Is Your Gratitude in Motion?

Are you someone that dwells on what is missing or went wrong in your life? Do you whine and complain about your problems? Do you believe that you’ve been dealt a bad hand? Or, are you someone who sees the beauty in every situation, counts your blessings, and has decided that you will live your life in gratitude?

Gratitude is defined as a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation. To be grateful is a mindset, a conscious decision that we make.

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with an extraordinary woman, Colleen Alexander, who exemplifies the power of the human spirit and the ability to find the good in any circumstance.

In 2011 while bicycling home from work, Colleen was run over and dragged by a freight truck. The accident left her body ripped apart and shattered into pieces as she clung to life. Her survival would be a miracle; she flat lined multiple times as EMTs, doctors, surgeons, and nurses worked ferociously to save her.

After five weeks in a coma, Colleen survived. The doctors did not know what her prognosis would be. She had lost more than 50 percent of her skin and there was a chance she would never walk again. What they did know was that there would be many surgeries in her future.

Colleen’s recovery was long and arduous. She told me that the pain made it difficult to know how to exist and that there were many times when she wanted to give up.

But, after spending time contemplating her situation, she decided that she wasn’t going to let the trauma and PTSD control her life. She was going to find a way to make something positive come from her pain.

According to Colleen, her turning point came when she began to shift the focus from what she was going through to all of the love and care she was shown. She thought about the countless people who gave so much of themselves to save her: the blood donors, medical professionals, friends and family. She realized that she is part of something far bigger than the horrific incident that changed her life.

“I learned the magnitude of heroes behind me,” said Colleen, “The human family become so real and so powerful for me that I knew I wasn’t alone. That has really been the driving force for me.”

From that point, she was determined to heal.

As a former runner, Colleen’s dream was to run again. She wanted to thank the “heros” for saving her life and with that in mind, told herself that when she ran, she would compete in races and dedicate her medals to them.

Since that time, Colleen has made a full recovery and has gone on to run 50 races and complete 40 triathlons, including four half-Ironman events.

Colleen chose to turn her tragedy into a catalyst for healing and growth. This is a choice we can each make.

Here are a few tips to help you cultivate gratitude:

– Be thankful even if you don’t feel thankful. Each day, practice giving thanks for one thing for which you are thankful, whether you feel it or not. Over time, you will be amazed at how the act of being thankful will create feelings of thankfulness.

– Keep a gratitude journal. Before going to sleep write down five things from the day for which you are thankful. At first you may struggle to create the list, but before you know it, your list will grow longer and longer.

– Say “thank you” often. Expressing thanks will bring joy to others and that joy will eventually trickle down to you.

– Live in the moment. Take time to notice the little things. As they say, the little things will one day become the big things.

– Acknowledge ungrateful thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Being mindful of your thought process enables you to shift your way of thinking.

– Appreciate every experience, the good and the bad. Ask what you can learn from each. You have the opportunity to grow in wisdom and strength.

As Colleen said, “The most beautiful pieces of art come out of the really messy art studios.” What will your masterpiece look like?

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