Practicing Gratitude is an Active Verb

Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on November 22, 2022 # Lifestyle

Our school social worker recently shared with our middle high school student community the importance of modeling the practice of gratitude for our elementary students. Based on findings by positive psychology researchers, “the practice of gratitude can improve relationships, mood, life satisfaction, and even increase physical activity and decrease doctor’s visits.” While I know this in my heart, as a family caregiver, mom, and full-time educator, I start to feel worn down by daily life. People see us as forever optimistic, always smiling, and always trying to boost others’ spirits. But the truth of the matter is that we are simply practicing gratitude until we feel it again in our bones. There are times when it takes longer to find the “ember” in November.

So, we look for people who seem to know how to practice gratitude safely, not as in a fly-off-the-handle kind of rose-colored glasses lacking authenticity – but the kind of sincerity of Glinda the Good Witch or Mary Poppins or Michelle Obama, who even recently admitted a kind of low-level depression coming out of COVID.

Shared Gratitude Experience #1

Recently, I had to have my driver’s license renewed, which occurs every five years. Since I’ve lived in these mountains of NH for decades, there is a lady I remember who is perhaps a bit older than me, yet retains the youth of a 25-year-old who really loves her job. There was a mom in the waiting room, anxiously awaiting the news of whether her son passed his driving test. Joanna is not her real name, but when blond, vivacious Joanna exits the room, she turns to the mom and says, “Well, we will have to schedule another appointment,” giving the impression he had not passed, but then she exclaimed in this crazy loud voice, “to SCHEDULE HIS DRIVING TEST!” The young man grinned rather sheepishly at Joanna and his mom as if he could not actually believe it either. Joanna loves her job working at the DMV in Twin Mountain, NH. Like, she has been there for decades, and she still gets excited sharing the joy of driver independence.

Shared Gratitude Experience #2

Another person sharing some of her gratitude journeys is a woman we know from our water ski program, who already had a spinal cord injury and recently suffered another spinal cord injury in a mountain bike accident. She used social media to pressure her insurance company to have her moved to Spaulding Rehab Hospital in Boston, where she is recovering and rehabbing from her injury. Her daily posts titled “Not Dead Yet Blog” never cease to make me smile, yet I can’t imagine the journey she and her husband have yet to endure.

Shared Gratitude Experience #3

As many of us who are part of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation family understand too well firsthand, adaptive equipment is expensive. Being disabled, in general, is expensive. I am resentful that it cost our family close to $40,000 to have our children because in vitro fertilization was not covered by our insurance. Yet, I’m grateful we were able to have children when so many are not. I am resentful that Geoff’s new downhill mountain bike with e-assist cost almost $17,000 when the costs of everything have gone up incrementally. Yet, we are grateful for a dear member of Geoff’s family for a personal grant; we are grateful to the Kelly Brush Foundation grant for another large chunk of the cost; and we are grateful to the Loon Mountain Community Fund for coming through with the balance so that Geoff is able to get out in the woods with our family.

So, I’m trying to PRACTICE the practice of gratitude, and, well, you should too, because it’s like any muscle we try to build. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 12 and 11 respectively. Please check out her novel True North, website, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.