dogs that provide me with so much unwavering love and joy. And that I have the ability to bring them to the vet to get the care that they need. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to start my own business that empowers others to enhance their wellness and quality of life. I am grateful that I have an amazing family and friends in my life that I get to spend time with. Especially a husband that picked up apple cider donuts for me yesterday so I could treat myself this morning. And I am grateful that I have a very cozy bed that I will allow myself to take a nap in later this afternoon. How do these thoughts make me feel? Empowered, motivated, grateful, and filled with joy.
I first learned about the practice of gratitude several years ago when I was struggling with nurse burnout. I was constantly feeling exhausted, run down, and unhappy. I was in search of anything that could make me feel better. Within just a few weeks of having a regular gratitude practice I was waking up every morning with an intense feeling of joy and excitement for the day. I want to offer this practice to anyone reading this that may be starting their day off in a negative mindset, or are often feeling negative emotions such as frustration, jealousy, fear, emptiness, or anxiety. Anyone can practice gratitude!
Start with mindfulness - This can be the most difficult step. As a society, we are not always used to slowing down and taking the time to pay attention to the beautiful things around us. One way to do this is to tune into your senses. What are you seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or feeling? I would do this to start my shifts as an inpatient nurse. I would notice the soothing and comforting smell of coffee, I would see nurses working together to help get a patient out of bed, and hear families laughing with their loved ones. This quick minute of mindfulness allowed me to get into a positive mindset to start my shift.
Practice - Be compassionate with yourself and remember - this is a practice. It may not come naturally or easily to become mindful and focus on the positive things around you. It can take time and that is okay, you can continue to practice. Not everyone practices gratitudes in the same way, you get to create the practice that works best for you. For me, I would start in the morning, the minute I opened my eyes I would say to myself “I am grateful that I woke up and get to enjoy today”, then I would stand up and start getting ready for my day thinking “I am grateful that I have the ability to care for myself”. I would continue to have intentional positive thoughts about everything that I was doing until I left my house for work. At first I felt like I was faking it, but after a short time I felt very sincere in these thoughts and I started to see the positive effects - I was experiencing positive emotions, the small things that went wrong in my day were no longer bothering me and I was showing up better at my job and in my relationships. Many often practice gratitudes through journaling. You can journal anytime of day, writing down a number of things you are grateful for that day. You may even want to challenge yourself by trying not to repeat any of your gratitudes. Others practice gratitude through affirmations. Some examples include “I constantly remind myself to enjoy all the good I have in my life right now”, “I am grateful to be a part of this amazing universe”, or “I express deep appreciation for the small steps I achieve today”. You can create your own or say these affirmations to yourself multiple times throughout the day.
Express it - A powerful way to practice gratitude is by expressing your gratitude. I didn’t realize how often I was thinking about how grateful I was to a person but not letting them know. This can be as simple as saying “Thank you”, or you may choose to take it a step further and tell someone how they have helped you and what that means to you. Another way to extend gratitude to others is by writing it. You can choose that weekly, or monthly, you are going to send a card to someone expressing gratitude. Not only does it feel amazing to express your gratitude, but you are also bringing joy to someone else's day as well.
Lastly, please do not forget to show yourself gratitude, you deserve it. I know that I am grateful to you for taking the time to read this. You showed up here to this website because you care about yourself and your well-being, and that is truly something to be grateful for. I am also grateful to the Wellness Glow Life Community for allowing me to share this with you today.
Be well & grateful,
Cheryl Brooks RN, OCN, HNB-BC
Holistic Health and Wellness Coach
Founder and CEO of Brooks Wellness