The Power of Gratitude Lists Including Examples

I have heard about the importance of gratitude most of my life. On my journey to heal after unimaginable loss I was desperate to try anything to pull me from the dark place I dwelled for years. Gratitude lists played a role in overcoming my negative thoughts. 

My first gratitude list was general. It was so helpful and made me feel so good, I made six more. It’s difficult for your mind to think about numerous things at once but when your mind looks at a gratitude list, it has a way of generating great joy.

My next list was prioritized loving relationships. Not only was I grateful for each person on it, but I also used the list to move from taking loved ones for granted as I focused on making bad relationships work, to only allowing loving relationships in my life. I made sure I was nurturing all these relationships ongoing, starting at the top. I have so much love in my life, I can’t imagine spending one unnecessary second with someone who isn’t kind. When anybody is mean to me, I reach out to people on this list, talk about something happy, and hurtful feelings disappear.

I then made a list of all the reasons I love my husband. When we have a disagreement, and I’m dwelling on it, looking at this list helps me put my frustration into perspective. It also helps me to be in a confident loving place to think about the list before I talk to my husband about a difficult topic.

One day on a long driving trip, my husband and I made a list of everything we are thankful for in our marriage. We quickly noted many blessings and felt excited as we thought about so much we appreciate.

During a counseling visit where I said I am doing a good job not wasting energy trying to figure out life’s mysteries, I mentioned sometimes I still wonder why I had to experience so much loss in my life. The counselor endearingly looked at me and told me to write down all my accomplishments. I struggled at first to think of anything, but once I started writing the page was flooded with achievements. I realized I was letting the negative cast a shadow over the wonderful.

A vision board is a tool used to help clarify, concentrate, and maintain focus on life goals but didn’t think they were for me. I have a small wall in my office and decided on a vision board, more for decoration than function. What a surprise when that visual depiction of what I want in days to come gave me the same rush of joy I had looking at any other gratitude list. I was feeling my future.

I have heard you can attract what you want in the future by thinking about it and making yourself feel like you already have it. I made a list of what I’m grateful for when I reduce sugar. It turned out to be the longest list! It’s a great deterrent when I have a sugar craving.

My gratitude lists are in my smart phone for quick access and updating. I look at them when needed and periodically for a boost of happiness. You may be surprised how much you are grateful for, so write everything you are thankful for now. I would love to see a copy of your list! Examples of all my gratitude lists are below.

Book to Help People
No Work Politics
Love my Hair and Nails
Regular Massages
Motorcycle Riding Fun
Beautiful Yard
Cozy Home
Financial Security

Loving Relationships
Best Friends
Loving Friends

Loves His Child Unconditionally
Loves Animals
Loving to People
Loved Me Through Loss of Child
Supported Me When Thought About Adopting
Best Friend
Wonderful Lover
Smart and Common Sense
Works Hard at Job Success
Supported Me Retiring From Business Career
Supports Me Helping Others With Loss
Helps With Home
Learn Travel and Politics From Him
Loves Travel and Adventure
Open Minded
Dances With Me

Good People
Love Animals
Huge Trust
Help Each Other Grow
Work on Health
Sense of Adventure
Make our House a Home
Financial Wisdom
Love to Laugh
Similar Interests
Have Fun Together
Love Entertaining
Proactive About Challenges
Don’t Try Hard to Change Each Other

Raised a Wonderful Child as a Single Parent
Loving Mother
Obtained Help for Child When Needed
Loving Marriage
Loving Relationship with Stepson
Rescued Dogs
Increased Circle of Loving Friends
Overcome Trauma
College Degree
Business Success
Published a Book
Social Media to Help People
Mental Health
Financial Wisdom

Vision Board
Spiritual Growth
Loving Retirement With Husband
Loving Relationships
Help People
Follow Dreams
More of What Makes Me Happy
Positive Habits
Read and Learn
Financial Security
Counseling When Needed
Go to Australia

Reduce Sugar
Better Life
Feel Good
More Attention to Loved Ones
Less Hunger
Less Calories
Weigh Less
Less Bloating
Feel Better in Clothes
Thinner and Flat Stomach
Inner Health
Lower blood pressure
Strong Heart, Liver, Kidneys
Better Memory
Reduce Sickness
Reduce Surgery Risk
Good Dr Visits and Labs
Better Teeth
Better Skin
Prettier Eyes
Sleep well
Good Dreams
Reduce Overreacting
Easier to Relax
Easier to be Loving
Real Energy
More Productive
Better Speaker and Videos
Save Money

Heal Traumatic Reaction to Normal Situations

Most reactions to trauma are normal and understandable. The potential to experience trauma is part of life and many of us aren’t prepared and never learned best ways to deal with devastating loss and pain.

