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Why You’re Not Using Gratitude Enough

You’ve heard the platitudes about being grateful and expressing gratitude, but you’re still not convinced that gratitude matters all that much. Chances are, you’re not using gratitude as much as you could.

I’m here to prove to you how gratitude changes everything.

An injury

This past fall, I walked part of the Camino de Santiago with my friend Heather Waring of London. It was a trip I’d planned and trained for over eighteen months. It just didn’t go as I had planned.

On the first day from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles, we trekked in ninety-six-degree heat. There was little shade for our climb up and up and up. My feet swelled enough to create what we hikers call “hot spots,” areas that, if not treated, would likely turn into blisters. Thankfully, I had blister plasters, which I used to cover those spots. We trekked nearly nineteen miles that day up and over the Pyrenees.

The second day was just as hot and nearly as long a hike. Over the course of the day, those hot spots grew into bona fide blisters, with the one on my right heel proving to be the worst. About four miles from our destination, we encountered a steep descent on loose shale outcroppings. The footing proved treacherous and slow-going.

It was midway down the shale that I felt the blister on my right foot pop. Knowing if I took my shoe off, I’d never get it back on, I opted to keep walking (really, there was no other choice). On a scale of one-to-ten, the pain ratcheted up to a twelve. Each footstep was agony.

Changing my focus

Realizing I had a choice to focus on the pain, which only amplified it, or focus on gratitude, I opted for the latter. I repeated this mantra, “Thank you toes for holding me upright. Thank you feet for taking me all over the world. Thank you, legs. Thank you, knees. Thank you, lungs. Thank you, heart.” After a few rounds, I added, “Thank you blisters for giving me the information I need to be successful.”

That’s when I realized I felt no pain. None. Zero. Zilch. As soon this realization dawned on me, I immediately became aware again of the sharp, cutting pain in my heel.

“Wow!” I thought. “When I don’t focus on my wound, but instead thank my body for its miraculous work, I felt no pain.” You can imagine that I immediately returned to my mantra, which helped me descend pain-free into Zubiri, Spain. (I lost my heel that night and my feet swelled so badly that I lost four days on the trail.)

Science-based gratitude

Turns out, there’s a scientific reason for this switch from intense pain to painless, and it has to do with neurotransmitters. While focused on gratitude, my body released the feel-good chemical called endorphins, which overrode the pain-focused chemicals of serotonin and dopamine.

Talk about a transformative experience! Gratitude not only feels great, but it also changes the chemical composition in my body, so my sense of well-being and joy are heightened. I don’t know about you, but I’m leaning into this knowledge!

I’m curious about your experience with gratitude over physical or emotional pain. Comment below and share your insights.

If you’d like to further explore how pain can keep us stuck, check out my Journey Program, which is transforming lives!

Reflections on the past year

Susie McShea, Anne Lamott, and me. October 2018, Strathmore Music Hall.

This past weekend, I celebrated a birthday. That’s why this post was delayed—I wanted time to reflect on the past year and feel what I want to bring into the upcoming year. Plus, there was celebrating to be done!

It’s fun to stop and look in one’s rearview mirror, and I find birthdays the perfect time to do that. Day to day not much seems to happen or change; however, when one glances over one’s shoulder, a beautiful tapestry unfurls in our wake. Turns out that was especially true for my last year.

Professional highlights

Here are some of my professional highlights from the past year:

  • Became a two-time international bestselling co-author. The books are called My Camino Walk #2 and SHINE! Back in January, I’d stated that I wanted to be published in 2018. At that time, I didn’t know how I’d make it happen (and honestly thought it would be my memoir I’d publish first).
  • Had a poem (don’t faint) published in Stanford University’s 166 Palms literary journal. Talk about stepping into the limelight and illuminating the pervasiveness of domestic abuse.
  • Helped over a dozen entrepreneurs design their client-attractive blogs and create a blog post plan for their entire year.
  • Increased my visibility by being a guest on several podcasts. It’s such a wonderful thing to have a great conversation with interesting and influential people.
  • Designed my first online training course called Journey, which launches next week! I’m excited to serve my inspirational tribe by helping them uncover and integrate their stories into their marketing and beyond!

Personal highlights

I stretched myself personally this year, too.

  • Walked* two additional segments of the Camino (*seven out of eleven planned days anyway), steeping myself in the magical power of the path and ancient cities, towns, and cathedrals.
  • Spent two weeks in London with friends, and walked over 80 miles in London, getting to know the city of my heart and deepening relationships that I value.
  • Celebrated my youngest son’s high school graduation and launch to college (and am slowly adjusting to life as an empty nester).
  • Dipped my toe back into the dating pool and had some really nice dates, none of whom ticked off all the things on my MANifesto. It was my way of letting the Universe know I’m ready to welcome the love of my life. I trust that when the time is right, we’ll recognize each other.

What I’m learning is that I can bring about anything I’m completely clear that I want. Now is the time to turn up the volume and do more of those things which bring me joy and fulfillment and make a positive impact on our world. It’s time to feel my way into another wonderful year.

My next turn around the sun

Last night, I had the privilege of hearing Eve Ensler and Anne Lamott speak at the gorgeous Strathmore Music Hall in Bethesda, MD. (Thank you to my fellow writer and dear friend Susie McShea for this amazing gift!) They were funny, raw, honest, and inspirational. What I took away from the evening were two things:

  1. Keep hope alive for it is in having hope that miracles arrive.
  2. I belong on a stage like that, sharing my experiences.

There. I’ve said it.

My friend and mentor, Frea O’Brien, told me last fall that my purpose in life is to be a global changemaker. She specifically mentioned speaking and publishing. I wasn’t ready emotionally for what I perceived as tremendous pressure to perform. (My nasty ego kept saying, “Who the hell would want to hear what you have to say?”) While I had a longterm goal to be a TEDTalk speaker, I still had internal work to do before I could share my story from a healed space.

So I sat with Frea’s words all year and focused on continued healing. Last night, as I listened to Eve and Anne, I could finally see myself on a stage, sharing my story, knowing that someone in the audience needed to know that they were going to be okay. I can do this.

This year, I’m committed to showing up in a bigger way, to take up more space, and to do it in my own quiet way. I’m ready to create a full-scale vision of how I want not only this year to be but my life for the next several years. And the beauty of where I am means that everything is in play!

Gratitude

Let me close this long blog post by expressing my deep gratitude for all the birthday wishes, flower, and gifts I had lavished upon me. It felt so yummy to bathe in all the love sent my way. It was a beautiful start to this next year of up-leveling! I’m full of joyful expectation for an amazing year and hope you’ll join me on the journey.