August 13, 2010

Smitty's ESH, Gratitude

Today an Attitude of Gratitude serves me very well-- when I keep it in mind.

True Confessions. This principle of Looking for the Good... did not become real to me from my program, at first. My tendency to look for the good in everything bad that happens to me in life.... was my coping mechanism from childhood. It allowed me to create some joy in my life, when I was really suffering. That meant it was REALLY bad for me, when I lost my practice completely after having my hope derailed by a major mental illness, in 1991.

I am happy to say there was an Emotions Anonymous ( EA) meeting in my new home town. I quickly became a devoted member. But I did not hear the term "Attitude of Gratitude" (largely an AA coined term) through that rural New York E A fellowship I first joined.

Thankfully (gratitude again!), outside resources encouraged me to start a gratitude practice, in the form a daily gratitude list. An occupational therapist thought it would be a good practice for me to do in my dry spell as a writer, when my journal was a desert in which I had no interest in leaving any tracks. And indeed, with each gratitude list I felt a tiny bit more motivated to recognize good things in my life. After a while, I saw evidence of my change in Attitude with each passing week. Within months, the list almost seemed besides the point, because I felt spontaneous gratitude throughout my day. It had become a new habit, and not just one I used as a coping mechanism for bad times.

But the gratitude writing practice fell off, and so did the conscious one... as I returned to my profession in 1993 and later in 2000, when being a full time mom and published writing took my focus. Looking back, I don't think I deserved the good life and opportunities I had when my husband was able to support us without my income.

Was I ever wrong! But it would take many years for me to make the connection between an active practice of gratitude as a temporary fix versus its relationship to enduring mental health. It's all in whether its maintained as a DAILY habit. And whether that habit changes the way we live our lives.

1 comment:

  1. I am grateful for so much that the attitude of gratitude is within me now. I thank God that I am even alive today which is a good start to each day.


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