I have experienced the trauma of unimaginable loss throughout my life and had these reactions.

Reactions to Trauma
• Shock
• Negative Thoughts
• Bad Feelings
• Guilt
• Depression
• Anxiety
• Worry
• Righteous
• Hypervigilant
• Overreacting
• Catastrophizing
• Distraction Use
• Poor Self-care
• Sleepless

Once I completed implementing my action plan to thrive after loss and thought I had overcome my challenges, I didn’t understand I was still having some traumatic reactions to normal situations. Those feelings were a part of my life for so long, they seemed normal, until they grew and stood out in my life otherwise filled with peace, joy, and love.

I told a counselor I had unusual anxiety and I wasn’t sure why. I said it didn’t make sense for my heart to be racing so fast as I rambled on about wanting it to stop. I panicked when I didn’t understand what caused my nervousness because I feared my torture would worsen or never end. I was worrying about worrying and didn’t want to lose my ability to live life in a way I had grown to cherish.

The counselor explained although I dealt with the trauma in my life, the memories would always be in my mind. She said it’s common for those who have gone through trauma to be hypervigilant and to catastrophize.

I had an “aha!” moment. That was exactly what I was doing! My enhanced state of trying to detect threats was exhausting, but with everything I went through it made sense I might wonder what terrible things would happen next. I unnecessarily believed some situations were far worse than they were. This huge shift in my thinking lead to some immediate serious healing.

Now that I understand the behaviors causing my anxiety, I watch out for them, acknowledge them, and choose to respond in a better way. Instead of accelerating my negative behaviors and physical pain, I reduced them by recognizing what’s happening. It’s understandable I have a tendency towards being hypervigilant and catastrophizing, but I no longer worry about it. I visualize myself not having the issue.

If you are having strong negative feelings that don’t make sense, there is probably a reason. Seek professional help to recognize the root cause of your pain so you can get on with creating your best life after trauma.

Schedule Fun to Ensure You Have Some

According to Wikipedia Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004) was a Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies and the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (1969), where she first discussed her theory of the five stages of grief. In an interview she stated:

“In Switzerland I was educated in line with the basic premise: work work work. You are only a valuable human being if you work. This is utterly wrong. Half working, half dancing – that is the right mixture. I myself have danced and played too little.”

An objective in my thriving after loss action plan is having fun. Nothing about being stuck in the anger and depression involved with grieving was enjoyable. I felt I deserved some serious happiness.

I was so desperate to have fun again, I frantically jumped into entertaining activities. After feeling lost for so long, I went along with whatever others said was fun. Only certain experiences brought me pleasure, and I thought that was part of struggling to move past grieving. Some of that may be true, but I realized not every activity brings me the same level of pleasure. I don’t like riding a motorcycle myself, even though I got my license because girlfriends raved about it. I love being my husband’s bike passenger and exploring new places.

I think having fun was challenging for me because I didn’t have any for so long. I snow skied and hiked beautiful country again. I subscribed to event lists and went to sporting events, concerts, festivals, parties, and local attractions. I explored museums, went to craft classes, and learned to cook new things. I traveled to new places and tried adventurous things like swimming with dolphins and parasailing.

Having fun after grieving was a significant part of my healing. Joy raced through my veins, I smiled often, and laughed even more. Fun helped move me towards a sense of well-being and life felt lighter. When I am playing, I feel my soul nurtured and grateful. I felt anxious if I didn’t have fun planned so at the end of every week, I look at the next week and make sure I do. To me, fun is as important as eating well and exercising.

I spoke about thriving after unimaginable loss at a national grief conference. I shared my thoughts about the importance of fun. A therapist attending commented that he often asks clients what they do for fun because he agrees it’s important. He said most often the answer is a blank confused stare. It’s easy to overlook making fun an integral part of life.

