Gratitude practice: Thanking those who gave us direction

gratitude and life directionEvery once in a while in life it is important to acknowledge the people who we are grateful to. We don’t do this often enough. We get lost in the day-to-day business of living and move on without a thank you to those who have done so much for us.

Who might you have a debt of gratitude to? This can be your parents, siblings, teachers, old friends, co-workers, mentors, therapists or other helpers. These people often go unrecognized; your acknowledgement can be very affirming for both you and them. After all, they have made your life better in some unique way.

Sometimes it is the simplest things that make that person important to you. At other times it is a lifetime of helping behind the scenes.

I have thanked many people over time but, as I have gotten older, I feel compelled to give a more formal thanks to those who have been there for me. It is becoming a practice; I am making a list. It is long and gets longer. I do this with some trepidation since there are people on it who I am no longer in contact with due to a misunderstanding. Or we just drifted apart over the years. How might they respond to my efforts to reach out to them? My apprehension is lessened as time has a way of healing the wounds that separated us.

I only wish that I had the foresight to have done this when I was younger; many of those who did so much for me have gone. I will thank them nonetheless.

My thanks will take the form of a letter, email or video, whichever medium best suits the recipient. This is my gratitude practice right now — letting people know they are important and appreciated for how they have given to me unselfishly. They oftentimes provided a sense of meaning and hope when I was lost or confused.

These people were the guideposts that created my path through life. By thanking them I am put back in touch with those things that have made me who I am.

Do you control the news or does the news control you?

keith haring
Keith Haring: The Political Line, de Young Museum, San Francisco, Ca. January 2015

The other day a friend was talking about recent news events and was looking to me to hold up my end of the conversation. I failed him miserably since I have been quite out of the loop about recent world and national events for the last month or so. I have not really been reading online news, news magazines and papers or checking my newsfeed and have not been actively participating in “hashing things out” with my politically astute and well-informed friends.

And, I’ve been feeling happier.

To me it’s simple but I always need reminding: happiness is based upon having a positive outlook on life. We can best make changes in our own lives and in the circumstances around us when we feel optimistic. This helps us to feel that we can be effective in making needed changes.

When we are bombarded, day in and day out, with the overwhelmingly negative media accounts of what is going on in the world around us our efforts to maintain our positive outlook are assaulted, our sense of control over events is diminished and we can find ourselves in emotional survival mode.

Ultimately, I have to accept that I cannot control others around me and what happens on the local, national and global stage. What I can control, however, is how I think and how I act. I am at my most effective, paradoxically, when I let go of the outcome and act in small ways that can make a difference. I do this best when I manage the amount of information that comes to me that says that things are hopeless, will never get better and are too complicated to do anything about.

So, I took some time off from the world to concentrate on my own little part of it. I intend to rejoin the newsfeed soon but in a more limited manner. I want to stay informed but I’ll be rationing my time there. It won’t be the first time I’ve learned that this is necessary to my happiness and effectiveness.