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Recognize the good – Hakarat ha’Tov

Recognize the good – Hakarat ha’Tov

Choosing to be grateful is just a shift in thinking. For some, it is a significant shift. For others more subtle. To me, the key word in our topic for November is choice.

Our thoughts naturally seem to turn to thankfulness and gratitude as we approach Thanksgiving. We are inundated with commercials meant to tug at both our heart and purse strings to remind us to appreciate the little things, not to mention those Hallmark movies that I love so much.

Social media is full of folks proclaiming their gratitude for things both big and small. Recently I even jumped into the pool. I committed to posting three things each day for which I’m grateful. I was going to make a conscious effort and demonstrate it for the whole world to see. Do you want to know how many times I did this? Once. Let me repeat: I did it once.

I set the intention wholeheartedly. I put it out there and dropped the proverbial ball. I publicly said that I was going to do this every day for November. It happened once!

Beating myself up

The reason I’m sharing this with you is that I want to focus for a minute on choosing gratitude and self-compassion.

One of the benefits of the mindfulness practice is that one learns to experience life in the present moment. Recognizing it for what it is, not resisting and then making a choice – rather than reacting.

Before I started practicing mindfulness, the dialog in my head would have been something like this:

What are people going to think? I only posted once. Am I a truly selfish person?

Couldn’t I even list three things a day?

Am I so important or busy that I couldn’t take time out of my day to post?

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Letting myself off the hook

Luckily, along with living mindfully and choosing gratitude comes a little thing called compassion. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, it took me years to learn about compassion. I could be overly compassionate toward others but rarely toward myself. This current situation was a time when I needed to choose to pull out the self-compassion card.

Does anyone remember my announcement on Facebook? Answer: Most likely, no. Technically, I could go into my timeline and delete it (going there now. click, delete and gone). Does it mean that I am ungrateful because I didn’t send a press release to Richland Source every time I had a moment of gratitude? NO. I needed to let myself off of the hook. It doesn’t even matter what the reasons were for not sticking to my plan. I felt guilt and shame.

By writing this post, I have the opportunity to reflect on this recent situation. The truth is that I feel gratitude in a million little moments in every single day. Just like most of you. We need to choose to recognize those times, but it doesn’t always require demonstrating through a grand gesture. A quiet acknowledgment does the job.

Recognize the good

As usual, I’ve taken the long road, but my point is that we can choose to appreciate things around us that are good. In Hebrew, it is called “Hakarat ha’Tov.” (pronounced HA-car-ott, HA-tove)

The literal translation is recognizing the good. When we are not experiencing gratitude, and we suddenly recognize it, we can choose to show compassion to ourselves. Choosing gratitude can be just this little shift in our thinking and remembering this short phrase: Hakarat ha’Tov.

So here it is ladies. It’s another thing that we can add to our list of things to not over-think. Gratitude. It’s not about forcing a feeling, keeping to a schedule of Facebook posts or feeling obligated to do something. It is a simple thing, Hakarat ha’Tov, or recognizing the good.

Thanksgiving is on Thursday so my call to action for each of you, a “no pressure” call to action, is to recognize the good.

Cherish the gifts of gratitude

Cherish the gifts of gratitude

I pulled in the driveway late, the dog was waiting to be walked, my shoulders ached from sitting in front of the computer or in meetings all day, and I had just had a short, clipped conversation with a family member that had further darkened my mood. I trudged through the rest of the evening grumbling under my breath about the whole conversation and just how stressed out I was about life. Each day had ended similarly in the recent weeks and I just felt like there was no end in sight.

As I went to bed that night I thought, “There has to be more than this.” I wasn’t questioning life, I love God and feel comfortable with my faith. I was questioning how I was spending my time. I felt like my life was controlling me rather than the other way around.

It would make a neat story if I could tell you I solved it that night, but that’s not how things happened. However, not long after I had another revelation. We’re going to have far more ‘mundane’ days than ‘banner’ days.  How could I learn to be thankful for even the repetition of daily life?

I decided to start a thankfulness journal

At the end of each day I started writing 3 things I was thankful for that day. Three things soon grew into four or five. Were there tough days? Sure, some days I was thankful for big broad things (my dog, my health, my job) but some days ended up being incredibly specific (kind words someone had shared, a special treat, puppy snuggles).

Little did I know but the rest of 2016 was going to be filled with a lot of challenges and stress and my thankfulness journal kept me grounded in the midst of it all. I enjoyed rereading older pages and just remembering the little mundane things. It affected my mood, too. I can’t tell you I never got frustrated or mad, but I did see a decline in the amount of times that happened.

Even bigger, remember that family member I was grumbling about? Well things came to a head and we ended up talking through our issues. Of course, we both had things that we needed to change, and we did and the relationship has been great ever since. The funny thing is that I don’t think I would have been willing to change had I not reset my priorities to focus on gratitude. I wouldn’t have even gotten past my own ego. So I was thankful for that.

Cherish the unseen gifts of gratitude

A few months after that my beloved dog was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Knowing what lay ahead, I was so thankful that I had taken the time to be consciously appreciative of her and her love and affection throughout the year. It made our final months together special and I said goodbye knowing that I had shown her so much love.

Now, to be honest with you, I fell off the gratitude wagon after Ginger passed, but I just reread my journal not long ago. I found my attitude needed some adjustment again. Life is hard, no doubt about it. We all have days (or weeks or years) when we just want to cry “Uncle!” But we have to keep going. I believe that if we find a way to be thankful for each day we will find ourselves in a much better mindset to handle the trials that will come our way. Whatever you’re facing, I encourage you to find a way to be thankful and watch and see the changes that start happening! Gratitude is a choice…