Don’t fill your days with so much busy work there isn’t time for fun. Joy is fuel for thriving, and it’s not just for kids. Fun can have a positive effect on all areas of your life. Don’t let time pass by and then realize you could have danced and played more.

Overcoming Negative Thoughts After Loss

There is nothing like an unimaginable loss to make anybody feel negative. Through the devastating losses in my life, I had all these thoughts.

Negative Thoughts After Loss

• I feel dead inside.
• I feel anxious, & depressed.
• Why did this happen?
• I don’t deserve this.
• I feel punished.
• I feel stupid.
• I am a failure.
• I feel so guilty.
• How can I trust again?
• Nobody I love is safe.
• Life is too hard.
• How will I go on?
• Will I ever be happy.
• Sense of well-being is gone.
• Why are people heartless?
• I can’t stand petty behavior.
• I hate mean people.
• I wish I had died instead.
• Why take care of myself?

There is scientific information about how the mind works, but I think about it in a nuts and bolts way. The mind is a powerful tool storing everything we put into it. The more repetitive a thought, the stronger it becomes a habit. This helps us be efficient in remembering things, but can be destructive when we dwell on negative thoughts.

When I decided to improve my life, I knew I needed to address my long term damaging thoughts. I started with embracing the mysteries of life. I decided I wasn’t supposed to know everything about life since I didn’t. I believed that I could transition my mind from being full of unproductive chanting to embracing constructive thoughts.

I believe it’s difficult for most people to think about two things at once. My strategy was to ensure every idle moment, including brushing my teeth, walking my dogs, and driving in the car, was filled with positive thoughts. I read or listened to enjoyable or informative books that resonated with me. I made a list of everything I’m thankful for and read it when I was feeling sorry for myself. If I was lying in bed, I would chant the affirmation “there is only love,” repeatedly until I fell asleep.

It took several months to change my mind. Continuously focusing on good thoughts becomes more automatic and old bad thoughts are archived in my mind. Positive thoughts support my mission to live my best life. I can’t imagine having it any other way.

Look up book topics of interest for your action plan. Read book descriptions and comments, then choose the ones that best resonate with you.

Importance of a Thriving Action Plan

Those experiencing unimaginable loss can easily feel stuck in a negative place. If you wholeheartedly want to create your best life, I recommend a thriving action plan. I believe no single person, book, incident, or thought is enough to propel you from such darkness into the light of the life you dream about.  It’s not as challenging as you may think.  You deserve the wonderful life you are meant to have.

I used to turn around struggling companies, making them flourish by developing a comprehensive plan.  I was flexible as I implemented every last detail.  Each business was different as people are different. I studied the problems and focused on the values, mission, and goals. The strategy was tailored to each individual company. Success was achieved after all, not one or some, objectives were met. It made sense to me this process would work on improving my life.

The synergistic effect of implementing all of my thriving action plan led me to a place I never dreamed possible. A comforting hope embraced me before I finished my plan because my soul knew I was making changes that were good for me. The compassion, peace, love, fun, and service now filling my life melts my anguish allowing me to focus on the best memories in my life instead of the pain.  I wish I always lived my life this way.  I conscientiously focus on staying the course because I want to be thriving like this forever.

Action Planning Steps

  1. Prioritize Objectives
  2. Implement Strategically
  3. Choose Tasks
  4. Use Best Resources
  5. Gratitude & Celebration
  6. Improve Ongoing

My action plan objectives work for me, and I share these steps to inspire you to want to create your own.  You can be the CEO of your life.

Example Prioritized Objectives

  1. Life Mystery
  2. Organization and Productivity
  3. Critical Tasks Completed
  4. Thought and Emotion
  5. Physical Health
  6. Money and Generosity
  7. Love and Relationships
  8. Fun and Pleasure
  9. Career and Helping Others
  10. Dreams Achieved

Unimaginable loss need not stop you from having a wonderful life.  You are not broken.  The pain reflects your capacity for love, and you weren’t meant to be tortured forever by loss.  Picture yourself immersed in a life you love.  Take the first small step and outline your plan now!