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Practicing Gratitude to Foster Healthy Movements

Activists, advocates, organizers and all entities in between have been experiencing conflicting emotional states, insecurities, and existing mental health struggles due to marginalization since the beginning of time. We do not hold popular stances. Many of us represent the absolute margins of society and even experience ostracism from the very communities we originate from and seek to benefit.

We come from a variety of different and intersecting backgrounds, upbringings; with internalized hopes, dreams, and visions of the future. Many of us are carrying pain that we will never vocalize yet must pathologize and develop theory around due to often tracing these experiences back to institutional oppressions. For many there is a constant need to do more, to self-sabotage, to ruminate over self-doubts while maintaining mental fortitude needed to continue organizing effectively and with deep care.

We are imperfect, often balancing pessimism with a drive to continue building, lost in thought over historical patterns of colonial, patriarchal institutions of oppression while watching far too familiar political landscapes unfold before our eyes.

Life often feels like operating on multiple dimensions; managing (or neglecting) our personal lives which seem to be inextricably linked with our lives spent developing or participating in various community projects on a local/regional level, navigating capitalist systems to survive, and maintaining understanding of developments in other oppressed regions and how all the facets of this massive web ultimately intersects.

These are deeply challenging mental states to balance, and often contributes to negative perceptions of ourselves. One remedy of this is expression of gratitude to others in and outside of our organizing spaces, to people in our communities and those who don’t expect it, and quietly towards the world around us. A grounding method and state of mind that is not only physiologically beneficial in the way that it meets our inherent human need for a healthy symbiotic community, but contributes to cultures of love and care within our world.

It is a decolonial practice and a wise way to remain hopeful and keep others hopeful while navigating such difficult eras of history, to reinforce within all of us every effort big or small made to liberate or help people, to feed into the part of our hearts that seek to share love in any possible way.

Creating cultures of gratitude are critical in movement work and in deconstructing institutions of white supremacy. It is a practice known to have significant health benefits, improve self esteem, and promote general senses of happiness. It also promotes strong, long-lasting relationships among movement spaces and communities served. It helps to establish a sense of resilience that aids significantly in healthy, balanced response to consistent crises while setting positive examples for others.

When we are not in places to verbally share gratitude with others, we can also engage in indirect practices.

Methods of maintaining this mindset include keeping a gratitude journal, and regularly filling it with entries describing what you are grateful for while reflecting on the emotions that arise around these realizations.

Writing letters that we may or may not deliver helps to remind us of the examples of kindness and care we experience on a regular basis from others in our lives while providing outlets for expressing deep appreciation. Meditation on the things and people we are thankful for can assist with establishing a sense of mindfulness that can help redirect our minds to fostering and further developing the positive emotions associated with gratitude and ultimately help us with coping with negative experiences and feelings of self doubt. Give yourself quiet moments throughout your week to relax, breathe, ground yourself, and exercise your mental and physical awareness as you reflect on what you are grateful for and how to express these emotions to those around you.

As we endure and respond to local, regional, national and global crises; practicing and sharing gratitude can set us on a path to navigating our work in a way that promotes healthy mindsets and reminds us of the societies we ultimately hope to live in.

It is difficult at times to practice gratitude but it is critical to recognize even the smallest of steps forward and to take care not to allow ourselves to forget our ultimate mission - to serve ALL the members of our community!

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