Tomorrow marks one of my favorite holidays in the United States, Thanksgiving. It is a non-denominational holiday that revolves around the celebration and tradition rooted in the first Thanksgiving dinner- a time when Native Americans and Pilgrims came together to break bread, celebrate harvest and connect, despite any perceived differences.
Thanksgiving provides us a yearly opportunity to recognize those things for which we are grateful. For me, one of those things has been cancer. OK, maybe not cancer itself, but my experience with cancer. I am absolutely grateful for it.
Last year, I was drowning in the misery and isolation of my cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy. Around the same time, a very good friend of mine was struggling with her own life circumstances. She was in the midst of a complicated, difficult break up. We were both mired in sadness and self pity. Simply put, our lives at that moment, sucked.
Inspired by her yoga practice, she suggested that we embark on a gratitude practice together. We decided to hold each other accountable by texting one another a daily list of 3 things for which we were grateful. If we missed a day, our list would increase by 3. One of our rules was to always keep it positive- for example, it was suggested that I not text something like, "I'm grateful for not being sick", rather, "I am grateful for good health."
About a month in to this practice, I started to observe a shift in myself. Even in the midst of chemo, I was able to easily find both the big and little joys in my daily life. I yearned to connect with other cancer students in the midst of chemo, hoping to elevate our moods and perspectives. I started bringing donuts to my nurses as a thankful gesture for all of the difficult, long days they endured to help cancer students (like myself) get back on track to better health. I took the initiative to get outside more, to observe the grandeur and solace of nature. I became more compassionate towards others, but more importantly, towards myself. Gratitude has been an enormous motivation behind my decision to co-create Cancer Grad. I'm forever grateful for the opportunity to have learned the struggles of a cancer diagnosis, in order to connect with other people who are or have gone through it.
It has been well over a year now, and my friend and I still text each other our daily list. I have two other friends who have now asked to join me in this gratitude texting practice. The joy is expanding, with each text. I'm excited to witness how their lives will change for the better.
I'd encourage anyone to benefit from a gratitude practice by starting a daily list. There are so many studies that support evidence between the correlation of a gratitude practice and a joyful life. Check out what Brene Brown discovered in her own research.
Do you have a gratitude practice? If so, what is it? Let us know in the comments!