Written by: Natalie Dormady, contributing writer. Follow more of her story on her Instagram, @littlearthlings.
“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.”
It’s around 10 in the morning. I’m sitting at my computer desk, attempting to write my first blog post on gratitude. There’s a slight breeze coming from the window to my right, and I can hear a bird chirping somewhere down my street. The suns out today, there’s a patch of it hitting my arm. I can feel its warmth, which is deceiving because it’s still a bit cool outside. But spring is on the way and I’m excited about that. Right above my computer, on a shelf, is a little mason jar with pink pieces of paper in it. Written on almost all of those pieces of paper is a moment that has brought me contentment, that has filled me with happiness. Essentially, gratitude in a jar.
I was completing an outpatient program when I was first introduced to this jar, to this concept of gratitude. Around this time last year I was deep into disordered thoughts and behaviors, so gratitude, the idea of being thankful, was not something I was practicing. In fact, I never thought I had the choice to practice gratitude. One day during the program, both myself and the others in the group were handed these little pieces of paper and were instructed to write down something, or someone, we were grateful for, subsequently placing these reminders in a jar – the jar that now sits on my shelf. I stared at my piece of paper, asking myself over and over: what am I grateful for?
Gratitude, or practicing gratitude, hadn’t crossed my mind for quite some time. Sitting with those slips of paper, I started to search for some grand event, some big thing in my life that happened that I could point to and say, now this, I am grateful for. But I couldn’t think of anything worth writing down. Nothing felt like it was enough, so I folded up the pink slip in my hand and put it back in the jar. Maybe next week I would have something worth writing. Over the course of the next seven days, I thought about what I could write down on those slips of paper. I thought about gratitude and being grateful and what brings me joy.
Believe it or not, I started to look forward to writing on that little pink piece of paper and putting it into my jar. It was like a vault for my happiness – something that the disorder had taken away from me for such a long time. The act of practicing gratitude slowly started to bring me away from the negative thoughts of not being worthy, of not being enough or having enough. I began to realize that I do have a choice. That I can, and I am allowed to, choose gratitude.
Looking through the gratitude jar now, I can see that the little pink pieces of paper act as a timeline. They start out with bigger events or moments that I’m grateful for, but at some point, there’s a shift. The pieces of paper, instead, begin to focus on little moments – a conversation or the warmth from the sun. By writing in the jar each week, I learned that what I already have is enough. Who I am is enough. These little details bring me just as much, or more joy and contentment, as the extraordinary ones. This jar was, and still is, a way for me to express my gratitude, and by practicing, by choosing, I am learning more and more every day that I am enough. What I have and do is enough.
Gratitude is a choice, and we can absolutely choose to be grateful. I found it hard to make the choice at first, but think of practicing gratitude as a muscle – the more you use (or practice) it, the stronger (or easier) it becomes. And it will become stronger. There are plenty of ways to practice gratitude, as well. For example, you can write in a journal, say ‘thank you’ aloud, put your gratitude into a jar or even in a note on your phone. Expressing gratitude in a way you connect with is essential for continuing your practice. I found that writing in a journal didn’t work as well for me as tearing up pieces of paper and putting them in a jar. I hope you are able to find a way that connects with you.
So, friends, I will leave you with this gentle reminder. You are allowed to choose gratitude. What you have and what you do is enough. YOU are enough.