With my dog, Murphy, leading the way, I leave my house around 5:30am, rain or shine. The first half of the walk is spent expressing my gratitude for everything in my life. I start with the basics like gratitude for being able to walk, talk, use my hands. I acknowledge my fortune that God has allowed me to wake up that morning, the gift of another day, the air I breathe. My thoughts turn to the people in my life and opportunities to learn and grow. I feel tremendous gratitude to have a job in a profession I love.
I am grateful for my intellect and my sensibilities I bring to nursing and to my personal relationships. I give thanks for the strength and wisdom to face many challenges, for trusting myself to handle difficult people and situations. I am thankful for my good sense of humor, that I can feel and express generosity and kindness to others.
Ask For What You Need
On the walk home – the second half – I ask for what I want to bring into my life. The tangibles and the intangibles like peace, freedom, satisfying work. I ask for help to be better as a person, as a friend, and as a professional. I ask for opportunities to give back whenever I can. I ask for continuing strength to keep past demons in their place. I pray for others who are in trouble or have health concerns.
I take this time to “get things off my chest,” frustrations from work (or over work) the day before. I ask for help to let go of grievances and to forgive. I think about what I want to create for myself in my life.
I am amazed every day how much lighter and more empowered I feel by this simple, quick regimen. Almost everyone can integrate this into their life … even without a dog.
“Mini” Gratitude Walks
Even if you cannot manage a routine exactly like mine, I’m confident there is a variation that will work for you. Sit quietly just for a couple of minutes before the rest of the household rises. Take a pen and pad into the bathroom with you and write down what you are grateful for. The process can be simple and quick. Take a few deep breaths and give thanks for five people, places or events in your life. During a break at work, take a moment to recall something for which you are grateful.
One of my greatest privileges as a clinician, and as an educator, speaker and facilitator is to share practical information that people can immediately put to use in their lives to manage stress. I depend upon our gratitude walk each and every day to settle myself and to get grounded to face whatever may come my way.
Susan “Sue” Ouellette, CRNP, CSP, RN, is a Psychiatric and Adult Nurse Practitioner. She earned her undergraduate degree in Nursing at the University of Massachusetts and her Master’s in Nursing in Seattle, Washington. Upon moving to Baltimore in 1993, she earned two Post-Master’s Nurse Practitioner Degrees. Sue has a program certificate from Georgetown University’s Center for Mind-Body Medicine in “Food as Medicine: Integrating Nutrition Into Medical Education and Clinical Practice”. Sue is employed by the Baltimore VA Medical Center. She is also a clinician for the Baltimore Ravens Football Team where she coordinates the NFL’s “Rookie Conduct Program”. In March 2009, Sue was honored as a “Nurse Hero 2009” in Maryland’s state-wide “Health Care Heroes” campaign. Sue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Susan Oullette