What I’ve really learned about gratitude


If you want to feel rich just count the things you have that money cannot buy. – Proverb


November is a big month for gratitude. With Thanksgiving approaching, it is a good time to remind ourselves to practice gratitude every day. Even Facebook seems to be a great way to get the daily practice going with postings of sincere thanks and gratitude via statuses.

There are some things  I’ve learned about gratitude that go far beyond reminding myself about the big things right now, it’s about changing some of my everyday thinking. It just so happens to be culminating in the month of Thanksgiving.


Thanks to my wonderful friend Becca and to Brené Brown who have provided a definite shift in my gratitude knowledge and who most of this really comes from:

1. You are never too busy for gratitude. Many working parents (and non-working parents or working non-parents) know that there are days, weeks, months, etc. that are just ridiculously busy. You can get up at 5:30 am and start juggling everything at frantic pace until you put your head down on the pillow at 11:00 pm with barely enough energy to say “Good Night” to your partner. How is there time for gratitude in there? I’ve learned to make time. Maybe it’s sitting at a stoplight on my way to work watching someone walk by that makes me reflect, or maybe it’s taking 5 minutes to eat the sandwich my wife made me at my desk, maybe it’s when I sit back on my heels to watch one of the boys in the bath poking at the bubbles, maybe it’s when my mother calls me to say hi at 10:30 pm when I thought I didn’t have any energy to talk to anyone. Those are the moments where you thought you were too busy for gratitude, but somehow you squeezed it in.

2. You should be grateful even when you are feeling totally ungracious. As Brené says in many of her writings and videos, gratitude is a practice. It’s not always easy flowing, so some days you really have to work at it. You may need to dig through the angst of the day to see the good. Because some day may come when you really, really cannot muster much gratitude but you have practiced enough to keep your head above water in the darkest moments.

3. It’s okay to complain. We all want to gripe and there’s no shame in that. And we don’t have to be grateful for EVERYTHING. Some things just suck. And we cannot lie to ourselves about how much it doesn’t bother us. Sometimes, we can catch ourselves and turn it around and find thankfulness and other times, we need to just vent a little.

4. Small, ordinary things truly matter. Anyone who has lost a loved one will admit that they miss their loved one for the big moments, i.e. the graduations, weddings, life-changing moments. But it’s the ordinary, normal moments that we seem to miss most. Many times, it’s the quiet moments over coffee, the simple walks together, the dumb things someone says, the misspelled text messages, the quirky even sometimes annoying things a person does. Those are the things we miss the most when that person is gone.

Sometimes, it’s the super frustrating, annoying-as-hell moments that I realize I am grateful for. I’m grateful every day. Some days, I’m a superstar about keeping a log and small lists make it into my gratitude journal. Other days, little reminders are just logged away mentally, or scribbled on a sticky note with the intention to write down somewhere else.
I am grateful for a HUGE list of things. I could say everyday for 30 days (which should really just lead into 335 more days of thankfulness) that I’m grateful for my wife, my kids, my family, my job, my health. And I am. But I’m also thankful for more things now that I’m really paying attention.

Today, I’m grateful for:

  • The frustrating morning battles with my 3 yr old who changes his mind 6 times about what shirt to wear
  • My 6 yr old’s fascination with Rainbow Loom allows us to have some kitchen table time together after the homework, mommy-work, dinner, bath, evening activities, even if it means I have to put up with those damn rubber bands EVERYWHERE around the house.
  • I’m thankful for the car that I have a love-hate (more hate than love) relationship with. It hates the cold, it doesn’t have any “go”, it sounds like a jet plane on the highway (especially when it tops out at 70), it handles like a drunken bobsledder in the slightest amount of snow and it makes odd rattling noises most of the time. Nonetheless, I am grateful to have a car that should have lots of life left, is paid off and gets close to 40 mpg city.
  • Even though tonight I’m totally exhausted from one of our craziest days of “packing too much in” with work, family and everything, I am grateful for the moments that made up this day.
  • I’m even grateful for the condo in the ‘hood that we’re stuck in after buying it “as an investment to flip for profit in 3 years” almost 8 years ago and losing 30% on because we’re stuck with great neighbors and friends, including people can be babysit-swap with guilt-free.

Thanks again to those who have inspired me, including Brené Brown and even the Dalai Lama (remember my Pivotal Moments post?) but most importantly,  my normal, everyday yet extraordinary and spectacular friends and family who have taught me far more than any stranger has.


4 comments on “What I’ve really learned about gratitude”

  1. This is great Holly! I love reading all your posts. You are so full of compassion and gratitude, it’s really inspirational!

  2. Oh Holly, how I LOVE reading a gratitude post by someone other than me! lol! I agree that finding things to be grateful for on the days that suck is a VERY powerful practice. I’ve been doing daily gratitude lists for 7 years now and it’s just another part of my day like breakfast. And Holly….perhaps you might want to become a Fairy on My Everyday Magic? http://myeverydaymagic.com 😉

  3. ” I’ve learned about gratitude that go far beyond reminding myself about the big things right now, it’s about changing some of my everyday thinking.” I love this. and “I’m also thankful for more things now that I’m really paying attention.” This feels so true…so often. Thank you.

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