Gratitude Bracelet

We are meant to live in joy. This does not mean that life will be easy and painless. It means that we can turn our faces to the wind and accept that this is the storm we must pass through” ― Desmond Tutu



How do we have the audacity to encourage survivors of the horrors of human trafficking to practice gratitude every week? It’s because of this…

“…joy is not a wish in the night that comes in the morning. It is the work of grateful orientation. This orientation is open to joy in all of life, no matter the context. Suffering is ever-present. Joy is ever-present. They are here together and always will be. So how will you live within this reality? – Joe Primo

Your brain is hardwired to notice anything negative or threatening instantly, but it takes 15 to 30 seconds for something beautiful, positive, loving, or good to make the same kind of neurological impact on you.

That may seem like a bad deal, but actually it’s part of the wonderful design of your nervous system that keeps you alive! Thank the stars your brain instantly noticed that speeding car blowing through the stop sign and your nervous system flooded your body with all the stress hormones needed for you to jump out of its way! All of this happened subconsciously in under 1 second! You are a miraculous creature.

But, this natural negativity bias also means it’s the inbuilt work of every human being to train our awareness to dwell on joy, play, goodness, laughter and the like. The deeply important work of every person alive is to linger over wild flowers, giggles, and unexpected moments with kind strangers. Because as author James Clear states:

“Where you spend your attention is where you spend your life.”

The practice of gratefulness is a powerful tool for training your awareness. Don’t get it confused with toxic positivity. Grateful living is not an attempt to deny what is painful or hard, but rather an acknowledgment that even in the midst of pain there is still something to be grateful for. Gratefulness is a way of orienting your life to pause and linger (even if it’s just for 15 seconds) on the first star of the evening or the feel of the wind on your skin. While you’re doing so, you’re training your neural pathways to more easily connect with joy.

A life oriented toward gratitude actually creates a container which helps us carry suffering with more ease.

“The practice of gratitude is not about dismissing sadness, anger, fear or confusion. Rather, it offers us the opportunity to see that we often experience multiple feelings at once; to welcome joy into the same places where we hold grief; to turn our attention to what is quietly growing and breathing day by day, which, to our possible surprise, includes ourselves.” - Kristin Lin

At Not I But We, we acknowledge that life is hard and unfair, and for some (like the woman who made your bracelet) it is so much harder than most. But, we also stubbornly point out that life is ridiculously beautiful at the same time. Even if life has trained us to live in a protective stance, on constant emotional alert, scanning the horizon for the next threat… we can still train our nervous systems and brains toward joy through simple practices: Like being on the lookout for blooming daisies and whispering ‘thank you’ with our souls when we see one. What a wonderful way to heal!

“Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us.” - Henri Nouwen



Kristi Nelson, author of Wake Up Grateful tells us: Stop. Look. Go. focuses us on cultivating three characteristics essential for a grateful life: Presence, Perspective, and Possibility.

When we look, we seek the gifts of a grateful perspective. When we go, we awaken possibility.


  1. Red beads remind us: Stop. Become quiet and present and open all your senses.

When we stop, we become more present. We often live our lives with our awareness elsewhere: on our ‘to do’ list, ruminating over a painful conversation, scrolling social media. We live distracted from the actual life offered to us. To pause is a radical and sacred act. To stop has become counter-cultural. The sacred pause offers space for a shift in consciousness.

Pausing for stillness, I am aware . . .

Taking a deep breath, I notice . . .

Tuning into my body, I feel . . .

Embracing silence, I hear . . .


  1. Cream Beads remind us: Look. What is there to be grateful for in this moment?

What brings you delight? Most of us sleepwalk through our days and this is an invitation to notice what you’re taking for granted.  How many people and nations were involved in getting that sip of coffee to your lips? When was the last time you’ve really looked at the clouds? Seen through glasses of gratitude, everything becomes a gift. Gratitude wakes us up to the divine in the ordinary.

Looking for things to be grateful for, I notice…

Looking for beauty I see…

Looking for surprise I discover…


  1. Green beads remind us: Go. How might moments of gratefulness impact the tone of your day?

Go is about cultivating possibility, and turning the act of gratefulness into grateful living. When we stop and look at our life through a grateful lens, we sense connection to something more – divine love, humanity, or nature. Go is about moving through your day awake with this perspective and allowing it to impact all you come into contact with.

Who will be in my day and how can I connect with them through gratefulness?

What task is in my path that would benefit by being done with a grateful heart?

How is possibility beckoning me– even quietly – right now?

*This practice was created by Brother David Steindl-Rast the Founder of the Grateful Network and is detailed in Kristi Nelson’s book: Wake up Grateful


Suggested Uses:

- Whenever you sense you’re sleepwalking through your day.

- When you feel anxious or dysregulated.

- During mundane, daily tasks.

- Try it with your kids.

- Try it on a date or out with friends.

- If you're an enneagram 4, experts say: Gratefulness is your essential practice.


Suggested Resources: has many wonderful articles, practices, and online courses including this short video: A Grateful Day by Brother David Steindl-Rast. It’s a great place to start!

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