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.