I doubt there are too many people in our country (and elsewhere) who think of November without also knowing we will all breathe a sigh of relief to have this election behind us. The campaign has been a great distraction at the very least. Without stating the all-too-obvious, I would like to suggest that we take a few moments each day this month to change our focus to the holiday that we all celebrate later in November.
Focusing on gratitude each day can literally change your life. To do so is not to deny the problems in our personal or community lives. Instead it is a way to bring a sense of balance to each day. Bill and I had a habit in our many years together. Each evening either at dinner or before we fell asleep, we would identify and share two or three things for which we were especially grateful. It might have been something that happened that day, something that we remembered from the past, a friendship, or something as simple as a sunset we shared. Until he became unable to share these, doing so lifted our spirits.
He and I spent our professional lives helping people in pain. Sometimes it was tricky to refocus after listening to the sorrows that our clients carried. Perhaps that was how our little practice of gratitude began. I do not remember. What I do know is how much that practice helped us and later helped me when he died as I attempted to heal the deepest pain I have ever known by remembering and cherishing memories we created over the years we shared such an incredible journey.
These months of politics, violence, destruction of our planet and more are wearing on us. With this ugly presidential campaign winding down, perhaps it is a good time for us to refocus and consider all we do have in our lives and do that each and every day. There is so much to be thankful for. Along with the many sadnesses and losses so many of us experienced this year, there were many births, new beginnings, joys, new jobs, successes in our children’s lives, fun-filled moments shared with loved ones and, yes, memories of those we lost.
It is a matter of balance. Each day brings with it sorrow and joy, life and death, success and failure. Because we are wired to protect ourselves from the negative, we are also vulnerable to focus on the negative. It is a survival thing. We have to work a bit harder to see the good, the beautiful, the gifts, the joys. Forming a habit of doing that with a practice of gratitude makes it easier to bring a balance to our days.
So why not celebrate Thanksgiving every day this month by falling asleep counting our blessings. It may sound a bit trite or hokey but trust me … it works. It helps us experience peace each day if only for a few moments.
Mary Friedel-Hunt MA LCSW is a psychotherapist, thanotologist and certified bereavement counselor. Mary sees clients in Spring Green and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org;
P.O. Box 1036, Spring Green, WI 53588; or