I was reminded this morning that today is World Mental Health Day. I don’t know why October 10 is designated as such but it is. Anyway, a reflection has been stirring in me the last several days and today seemed like a fitting day to spend some time trying to share. I have written before about my own challenges with mental health and I’m not going to revisit it all here other than to say that a LOT of things have gone into my healing journey. Personal choices around eating, exercise, sleep, and self-care as well as external situations have contributed. Prayer and spiritual direction have also been a major part of healing. But one part has been coming back to me the last few weeks…. Gratitude.
It is coming up on five years since I started a regular (that has now become daily) practice of gratitude. Each day ends with me sharing gratitudes for the day in my DayOne app journal (I cannot recommend the app highly enough). This practice I believe has truly rewired how I see and experience the world in the sense that I cannot go through a day without taking time to be aware of gratitude, beauty, wonder, hope, joy, love, etc in the world. That doesn’t mean I ignore or deny the other sides of those things but recognize how they can (and do) live alongside one another. In fact, my daily reflections are called “Ache and Awe” right now because I reflect on both each night.
In a small group I facilitate at my congregation, we are reading Diana Butler Bass’ book, Gratitude: The Subversive Practice of Giving Thanks. In the most recent chapter, she reflected on how gratitude fits into the daily routines of “The hours” in a monastic setting and I shared in the group last Tuesday about how I was going to start playing with that idea and trying to make times throughout the day to reflect rather than just the end of the day. She started the chapter by reflecting on her friendship with Phyllis Tickle (the brilliant spiritual writer who passed away in 2015) who had a practice of “praying four times each day a set of traditional Christian prayers of praise and thanksgiving.” She continued: “Phyllis knew that the long story of our lives is made up of precious hours and days, and paying attention to the daily cycle of time is keenly important in shaping a life of gratitude.” (Bass, Diana Butler. Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks (p. 72). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.)
So the last few days, I have alarms set throughout the day on my watch to remind me to take a few moments for gratitude. It is during my exercise in the morning, then again at 9, 12, 3, and then my normal time when I go to bed. I don’t share this as a “Wow, look how awesome I am” but as an ask for accountability to continue this practice regularly but also as an encouragement for others to join in the practice. Gratitude changed (and continues to change) my life and I truly believe it can change the world. It is not a surprise that Psalms of gratitude are just as prevalent in the songs of the Bible as are Psalms of lament.
Here was a glimpse for which I gave thanks from my walk with Scout this morning