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Gratitude: a word that gets thrown around a lot. Sometimes I worry that it is so over-used that it loses its meaning. Yet, how can gratitude be over-used? The word might be easily thrown around, but the observance, I fear, diminishes. How can we change this?

People may observe gratitude in many ways. Some people do so through their religious practices using prayer or other ritual observances. Others show gratitude by volunteering at food kitchens, food pantries, women’s shelters or clothing drives. Flowers delivered, homemade treats, and visits to the home or hospital bound are other ways people show gratitude. Gratitude can be as simple as a smile towards a stranger.

Sometimes, especially during the holidays or on the anniversary of the death of a loved one, being grateful is not only difficult but feels wrong. Perhaps a difficult health diagnosis or a falling out with family makes you feel more angry then grateful. During these times, hearing someone say “Be grateful you had time with that person” or “Be grateful for medicine” is not what you want to hear. In theory, yes there is much to be thankful for, but time is needed before processing those thankful moments can take place. Be kind to yourself and take that time.

There is no “right time or way” to be grateful. Every meal, I give gratitude to the plants and animals that nourish my body. I feel it is important for me to do so. When I had a health scare eight years ago, I was sad and mad, but I was grateful for the friends and family who rallied around me. They helped me cope with those feelings. There are times when I have needed to be alone, and have been grateful that I could walk amongst the trees in quiet solitude.

If you are having trouble observing gratitude, no matter the reason, start small. Be grateful for your breath, a smile, the sun or the moon. Be grateful for running water, lights, the alarm clock, or shoes. Be grateful for your pet or time to read. Be grateful for music, the birds, or a hug. The one important thing about gratitude; once you start, over time, it grows and becomes easier to find.

Still having trouble? Please know this, I am very grateful for you.

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