And why it should be your main focus as soon as you start each day.
If I had to choose the number one thing that continues to change my life, and my outlook, each and every day, I could credit it to one thing.
One word. One action. The key is in repeating this seemingly small practice each and every day, multiple times a day, until it becomes habit.
When I started actively practicing gratitude, several things happened in my life, almost instantly. First, I started to realize how many things I have taken for granted - things that aren't small at all, things that literally make it possible for me to live. Like oxygen.
I don't know many people who walk around simply being thankful for the air that they breathe, even though it makes their existence possible.
My brain was another obvious thing that I started showing gratitude for, when I never gave it a second thought before. Isn't that ironic? The fact that I never thought to be thankful for the very thing that makes my thought process possible? Without my brain, the rest of my body wouldn't know what to do. I wouldn't know how to form words, or thoughts. I certainly wouldn't be in any position to take action. When a brain becomes inactive, all other motor functions cease to operate. That's no minor thing, and it certainly isn't something I should take for granted.
The seemingly tiny things that I had forgotten to be thankful for seem to go on and on.
I wasn't thankful for my arms or my hands. In fact, I spent a lot of time criticizing the way that my arms look. But without them, I couldn't type the words on this screen, I couldn't wash the dishes, I couldn't pick my niece up and throw her in the air.
Much like my arms, I spent a lot of time complaining about the appearance of my legs. Then I started to realize that without them, I wouldn't be able to do so many things - like climb the stairs to access my third-floor apartment.
Oxygen, our bodies, our health, clean water, comfort, entertainment, technology - these are all things that either make our lives possible or make them much more enjoyable or convenient. If you think about it, there's probably not a day that has recently gone by that you have gone without ANY of these things. Yet there are people around the world who have very limited or no access to these things that we take for granted daily.
The truth is, we don't focus on the blessings because we're too busy focusing on the negativity. We're still in the midst of a pandemic, which has taken lives, threatened others, and changed damn near every life on this planet. As we live out the human experience, it's easy to understand why this would be a focus. It's also easy to understand how focusing on this can cause fear, stress, anger, frustration, and every other negative emotion to run rampant in your life as it becomes your primary focus.
As we listen to, watch, and consume more negativity, it's only natural that that becomes our main focus until we reach the point I was in - where you take just about everything for granted.
I realized, in the pandemic, that it was time for me to wake up, and to change my thinking.
Gratitude In Action
I woke up this morning with a fever, but I wasn't on a ventilator and I wasn't diagnosed with COVID-19 - so I gave thanks for my health, even if I wasn't feeling that well. Shortly thereafter, my fever broke and I was able to go about my day.
As I drank my coffee, I was feeling particularly sore and bloated. I caught myself beginning to complain, then immediately got off the couch and said, "Nope, not today, fuck that. I'm going to ACTIVELY be thankful for my body right now". I stretched, I did some mountain climbers, some dips, and some squats, while saying, "Thank you for my arms and the strength that is in them, thank you for my legs, and all that they allow me to do, thank you for my strong back that supports me and allows me to move freely". Unironically, I've been much more comfortable and energized since.
Later in the day, I went to visit my cousin, where we stood outside in the hot summer sun for about an hour. I found myself getting annoyed with the heat as I started to sweat, then I took a moment to open my eyes and shift my perception. Instead of complaining about the heat, I gave thanks for the areas that were shaded and for the wind. I gave thanks for the vitamin D I was absorbing. I gave thanks for the beauty and the life that surrounded me, and for the way that it supported my own life with the oxygen it shared with me. Wouldn't you know it? The whole way home, I found myself giving thanks to the trees, to the wind, to the ocean, and for just about everything else we passed by on our drive back home.
But the biggest test to my gratitude practice came in the midst of a conversation with my cousin. Since I've started The Growth Getter, and particularly since I've started posting weekly Tarot messages of growth on YouTube, she's been my biggest supporter. As my biggest supporter, she felt like it was time to share some harsh truths with me, and my fiance was right there to back her up.
She bluntly asked me, "So what's up with your videos? Why are you so calm in them? Where's the real Fiona?" My fiance followed, "Yeah, I hear you recording those things and it sounds pre-recorded, like you're an automated Tarot system". My cousin finished up, "Yeah! Don't get me wrong, the messages are good, but where's your excitement, your passion, your frustration?! People are going to tune in for you, not some fake image you're presenting."
