“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” ~ Willie Nelson
Could it really be so simple? How does this work – I start listing all of the things I’m grateful for and then what? Money starts falling from the sky? My dream man appears? Well.. actually, yes!
In 2003, I lost my mom to pancreatic cancer. For a year after her death, I grieved. I hated life. I was mad at the world. I was unhappy, frustrated and sad. For a year, I felt this heaviness that wouldn’t go away and I couldn’t see an end to it. In that state of mind, I thought this is just the way life is and there’s nothing I can do about it. I felt helpless and hopeless. Obviously, I was unhappy.
Then one night before falling asleep, I started to count my blessings. I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I stopped focusing on the terrible things in my life and I started to look at what was good in my life. It wasn’t easy at first. I had a hard time trying to come up with what was right in my life. But, I started with the pillow my head was lying on. Then I thought about the blanket keeping me warm and the bed I was laying on. I remembered that I ate that day and that’s always a good thing. I also had a roof over my head.
The next morning, I woke up a little bit happier. I had just a tad bit more hope and curiosity about what was going to happen that day. I wasn’t fully aware of my happiness, hope and curiosity, but it was enough of a paradigm shift that I repeated the thankful exercise that night before bed. I was grateful for my pillow, blankets, my bed, my meals, and my apartment. I elaborated about how soft and comfortable my pillow was, how warm and cozy my blanket was, how great my bed felt, how delicious and filling the food I ate was, how large my apartment was. I was also thankful for the internet, Chicago’s public transportation system, the beauty of trees and flowers, people who had been in my life, people who were currently in my life, experiences I had that helped me grow.. and on and on. Each day I woke up a little bit happier and each night I was able to think of more and more reasons to be thankful. This exercise became a habit.
Here I am eight years later and I’m actively thankful for every single thing I look at, touch, smell, think of or see. When I walk down the street, I look up at the sky and smile and feel how grateful I am to experience life. I look at a tree and see how amazing it is that it used to be a seed. I turn the water on to take a shower and I’m grateful that humans created plumbing and that I live in a country where running water is commonplace. Even the not-so-pretty things in my life are blessings. I see my messy kitchen and think about how grateful I am that I have food to eat. I’m grateful that I have an indoor kitchen with modern appliances. Did you know there are still people in the world who cook over a fire?
By shifting my awareness about life, my whole life turned around. Every day I experience a thousand blessings. Even though it took me years to get from that sad, depressed state of mind to this joyful, peaceful state of living, you could say my life changed over one night. That one night when I decided to look at things differently. That one night when I stopped feeling sorry for myself. That one night when I remembered that this world is amazing. I changed my perception about life.
Now with a grateful state of mind, I am able to remain guided, calm and collected during unpleasant situations. I keep hope, curiosity and most importantly gratefulness in the forefront of my life and the reward has been more than I could ever have expected.