• blogWhat is gratitude and why is it important? Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary defines gratitude as a feeling of appreciation or thanks. I think that is a great start but I don’t think that goes deep enough for me. In my life, gratitude is a daily occurrence; it’s a way of life for me that I have cultivated over a number of years. I look for the good things in my life and say a silent thank you when I find them. This could be as simple as being thankful the dogs didn’t wake me up on a day I wanted to sleep in or as big as thank you for a safe cross-country road trip. I think of it as thanking God/Universe/Life for the gifts that I am receiving along my journey.

    It’s easy to be thankful when things are going your way, when you have a great day and when you feel on top of the world. When you are in that state of mind, there are so many things to be thankful for, your hand would cramp if you tried to list them all.

    How do you find ways to be grateful on days when you feel nothing is going your way, you feel the obstacles around you are insurmountable and you can’t see anything to be grateful for in those moments? I would argue that it is in those challenging moments that finding something to be grateful for is so very crucial. If you can find the sunlight of gratitude in the darkest of moments, you will change your life. I recognize that it is not always easy and I recommend starting very small, even simply being grateful for the gift of life for that day, for clean running water, fresh air, a comfortable bed to sleep in or safe healthy food to eat. Finding small things to be grateful for during the rough times will start the momentum and eventually you will find bigger things for which to be thankful and before you know it, you will have found a way to be thankful for the challenges you are facing. Challenges are there to provide us with lessons and sometimes it’s those lessons we need the most that are achieved through getting through the biggest challenges.

    It took me time and practice, but I learned how to be thankful for the challenges I faced in my life and the strength and ability I had to call upon to get past the challenges and overcome the obstacles. I started looking for the “hidden” gifts in these moments, the silver lining in the storm clouds that visited my life. Sometimes it was easy to see the silver lining and it was visible while I was still struggling with the challenge, but sometimes it took months or even years to see the gift of the pain I went through.

    One such event that took me years to finally see the gift was my medical retirement from the Navy due to a blood clot suffered during a medical procedure. I was devastated to be let go from my job as a Navy nurse, I saw the Navy as a life long career choice. I was angry, in pain from the clot, and frustrated to have my dream cut short. Shortly before my discharge, my father was hospitalized with cardiac related issues and for the next 9 months, he was in and out of the hospital on a regular basis. In August of 1992, he entered the hospital for the last time and with most of his family around him, passed away. It was a very rough time for me, he was my hero, my stalwart supporter, and I loved him so very much.It took me years to see that the Navy did me a favor in more ways than one with that medical misadventure and my forced retirement. If not for the clot in my leg, I would not have been released from the Navy in January 1992 and I would not have been there with my dad in his last months and days. I would have been scrambling to find a flight to Boston instead of holding his hand on his deathbed. I could have arrived too late to say goodbye. The gift of being with my dad and my family during those months and especially the last week is one for which I will be eternally grateful.

    Finding gratitude during the dark moments helps us move our lives forward in ways we can’t even imagine when we are suffering. On the tough days, I think of gratitude as steps on a staircase, leading me out of the depths of pain and darkness to light and joy. Having a daily gratitude practice has been critical in transforming my life into one where I set big goals and achieve them. I have made it a routine to sit quietly each morning and evening and think about and write down at least three things I am grateful for that day. Making this list forces me to review my day and even on rough days I can usually pick three things that I am thankful for that day. Sometimes it’s simply that it is bedtime and I can go to bed and start over tomorrow.

    I challenge you to try this technique of at least once a day listing 3 things for which you are grateful. Try it for a week, 2 weeks, or even 30 days. Let me know how it goes for you. Post on this page or email me diane@dianembyron.com and share your experience with me. I would love to hear from you.

    “Gratitude.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 25 July 2016.