If there’s any trait defining our family, it’s our love for home. We love nights in, projects in the yard, game nights around the table, hiking and cookouts and skiing in the canyon by our house. Several times a year, we plan trips to Southern Utah or elsewhere and 9 times out of 10– no make that 98 times out of 100– we cancel and stay home. It’s just so nice to sleep in our own beds, have time to explore our canyons, save the money from hotels and get take out from Cafe Rio instead (this trait has served us well during the pandemic).
So last summer, when it felt like our home was collapsing around us, I panicked a bit. In just one week, our dishwasher, dryer, oven, faucet and BOTH our family cars (15 and 17 years old) broke down. It was unsettling. We walked around saying, “What next?” (a tuition disaster, a failed business, paint spilled all over the basement carpet…)
Thankfully, I’d created a habit earlier in the year of silently listing the things I’m grateful for as I went to sleep. It’s science and religion. I don’t remember where I read it (here’s a good article), but focusing on gratitude helps you sleep and creates neural pathways in your brain to see the world with more positivity. And really, pondering all your blessings is just a prayer. I love this scripture, “Behold, my beloved brethren, remember the words of your God; pray unto him continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts rejoice.” 2 Nephi 9:52.
Too often, we talk about gratitude like it’s something on our to-do list, “You NEED to write a thank you note.” “Ugh, they are so ungrateful.” “You SHOULD keep a gratitude journal.”
Really, we should talk about gratitude as a gift to ourselves. As heavenly (and scientific) advice on how to feel happier, navigate problems and feel more peace.
As I went to bed at night after the oven, faucet and dishwasher broke, I couldn’t help but wonder what would fall apart the next day. Still, I started listing everything in our kitchen that was working: the refrigerator, the toaster, the stove, our blender, the lights, my beloved green broom, the sturdy walls and ceiling and windows and just around the corner– the bathroom with a toilet that flushes and a sink with warm water. My mind traveled through our lovely, comfortable home with all the luxuries and comforts of life. The broken things faded as I realized how much was truly working for our good.
All this happened in the week before Xander came home, so his homecoming dinner (back when we did those crazy group things) consisted of cereal and milk. Everyone loved it. I had so much time to talk and connect with people rather than racing around the kitchen. The broken things were truly a blessing.
Sometime last year, I wrote these words on a sticky note: God is always blessing me. Every day, I read those words out loud and they’ve changed my life. Of course God is always blessing me, He’s always blessing each one of his children, but I’ve had many days where I’ve been blind to all the good around me.
And this year, (oh such a year!), we need to focus on what’s still working, what is good and right and kind and beautiful.
It’s easy to overcomplicate gratitude; it blesses our life most when it’s as simple as breathing. In addition to counting your blessings as you go to sleep, try just noticing the good throughout the day. Savor the light streaming in through the window, the toddler waddling down the street all bundled up in snow clothes, the smell of bread baking in the oven, the sound of a child singing in the next room. And then soak it in– savor the good for just one more breath, one more heartbeat, one more tick on the kitchen clock.
This calms your mind and teaches your brain to constantly search for the good. Neither of these take any time out of your day at all. If you truly want to increase your peace of mind, take a notebook and write down one good thing from the day. You don’t need to write a list (don’t make it hard!) just one moment that went right.
In our church, there’s a beloved story from our kindly leader, Elder Henry Eyring, about his notebooks where every day for decades he wrote down how he saw the hand of God in his life. The most important part of this story wasn’t what he wrote down, but WHO Elder Eyring became. What if he’d written down what went wrong that day, how he was mistreated and misunderstood and cheated? He would have become bitter, angry and frustrated with life.
I want to become more gracious and kind. I want to recognize the hand of God; not stumble around blindly ignoring my blessings.
God doesn’t need our gratitude, honestly your grandma doesn’t need that thank you note, but we need gratitude to grow into the people we want to become.