I live in Orlando, FL. I was born and raised here (minus about 10 years in Washington, D.C.). My daughter was born and is being raised here. Unless you have made a choice to completely cut yourself off from the news in every form and social media (and you wouldn't be reading this blog post), you know what happened here in the early morning hours of June 12. This beautiful city and all its people are still feeling raw and emotional over the deaths of 49 individuals who were taken away from their friends and families too soon. Any one of my friends could have been in that nightclub. Even I could have been there. I am thankful they weren't but my heart breaks for the victims who were at the Pulse nightclub that night.
When we see these tragedies on the news, it's often not right in our own backyards. It's in some OTHER place, and though we're saddened by what we see, we're not as affected as the community in which it happened. So many people have come together here, with so much love, in the weeks following the shootings. It has sparked conversations among my friends about how quickly a life can be taken, how short life can be, and how we need to live as if it could be our last day on this Earth.
I've already felt like 2016 has been a learning journey for me. Trying to change my outlook on things has been a daily practice. And the events of June 12 have reinforced my thoughts about gratitude. Above all else, when I focus on that, it makes me happy. It makes me feel alive. It makes my heart swell. Gratitude can change so much. It can turn any negative thought into a positive thought. Any negative feeling into a positive feeling. When you are struggling with something, gratitude can help you let it go. Years ago, a friend of mine put this on Facebook (and it's continued to be one of my favorites – thanks, Bob Kodzis!):
If it won't help you today, and it won't help you tomorrow…let it go. At worst, it's hurting you. At best, it's extra baggage. Let it go. And breathe easier.
Gratitude is a practice. It is so easy to get caught up in daily life and forget to be grateful. And when that happens, it's easier to be bogged down by the negative, the worrying, the stress, the bad, icky stuff. We hold on to the icky stuff when we forget to be grateful. So I encourage everyone to keep a daily gratitude journal. Write down five things you were grateful for that day. Focus on the positive and see how much lighter you feel. How much better you feel, how free you feel. How much more you appreciate this one life you get.
Shannon Steffee is a magazine editor by day, and a mom, health nut, and music lover by night. In her spare time, she enjoys writing about health-related topics and sharing her personal experience with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and gluten-free eating. You can find her on Twitter: @ShanSteffee. She is based in Orlando.