A Personal Gratitude Challenge

by Erin Faulkner, Family Peer Supporter

November 7, 2023

So many of my coworkers speak and write from the heart.  They bring their authenticity and spirituality into their words.  It is fascinating to me and has caused me, in the past, to put myself down, since it doesn’t seem to come as naturally to me.  My go-to has always been to use the internet, to see what other people have said, what the research says.  Now as I think about the topic of “gratitude”, I realize that that my way of sharing information is still good.  It’s different, but no less valid or meaningful. 

As I typically do when writing on a topic, I looked for definitions and synonyms to make sure that my readers and I are on the same page. Gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”.  I like those words:  thankful, appreciation, kindness.  I think it is easy to say thank you, but more powerful to show appreciation and kindness.  It is similar to how saying sorry is just a word, but an apology says why and how you will make it better.  It carries more weight. 

With that idea in mind, and in thinking about the Facebook Gratitude Challenges that always surface in November, I decided to look for some Challenges that I would want to do and share.  I found a great blog that shared a more extensive definition of gratitude as well as some positive health benefits for showing gratitude.

This blog defines gratitude as “the feeling and expression of the awareness of blessings that one has in the form of qualities, lessons, people, achievements, possessions, support, privileges, experiences, and gifts. Gratitude is often related to humility, generosity, and mindfulness.” 

As Peer Supporters we often talk about the importance of self-care.  Having positive health benefits would clearly fit within that construct.  What can being grateful do for you?

  1. Allow you to feel more positive emotions
  2. Help you build healthier relationships
  3. Allow you to feel happier
  4. Increase your self-esteem
  5. Increase your optimism
  6. Reduce materialism
  7. Reduce depressive symptoms
  8. Improve your sleep
  9. Helps in substance abuse recovery

How many of the 8 Domains of Wellness are impacted with just these 9 health benefits?  I see Emotional, Financial, Physical, Social, and Environmental, all of which can directly or indirectly impact Spiritual, Occupational and Intellectual.  How powerful is that!

There are many Gratitude Challenges that you can find on the internet.  I have chosen the one from the blog mentioned above.  I am sharing some of the prompts that impacted me the mostas well as my words of gratitude.

  • An activity you enjoy doing
    • Some of my fondest memories growing up include playing games with my mother and sister and laughing so hard we’d fall out of our chairs. It is an activity I participate in as often as I can.  Anytime I am with a group of friends or family that likes to play cards or games, I am all in.  Pinochle has been a bonding activity with my dad whenever I get to see him and something I enjoyed with my late father-in-law.  Playing Pinochle with a group of 11 other ladies is one thing that I do for myself once a month.  I am so appreciative of this pastime.
  • Someone you love
    • My favorite person in the world is my daughter. She is now 21 years old.  She has grown from a person that I protected and who I supported and comforted into a friend who I still protect and comfort, but who also supports and comforts me.  I am eternally grateful that God chose me to be her Mom.
  • A recent photo in your gallery
    • A month ago, my younger sister had her first baby. She was born to a woman who has struggled in her own recovery but has taken on this role of mother as the most important job in her life.  Amari is a miracle because she is thriving having been born at only 29 weeks and just 2 lbs.  She is also a miracle because she may have saved her mother’s life.  I am blessed to have them both in my life.
  • Someone who helped you
    • My confidence in myself had never been very high. But after I was working as a Family Support Specialist for a few years, I was approached to get an autism endorsement and eventually my certification as a behavior analyst.  My supervisor always supported me and encouraged me and helped me to build my confidence.  I am forever thankful that she was part of my life.
  • Something you like in nature
    • I love mountains! There is something about being in them or even just looking at pictures of them.  They are majestic and beautiful.  Maybe it’s a spirituality thing.  I can’t explain it, but they bring me to a good place. 
  • A comfort you enjoy
    • Five days a week, I have a 25 minute drive to and from work. That time is mine.  Some days I may call family members, some I may just think, but often I listen to music.  I have different playlists for whatever mood I may be in that day or for whatever I may need.  Music can boost us up and lyrics can often be just what we need to hear in a moment of trial.  As I write this, an instrumental plays in the my ears filling me with sounds of nostalgia. 
  • Your best friend
    • Throughout my life friends have come and gone. I have a hard time making lasting connections and good friendships.  But 13 years ago at my 20 year high school reunion, I reconnected with a classmate.  Over the years, we developed a close friendship that has become so important to me.  We don’t see other often or even talk, but every month or two we get together and share our lives with each other.  We support each other and love each other.  With her, I feel heard and understood.  She is my peer support. 
  • A movie/series/book
    • I love watching tv shows and movies and have enjoyed many, but nothing has hit me in the heart like Schitt’s Creek. During it’s time on the air and still today, it is a comfort to me.  It makes me laugh, yes, but mostly it just makes me feel good.  I love that journey for me. 
  • Something you use every day
    • I have a moderate-severe hearing loss due to my connective tissue disorder. I have worn hearing aids since I was 4 years old.  I wear them everyday.  I do take breaks from them, which is a nice advantage.  There are days that I wish that I could hear better, mostly when I am at a conference or large meeting, but nowadays hearing aids have Bluetooth, so I have built-in “Air Pods” and can stream my tv shows directly to my hearing aids and hear everything perfectly while silencing out other noises.  I can talk on the phone with ease.  I am so lucky to live in a time that allows me these advantages.

Like many people in recovery, with special healthcare needs or who are parents, loved ones or caregivers of those with personal struggles, I have experienced many things that have made life difficult.  I have experienced loneliness, emotional pain, physical pain, fear and so on.  This activity has allowed me to focus on the things in my life that I am thankful for that far outnumber those things that are difficult.  In reality, I appreciate some things more because of those hardships. 

“I am thankful for my struggles because without it I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.” – Anonymous

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.  And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


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