What Are Gratitude Adventures?

“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is.”  Mandy Hale

As a therapist, I talk to people almost everyday about finding gratitude in what they do have or what they can create.  I challenge people to follow a mindful path and to intentionally live in a present moment awareness. I encourage mindful meditation and gratitude journaling.   In my personal life, I noticed a pattern in which I was walking down a path of thoughts about what my life is lacking.  It is an easy place for most of us to go.  How did my life end up here?  My life wasn’t supposed to look this way?  I wish things were different for me?  This life is too hard.  It’s never going to change!  I know these negative, sad, and worry driven thoughts can spin out of control and take us to a dangerous and unhealthy place in our minds and hearts.  They lead to an uncomfortable and overwhelming state that can feel exhausting.

“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” William Faulkner

I woke up one morning very recently and was enjoying my coffee.  I was sitting in my yard.  I was listening to birds sing.  The temperature was pleasant.  The sun was shining.   I wrote in my gratitude journal as I do most mornings.  I meditated. I found my peace and stillness. In some ways it felt routine.  Maybe that is why my mind wandered.   I started down that dangerous path. I began thinking about how I thought my life was supposed to look like.  I was thinking about what I don’t have, what I am missing, and what I want.   Before I knew it, I went from a calm, still, and grateful mind to feeling overwhelmed by emptiness, longing for something that I don’t have, and a deep sadness in the pit of my stomach.  

As the tears began to fall, I put one hand on my heart and the other hand over my stomach.  I felt the anxiety and sadness in my body.  I tuned into my sensations. I felt the tightness in my stomach.  I noticed the heavy heartbeat in my chest.  How did this happen to me?   Minutes ago I felt peace, calmness, and gratitude.  I knew that I did not like how I was feeling and did not want to stay stuck on this path.  

So what did I do?  I heard my own words echoing in my mind.  The words that I share with my clients each day.  Mindfulness.  Gratitude.   I turned to my breath, accepted my emotional pain, and offered myself compassion.  I opened my gratitude journal and wrote about what I do have in my life.  I asked myself an important question.  What can I recognize that I do have vs. feeling sad about what’s missing for me.  I wrote a list of many things.  I thought about what I have gained over this past year.  I asked myself what has improved in my life?  What have I smiled about recently.  What can I create for me?   I noticed something fascinating.  Just as I discuss in therapy sessions each week, as my thoughts transitioned from what I’m missing in my life to what I do have in my life.  My thoughts changed in a wonderfully positive direction and  my energy grew in peaceful direction.  I felt more calm and joyful.  I began acknowledging and recognizing what I do have and what I can create.  I found my gratitude in those moments. 

Then I asked myself an important question.  How can I work to intentionally take myself on a journey to of appreciation, gratitude, and peace?  Where do I connect more freely to this space of gratitude?  What will help me to nurture myself and give myself the gift of gratitude?  Where to I naturally feel more gratitude and peace?  The answer came quickly to me.  Nature.  Travel.  Exploring.  Adventures.  

In that moment,   I decided that I want to go on gratitude adventures. I want to find new places, explore them, and feel the gratitude within me grow. I want to practice acknowledging, recognizing, and internalizing all that my life can bring to me.  I want to photograph them so that I can return to the adventure whenever I choose.  I want to write about my thoughts and feelings while experiencing this adventure.  Most importantly, I want to share  these gratitude adventures with you.  

I invite you to join me on this journey of gratitude adventures.  When you join me, I will share with you my experiences, my thoughts, and my quest for treating myself to an adventure full of gratitude.  I hope that I can inspire you to create your own gratitude adventures or to visit some of places I plan to share with you.

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” Zig Ziglar