Make Space for Gratitude

Taking a fall hike is a great way to find inspiration and gratitude.

By Bonnie Hurst

Senior Project Leader, Performance Analytics

Methodist Health System

I’ve always been fascinated with space. It is both terrifying and beautiful to consider that beyond the complex web of diversity that makes up our own world is a universe so vast and untapped that the potential discoveries are literally innumerable. Nothing generates a sacred feeling of awe like the realization that of all the atoms in the universe, mine have coalesced into me, and I now have the absolute privilege of experiencing what this has to offer.

I’ve thought about space a lot this year — a year that’s easy to dismiss and hate and put in the rearview mirror. We’re all grieving the loss of something this year, be it a loved one, financial stability, ease or innocence, personal health, or a myriad of other things I couldn’t possibly begin to imagine. But even with the world seemingly chipping away around our feet, among the uncountable atoms that make up our universe, we have found ourselves in this miraculous place of existence.

Be grateful for existence

It is in this idea of existence that I find gratitude. For all the things that I have lost, suffered, or squandered, I have gained immeasurably more. I’ve never won the lottery, but I don’t have lactose intolerance and can eat cheese to my heart’s content. I don’t own a house, but I live in a country and culture where there’s opportunity to fulfill my aspirations. I’ll never get more than a few likes on a social media post, but the friends I have are genuine and care for me more than the number of followers I have. You will always have things that others do not, and others will have things you wish you had.

Be grateful when life is hard

Gratitude is especially powerful when things are difficult because it focuses on the things that you do have rather than on those you do not. In my own life, I’ve had to remind myself of this important shift in perspective. I wish my father had been able to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day; instead, I was married beside a hospital bed. However, I’m grateful that my father was able to give me away at all — there are many who do not get even that. Still others dream of nothing more than to be in a healthy and loving relationship. Awe and gratitude are two sides of the same coin; inspiring one often nurtures the other. The perspective gained from cultivating gratitude and awe in your life can not only change how you live your life but also how you interact with others. And don’t we all need a little grace right now?

Find gratitude in the stars

So as we approach this holiday season, where everything is different and your brain may be frazzled, your heart tender, and your body weary, I encourage you to think about space. The iron in your veins was forged in the belly of a star — you are quite literally, as Carl Sagan put it, “made of star stuff,” and you have the opportunity to explore this life with all the ups and downs it brings. It’s easy to be thankful when things are going your way, but developing a practice of cultivating awe and gratitude will carry you through even the most difficult of times.

Ways to inspire awe and gratitude

  • Keep a gratitude journal (or use an app).
  • Watch a nature documentary.
  • Go on a hike, or sit somewhere quiet in nature.
  • Try to see some of the challenges in your life from a different perspective.
  • Volunteer, or find a way to give back to others.
  • Tell your loved ones how much they mean to you.
  • Talk to your children about what fascinates them — a child’s curiosity can spark your own.
  • Take an “awe walk” — a stroll that could create awe, on a trail, in a museum, near water, etc., and focus on what inspires you. Leave your phone behind.
  • Expand your understanding of the world by learning something new.
  • Go stargazing.
  • Immerse yourself in the backstory of a classical piece of art, music, or literature.
  • Change the words you use. Try to use positive and thankful language, especially when you’re struggling.

If you’re looking for an organization that is committed to helping you nurture awe and gratitude, look to Methodist Health System. Visit Jobs.MethodistHealthSystem.org. 

© Methodist Health System

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