I explained to both of them that I had this internal debate with myself: 'Should I give them the real Fiona, with all of her quirks, characteristics, mannerisms, and bluntness or should I cater to the masses and give them a more professional, polished version?' Because with me, there is no in-between. I either flip the switch off, or you get 100% of Fiona.
After hearing me out, they both encouraged me to be authentic, to bring myself to the table each and every time I show up. They gave me examples of successful individuals who have extreme personalities, highlighting the fact that they are successful because of their personalities - whether people love them or hate them.
I don't like criticism, and I typically don't take it well, even if it's constructive. So again, I had to check myself and look for the positive, which in this case was obvious. Despite how called out and judged I felt in that moment, I shifted my perception and began to give thanks that these two people support me and care about me enough to be real with me. I gave thanks for the fact that they were encouraging me to share my true self with the world. I gave thanks that they were seeing and encouraging the potential in me.
So many times, just throughout this one day, I had opportunities where I could choose to get upset or use something as an excuse. Instead, I chose to give thanks each time I saw myself beginning to side with negativity.
I'm not some superior being who's got it all figured out. I'm no better than you, and I didn't get here by mistake. I got here by practicing gratitude, daily. It started small, with a gratitude journal that I would write ten things in each day, and a gratitude rock that I would speak my greatest thanks to each night. I was intentional to practice this for 28 days, until it became a part of my daily life. Where I once saw the negative, it's becoming more and more natural for me to see the good, even in those situations and instances that don't seem the most pleasant.
Start Small and Show Thanks For It All
If you're sitting there right now, thinking to yourself, ' Ten things each day? My life isn't exactly a walk in the park right now, and finding ten things to be grateful for each day seems like a bit of a stretch', then I challenge you to stretch yourself. I challenge you to grow into the type of person who, instead says, 'Just ten things to be grateful for? I found those in my first ten minutes of being awake, I'm on number 100 now!'
If it truly seems like a challenge, do what I did, and start small. Give thanks for the air that you breathe, the water you drink, the thoughts that your mind is able to think, the bed that you rest in, and the roof that is over your head. If it still seems like too much of a stretch, I challenge you to take it a step further and get down to the nitty-gritty of everything you're thankful for. If you can't come up with ten separate things to be thankful for today, then look outside at that tree and be thankful for it.
Be thankful for:
The oxygen that it provides, sustaining and supporting your life.
The beauty that it provides for you to look at.
The shade that it brings.
The strength that it symbolizes.
The fruits or the flowers that it grows.
The space for grounding that it lends.
The shelter that you have, that trees, just like that one, have given you.
The books you have read, made from the tree.
The paper products you have used, made from the tree.
The furniture you use, made from the tree.
When we stop and take a moment to really think about the things we should be grateful for, the reality becomes clearer. Everything in life, we should be thankful for. Even the really heavy stuff. When things go wrong, there are lessons to be learned. When people leave our lives, there are memories to be cherished. There is love and there is beauty all around you, all the time. As you begin to choose to open your eyes to the beauty, the magic, and the wonder that is your life, the more you will live out of this reality. And it all starts with the simple decision to begin practicing gratitude.
Don't wait. Don't say you'll start tomorrow. Start today. Start right now. If practicing gratitude isn't already a part of your daily life, I encourage you to say, out loud, right now, "I am grateful for this push to focus on gratitude each and every day". Then add ten more things, pat yourself on the back, and get ready to go on the journey of making gratitude a part of every waking moment of every waking day.
I assure you, as your implement this one switch, that you will begin to see the beauty, the blessings, and miracles in your life unfold like never before. It's the law of attraction. As you put more good out, more good is returned to you. As you begin to show gratitude, you will be given more to be grateful for.
Now get out there, get thankful, and enjoy the magic playing out in your life in new and exciting ways!
Fiona Sommer originally got her start in freelance writing by ghostwriting blogs, ads, reviews, and how-to guides for pennies. A few years later, she found a platform on Medium to share her own voice, and share she did. She created not just one, not just two, but four radically failed blogs. After spending a lifetime of being buried beneath the bullshit, she finally stopped resisting the universe and chose to grow through the bullshit, instead. This resulted in her accepting the calling on her life to create a transparent space for the collective community to come together, learn together, and grow together. Thus The Growth Getter was born. Fiona is a firm believer that if she can find a way to grow through the bullshit, rather than allowing it to keep her buried, that there's absolutely no reason that the rest of her community can't join her on the mission of growing through it. She hopes you agree and will partner with her in choosing growth through all things, no matter the challenge.