Words of Wellness: Gratitude, kindness and saving your soul

When this column comes out we’ll be two weeks away from Thanksgiving. A holiday with both light and shadow in the United States, given our history – a past that is what it is. We can, however, as enlightened beings, make better of our present and thus our recent past as we go forward. Whether overcoming wrongs that were done to us personally or collectively or that we have done to others, gratitude saves us from total despair and hopelessness.

Where can we find gratitude on a bad day? It is an inside job, and making a gratitude list for yourself that you keep up regularly will help you access yet more gratitude.

Here’s a favorite poem. You can also look on line re: gratitude for whatever might be more inspiring and activating for you.

Prayer for the Great Family
By Gary Snyder, after a Mohawk Prayer.

Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day—
and to her soil: rich, rare and sweet
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing, light-changing leaf
and fine root-hairs; standing still through wind
and rain; their dance is in the flowering spiral grain
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and silent
Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
clear spirit breeze
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
freedoms, and ways; who share with us their milk;
self-complete, brave and aware
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
holding or releasing; streaming through all
our bodies salty seas
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through
trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
bears and snakes sleep— he who wakes us—
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Great Sky
who holds billions of stars— and goes yet beyond that—
beyond all powers, and thoughts
and yet is within us—
Grandfather Space.
The Mind is his Wife.
so be it.

Expressing gratitude as an action of kindness whether extended to those we owe repair or to strangers does goodness to all involved, including the person doing it, especially if it is done anonymously.

When feeling lousy, it can be very hard to maintain consistent self-care for ourselves but so often we can still rally to give selflessly to others. You know from previous columns that I’m a strong advocate of healthy selfishness because it allows us to love better and give more of ourselves. Loving well is a skill that develops naturally as a result of nurturing. Most of us got at least “good enough” nurturing to be able to love and nurture others but some of us didn’t or may because of losses have that sense of “no one is there to love or care for me”. This is a hard place to be, especially as the holi-days approach with all of their family/loving others cultural norms.

While we may not be receiving, when we act to nurture and love others we at least exercise our ability to have love in our lives, till those new trusting and caring relationships are built and are protected from the self-poisoning of bitterness and hardheartedness.

The random acts of kindness lists are a great resource for coming up with simple, meaningful gifts from the self that often cost nothing, take minimal time and give you a positive thing that happened in your life that day.

There are lots of idea lists on-line. Enjoy this stealth campaign in your secret life throughout the year and see what a gift it will be to you especially. Capitalize on this practical means of authentically improving self-worth, self-esteem and on the good will it generates in the world.  And remember to include yourself as receiver when opportunities arrive. Receive with gratitude.

Do be thoughtful about boundaries and invasiveness when doing acts of kindness and all will be well. On your worst, darkest, most difficult days – make yourself note some gratitude and then do some act of kindness – even if it is only to express a good thought on behalf of someone else.

Here are some ideas for practicing random acts of kindness in your daily life.

Post compliments on JSC Compliments Facebook Page every day or at least once a week, and also: I see they need a volunteer page manager.

Hang out with the person who just moved to town.

Each time you get a new piece of clothing, donate an old one.

Email or write an old teacher who made a difference in your life.

Let someone into your lane. They’re probably in a rush just like you.

Talk to the shy person who’s sitting by themselves at a party.

Become a big brother or big sister.

Let the person behind you at the supermarket checkout with one or two items go ahead of you.

Write someone a letter. Like a real letter, on paper. And mail it!

Give away stuff for free on Craigslist.

Make a “breakup playlist” on Spotify for your friend who’s going through heartbreak.

Be the person who puts a tip in the tip jar at the coffee shop, could even be a Hershey’s kiss, or post-it compliment for great service, etc…

When you go somewhere to get or do something, ask the people around you if you can pick up anything they need.

If you spill creamer or sugar on the counter at the Café or coffee shop, wipe it up.

Call your grandparents or Mom, Dad, Sibling just to say how much you appreciate them.

Donate your old eyeglasses so someone else can use them.

Put sticky notes with positive slogans on the mirrors in restrooms.

Relay an overheard compliment.

Volunteer to read to kids at an after-school program.

Support Make A Wish requests for FB likes or volunteer to visit very sick kids at the Pediatric wards.

Bring your partner coffee in bed tomorrow.

Try to make sure every person in a group conversation feels included.

Donate or recycle your old laptop and electronics.

Write a nice comment on your friend’s blog.

Play board games with senior citizens at a nursing home. Sixty percent of them will never have a visitor during their stay.

Listen intently to someone.

Invite a friend to help you make a healthy choice: going to the gym, for a walk, meditating, making art, crafting, playing music, studying.

Compliment someone in front of others.

Leave some extra quarters in the laundry room.

Write your partner a list of things you love about them or leave them a random compliment/thank you note or card.

Say thank you for everything anyone does for you.

Talk to someone in class or the dining hall you haven’t talked to before.

Frame your friend’s favorite lyric or quote and give it to them with a nice note.

Help your elderly neighbor take out the trash or mow their lawn.

Plant a tree.

Volunteer at an animal shelter.

If you’re a good photographer, take photos of your friends and make them into a digital album.

Buy lemonade from a kid’s lemonade stand.

Do the dishes even if it’s your roommate’s turn.

While you’re out, compliment a parent on how well-behaved their child is.

Make plans with that person you’ve been putting off seeing.

Every night before you go to bed, think of three things you’re grateful for.