Many years ago I learned the value of being in the solution rather than the problem. When life gets rough many of us start complaining; at least I know I do. One day I was going on and on to a good friend of mine who, after listening for awhile, asked me if I would be willing to make a list of all the things in my life I was grateful for instead of just complaining. I was very surprised as I went through this exercise and had about 50 things I was grateful for. I thought it was a great list. My friend didn’t. He asked me to triple that list. At first I couldn’t understand how I could find that many things to be grateful for, but with his support and coaching I finally did it. I was amazed and the problems I had been complaining about no longer seemed so bad. He even gave me a bumper sticker that said Attitude of Gratitude.
About ten years later I ran across a book Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude by Sara Ban Breathnach. The journal asked readers to write down at least five things each day that they were grateful for and at the end of the month summarize the results. The first time I did it I made sure to complete an entire year. Then I pulled away for a few more years.
I started writing another gratitude list because I caught myself complaining and remembered my old friend’s advice. I wrote my lists for just over a year and then stopped again. Almost four years ago I ran across one of my old Gratitude Journals and decided that I want this to be an ongoing part of my life. Now what I do is list at least ten things a day I’m grateful for and at the end of the month I list my top thirty for the month. At the end of the year I put my entire top thirty for each month in the same document. I then choose my top thirty for the entire year after reviewing every single entry I wrote that year.
The most interesting thing about my end of year process this past December was that I was feeling very sad and a bit anxious about the year ahead. As I started going back over the year I noticed many of my gratitudes were about my recovery, my relationship with my wife, my mother and good friends and how we were much closer than any other time in my life. My mood and energy started shifting the more I read. By the time I made my top thirty list for 2008 I was again centered, peaceful and happy.
I have worked with many pain patients over the years that I taught this process to. Those who wrote daily gratitude lists reported that it was almost impossible for them to be in gratitude and suffering at the same time—most of the time they chose gratitude. I would like to encourage those of you reading this blog to try writing daily gratitude lists for at least a couple of months and see what happens for you. I would love to hear about your experience.
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To learn more about the difference between pain and suffering , please read my latest article Pain is Inevitable but Suffering is Optional when Living with a Chronic Pain Condition that you can download for free on our Ariticles page.
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