You are here

How Gratitude Healed My Life

October 25, 2013
Dr. Marcia Hootman

More than 30 years ago, I began a spiritual journey. I didn't wake up one morning and say to myself, "Marcia, this would be a great day to start reading some positive words." Instead, I waited until the pain of living my usual way overpowered the resistance to change. My marriage was falling apart, my health was suffering and my adolescent son, Marc, began to pull away. Following the advice of a good friend, I read everything I could about spirituality, listened to audio books, attended dozens of workshops and started meditating -- on and off.

Every writer suggested that holding resentment was unhealthy and unfulfilling. I thought about my early years and realized I was hanging onto resentment about the way I was raised. There was never any physical abuse, but my home didn't feel warm and fuzzy either. Of course, I blamed my mother for failings I had as an adult, since she was mostly an absentee mom, and a critical one at that. Then I started asking myself if I was given any lasting gifts from her.

She was a single, working mother who taught me so much. Because my brother and I never lacked for anything material, I grew up assuming that abundance natural. Mom always had a job, which in those days was rare for a woman, so I learned that if I chose to or had to, I could support myself. And early on, we were instilled with the love of music and the arts. Once I discovered the gifts, I made a firm decision to trade resentment for gratitude. All the steps weren't clear, but the initial one for me was to start a gratitude list.

On day one, nothing much changed for me. In fact, I was hard pressed to write down 10 reasons I was grateful. But by the end of the first week, things were looking up. Upon awakening, I felt just a teeny bit lighter and happier. I thought it was my imagination. The second week in my practice of gratitude, my daily lists grew. I realized I was grateful for living in a warm, safe home. I began being grateful for my health, for my friends, even for the birds that were singing outside my bedroom window. By the end of the third week, it was as if any dreariness of my life started to clear and the sun popped out. Then I realized the miracle. Nothing outside of me changed -- it was all an inside job.

We were still heading for divorce, but I felt grateful that we produced a son, who miraculously began acting more loving towards me. And I was grateful that my mom taught me that I could be independent. My energy level started to rise as I realized that all the energy I had been wasting on resentment was being given back to me.

Today, I wouldn't trade my life with anyone. I wake up grateful just for waking up from a great sleep. To let you know how important gratitude is to me, my new license plates spell GRATFL. Don't take my word for it. Try practicing gratitude even for a few weeks and watch what happens.