Remembering Gratitude in the Final Weeks of Summer
While summer technically lasts well through September according to our calendars, mentally the end of August seems to signify the end of the season. In reason conversations I have been hearing, and saying, how fast this season in particular seems to pass especially in the northeast. Sometimes it is in jovial reflection of the fun had, sometimes in stress as outdoor tasks are deemed incomplete, and sometimes in a question of desperation – why does summer have to be over so quickly?
Harvard Health defines gratitude as “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible”. While there are variations of the definition depending on the source, most can be read as the choice to recognize the good in our lives. To that measure, let’s bring attention to the operative word here: “choice”. It is empowering that we have the choice to recognize the good in our lives, yet amidst transitions and loss, even if just that of a season, it can be hard to remember the option. In reading this post, give yourself the luxury of taking a moment for gratitude:
To begin, find a quiet place where you know you will not be disturbed.
Take three slow, deep breaths to bring yourself to the present moment and begin the process of feeling more peaceful and centered. If you notice any thoughts or emotions, allow them to flow out as you breathe out. Allow yourself additional breaths if needed to calm your mind. Acknowledge that if you are in this moment, you have marvelous gifts. The gift of life itself, including your heart that beats and gives life to your body, the food that nourishes you, sound of your own breath flowing in and flowing out, and the energy that you are.
Think about all the things we have today that make our lives more comfortable compared to our great-grandparents’ generation:
- We flip a switch, and light appears. We turn a tap and clean water flows.
- Thermostats warm and cool rooms without the gathering of wood or ice.
- We have access to machines that wash our clothes. The ability to purchase rather than make our clothes.
- We have connectivity to those we love around the world through telephones and internet
- We have public schools that can teach us to read and write, skills that were available to only the very few just a few hundred years ago.
Now, take a moment to reflect on all the thousands of people who have worked hard, most without knowing you at all, to make your life easier or more pleasant:
- Those who plant, grow, and harvest your food. Those who transport that food to market.
- Those who take the time to design the store, the shelves, the packaging that keeps the food safe and accessible.
- Those who maintain the servers and networks that allow the internet to be available to you anywhere and anytime.
- Those who gather stories, research, and photos, and those who create the many mechanisms by which the events of the world can reach you.
- All those who play sports, create art, music, and films to entertain and uplift you.
Looking in at your own circles, mentally acknowledge the people and pets you know who enrich your life – those who smile at you and cheer you on. Consider the family, acquaintances, colleagues, and ancestors who worked hard so you could live well. Consider the friends who support you when you need a shoulder or a hand.
Now, take a moment to reflect on your own reasons for feeling grateful in this very moment. Choose one memory you are grateful for. One current life situation you are grateful for. And one future possibility you are grateful for.
Rest quietly for several minutes, noticing how you feel throughout your body, emotions, and thoughts compared with before you started. No judging, just noticing. Be appreciative of this moment by taking three concluding slow, deep breaths.
There is so much to feel grateful for in this moment. Allow this easy fact to uplift your spirit and rejuvenate your energy. Remember that gratitude doesn’t have to be reserved for dramatic life changing circumstances, it can be simple appreciation for the often-overlooked miracles of the day-to-day. Save this guided practice to use anytime you find yourself longing for what has not yet been lost, like the final days of summer. You deserve this act of self-kindness.