I will start out by saying that I do not identify as Catholic. My grandparents were Catholic. My dad was raised Catholic. I attended a Catholic church until I was about 10 years old and have attended some Catholic masses on a semi-regular basis this year. But, I am not Catholic. I don’t even know if  I would consider myself religious. Spiritual? Yes. Faithful? Yes. But, religious? I’m not sure…

This post, however, isn’t so much about religion or Catholicism as it is about gratitude and how I got to this point.

While living in Wilmington, North Carolina in 2012, I was flipping through radio stations in my car and stopped on a talk-radio type of station. On this particular station was a man with an Australian accent giving some sort of motivational speech. Having tuned in part way through the broadcast, I did not know who I was listening to or what he was talking about…but I kept listening simply because I enjoyed the sound of his voice. It was during one of the commercials that I learned I was tuned in to the Catholic radio station. When I got home from whatever errands I was running that day, I looked up the man on the other end of the radio. It was Matthew Kelly and I had been listening to him talk about becoming the best version of yourself.  I enjoyed the portion of the radio broadcast that I had heard so much that I sought out the beginning of the broadcast. From there, I kept searching. I found the books that Matthew Kelly has written (I bought and read The Rhythm of Life) and then I found his organization, Dynamic Catholic (and signed up for the monthly email newsletters). One could say I was the newest member of Matthew Kelly’s fan club. Aussie accents for the win. 😉

Anyway, fast forward to now. I still receive the Dynamic Catholic newsletters and even read them occassionally. The newsletter for October included Father Bob Sherry’s Spiritual Reflection. The first sentence stopped me in my tracks:

It shook me at first when I was asked, “What would you have if, when you woke up today, all you had is what you were grateful for yesterday?”

Think about that for just a second. “What would you have if, when you woke up today, all you had is what you were grateful for yesterday?” Whoa.

If you’re anything like me, you are busy. Life is full of work and family and errands and chores and noise. It is easy to get swept up in just making it through the day without realizing all we have to be thankful for. That one line from Father Sherry’s column weighed on my mind. For days. So, I have been trying to incorporate a new practice in my day. For the last week couple weeks, before going to bed, I have reflected on my day. By taking the time to reflect and pay attention to the details of my day, I realized I had many, many things for which I am thankful. (Not that I had any doubts about how much I have to be thankful for before reading Father Sherry’s message…I’m just focusing on the good a bit more now.) Doing so also made me slow down a bit. And slowing down has left me feeling more present in my life, enjoying various moments throughout my day that I would have otherwise sped through and remembered as a blur. I still have my moments of just making it through the day, to be sure, but I feel like I am making it through the day a little less burdened by stress.

Whether it is from counting my blessings at the end of the day or slowing down to focus on the present moment rather than the next, taking the time to be grateful has improved my overall levels of happiness and stress. To help me stay focused on the good, especially when the media seems to shed so much light on all the bad, I started sharing a #dailygratitude reflection on Twitter. My hope is that when I’m feeling down or burdened by life, looking back at my list of things I am grateful for will lift me up.

And, now that the season of Thanks is upon us, this seems like a particularly timely exercise. What do you do to help combat the stresses of everyday life? Do you keep a gratitude journal or log of any kind?

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