I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude this year. About the role it has played in my life so far, how I show it in the day to day and what it means when people show me gratitude in return. It’s remarkable to realise just how many occasions there are where someone has done something for me that I think of as life changing… and yet I’ve never told them.
The teachers who never stopped believing in me, even when I was rarely in school, enabling me to overcome some of the most challenging years of my life. The charity that was my lifeline when I was first diagnosed with my condition, that helped me to make sense of my new reality and connect with people my age who I could relate to. I’ve been thinking about how much it would have meant to simply say thank you – in the way that others have done for me. I still have screenshots of emails from young people I’ve worked with, thanking me for my support. Those moments are the ones that keep you going.
I think this idea has been top of mind lately more so than before, as I’ve been struggling with my health again. There is something about the experience of falling back and having friends and family catch you that makes you stop to appreciate others more, and I’ve found that losing the ability to be 100% has focused my mind on what matters most.
Earlier this year, I began keeping a gratitude journal to recognise the little moments that were successes, even on the most frustrating of days. So, today I got out for half an hour and walked in nature and breathed in fresh air? Amazing. Yesterday I got my laundry done and sorted bills? Excellent. It may not be much but sometimes it’s vital to make these things count. I also used art and creativity to make some realistic, achievable goals so that, in spite of my barriers and challenges, I can focus on building a future I can feel excited by and grateful for.
However, recognising my own goals and achievements is only one small part of the puzzle of meaningful gratitude. Afterall, it’s not a solitary concept. As I hit my birthday this year I decided that, in addition to my personal focus, this would be the start of a more grateful me – I wanted to put more joy and thanks back into the world as well.
So, on my birthday itself, I decided to start as I meant to go on and wrote an email to a total stranger, whose gentle yoga videos on youtube had been keeping me sane through a trying period adjusting to new symptoms. It took me two minutes… but it was worth it.
I didn’t know if she would reply, or if it would be weird, but she did and it was an amazing feeling. I loved the idea that two people who had never met could both be smiling across continents at this one tiny connection. Kindness really is so powerful.
I’ll let you in on another thing too – showing kindness and gratitude is addictive. I now make the conscious effort to celebrate others as much as possible, as it doesn’t always come naturally even now. Whether it’s praising my incredible writing teacher for creating a community which I cherish, championing writing that has impacted or moved me or just stopping from time to time to thank the people who support me every day, I really can’t say enough about how much my perspective has shifted as a result or the beauty of the kindness that comes back to me. I would recommend it to anyone.
Thank you so much for reading.