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Finding gratitude in the dark

I have so many things to be grateful for - more than I can count. I'm reminded constantly of how lucky I am to be here and to feel a sense of purpose and belonging.

Would you be surprised to know I have many, many things in my life that deeply tore the fabric of my being, completely changing who I had been and who I was going to be? And a majority of it happened in the last 11 years.

As I tumbled down the dark hole of despair, grief and loneliness, I often questioned why all these things happened to me. What had I done so wrong in my life that I would be repeatedly subjected to circumstances that truly tested what was in my inner core.

It's easy to look back now and piece together the timeline of my life and see how everything seemed to be setting me up for what I was meant to do today: help and inspire others with compassion and creativity.

But when you're in it, sometimes you are so blinded by the darkness you cannot even sense the light on the other side. Existing is either excruciatingly painful or feeling absolutely nothing.

And then we become blinded by our suffering. We cannot see the suffering of others because there is no space for anything but what we are going through. We cannot help ourselves or others. And it's a spiral.

I can't put my finger on the moment that I found the one meaningful foothold at the bottom of that darkness that led me to continue searching for more ways into the daylight. But once I started, I found more safeholds in supportive people and programming available to me. I picked up so many useful tools along the way to help me with my ascent. And now that I'm looking out of that pit of darkness, I can now reach back and help others out of it.

We don't get our lifetime dose of trauma once, and then move on. We are continuously hurt and wounded by life along our journey. We may get halfway out of that dark crevasse, only to be knocked back down to the bottom.

And how do we overcome that? One way is finding things that will lift our spirits. And we can start very small by searching for things that touch us many times a day. A great explanation of this is the term "glimmers."

From The term “glimmer” was coined by psychotherapist Deb Dana to make the complex polyvagal theory more accessible. Glimmers refer to the moments of positivity we experience that can combat difficult situations or negative emotions. Glimmers can be as simple as seeing a rainbow or feeling accomplished.

To me, glimmers and gratitude go hand-in-hand. And with gratitude, it's important to feel as it is to express. When you thank someone else, you are giving warm feedback, which elicits a sense of purpose and more. It also is a great sensation, knowing we've made someone else feel respected and useful. It starts a chain reaction in the receiver of thanks as well as the giver.

Here's a little activity: come up with five tiny things you are grateful for right this minute. It's 8:45am and I have mine:

  1. The dogs let me sleep in!

  2. The kitchen was much quicker to clean than I thought it would be.

  3. I left the window open overnight, but nothing bad happened.

  4. I found the inspiration and words to write this blog post, when I thought it would take me longer to come up with something.

  5. I have tomorrow off.

If you found that really easy, I challenge you to verbally express your gratitude at least three times today, even if you are alone in the room.

Let me know how it goes.

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