We are heading toward a time of year in America where many of us turn toward gratitude and reflecting on what we are thankful for… at least for one day.
But, what if gratitude were a much more frequent practice in your life? What would the benefit be?
I have been practicing gratitude regularly for at least the past couple of years, and I share my gratitude with my friends via Facebook daily. Why do I do this? Certainly not to flaunt the “perfect” life I do not have, but rather to make sure I take the time each day to reflect and to find the good, even amongst the muck. Gratitude is a form of mindfulness and a piece of self-care. It is taking time to notice and to honor what's here.
What a regular gratitude practice offers is a way to get out of the brain’s natural tendency to focus on the negative - what went wrong, what we didn’t do, what we don’t like, what we could’ve/would’ve/should’ve done, or what might go wrong next time. Gratitude takes us to a place of appreciation for what was, for what IS. It allows time to reflect on what went right, who or what lifted us up or filled us with joy, or what part of our humanity and experience we can acknowledge today – even if it’s tears, really feeling sadness fully, or letting ourselves be grumpy.
Gratitude does not have to be about sunshine and rainbows. In fact, gratitude is great medicine in the dark days, helping us to lovingly be with ourselves in our current reality. It may help us to see a tiny glimmer of light where there might have seemed to be none. Gratitude doesn’t change the circumstances, but it helps us remember that life is multi-faceted, and even in the hardest of times, there are still things to honor and appreciate.
Gratitude is a practice that helps recondition us to begin looking for things we appreciate – in ourselves, in others, in our experiences, and in life’s day-to-day. As we notice there are things to appreciate, we may shift our perspective of life, or we may simply find a little more peace in accepting what’s real in this moment. Gratitude seems to stretch our heart (think of the Grinch), and soften our spirit into a more gentle way of being.
It is a simple but powerful practice – you don’t need to light a candle, sit on a special cushion, take a ton of time, or enter into it with any sort of ceremony or ritual (though you certainly can if that makes you happy… and grateful!). It can be done anytime, anywhere. It can be done openly – it’s a rare and wonderful gift to let someone know what you genuinely appreciate about them from your heart. Or, it can simply be a silent internal process. It can be written, thought, or said out loud – all are equally powerful! You may keep a gratitude journal, and begin or end your day reflecting in it. Morning, noon, or night… or simply in the moment when you feel it, find gratitude. Soak it in and let it fill you up – for one breath, one brief pause, or for a longer period of time.
What might work for you? Try something out. And, give it a try on days that are really hard, and notice… What impact does it have?
Do it on the days when Hallmark isn’t in your face telling you to be thankful. Try it out in as many ways as you can! Make a game of it – stick with some form of gratitude practice for at least 21 days, and see if there’s any shift in your attitude, mood, perception, or experience of life. And, let us know!
Offer it freely – to yourself and others. Why not start now? What are 3 things you’re grateful for right in this moment?