November 22, 2021 • Mental Health

The Power of Gratitude

Why Giving Thanks For Both Good & Bad Is More Important Than Ever

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Not just for the plethora of home-cooked foods (did anyone else make “volcanoes” with their mashed potatoes and gravy as a kid?) or the time spent with family (insert holiday meme here); but truly for the sentiment of giving thanks. This year, amidst so much ongoing pain and adversity, the idea of feeling grateful is often hard to embrace. How can we be joyfully thankful in our own lives when the world around us is crumbling? And yet, I’ve found that leaning on gratitude is more important than ever. Here’s why.

Many were the mornings in 2021 that I slapped my phone off the bedside table to hit snooze just one more time, wanting to hide under the covers and avoid, avoid, avoid: the searing headlines, the grief of all we have lost, the stress of expedited work deadlines, the overwhelm of unanswered texts, the choices to give up a home and a career I’d spent years building for myself…basically, life in general. No, I was not lazy; I was depressed. While 2020 was the year that upended most everything, I had high hopes that 2021 would see a rapid return to “normalcy”—and then, the fatigue of it all got to me.

Happiness and security feel like unreachable destinations when one is mired in unease and uncertainty. You may as well have asked me to climb Everest with no map and up a cloud-obscured mountainside. Why even bother trying? And I’ll be the first to admit that when at my worst, I am not as capable at being of best service to others.

Then one day, I stumbled across a poem I wrote a few years ago on gratitude, after having successfully gotten to the other side of a mountain I’d once deemed insurmountable:

Give thanks for all

that is good and beautiful;

the gifts you carry

people who lift you up

your big, big love

faith and trust that

your life

is unfolding as it should

Give thanks for all

that has been difficult and hard;

trials tribulations tears

tests of self strength fears

all of the unknowns and

days that broke you

Without the darkness

you would not have

learned to

appreciate the light

It reminded me that gratitude is one of the most powerful tools we have to alchemize pain into purpose, hurt into hope, darkness into light. Looking for silver linings—no matter how small or big they may be—helps us to grow and keep moving forward in even the most daunting circumstances. When there is no map or clear peak, gratitude can be used like a pickaxe to chip our way through the mountain one day at a time. Can we “thank away” all of the problems in the world? No. I wish that we could. But what we can do is use gratitude for our own blessings to fuel our drive to create collective positive change—both in the world around us, and within the world at large.

This week, it is both the most fundamental aspects of daily life and also the more personal silver linings that I am thankful for. I am grateful to wake up each day. I am grateful for my health. I am grateful for my friends and family. I am grateful for the roof over my head and the shoes on my feet. I am grateful for ever-evolving pathways and great leaps of faith. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here, writing this to you.

Thank you for being here.

Related Stories