Feb 17, 2020

Practice Gratitude


Gratitude. This is a practice that has absolutely changed my life. And I mean it. It took me a long time to make this a daily habit. But, now that it is I can say without a doubt that I see the world differently and experience so much more joy and ease in my life. 

And when I find myself feeling frustrated, resentful, or irritated I have learned to look at a few things. 

First, the daily habits that nourish me (mind, body and spirit). Am I getting enough sleep? Am I feeding my body foods that are deeply nourishing for what I need in this moment? Am I getting outside enough, feeling the sun on my skin? Who am I spending time with? What am I reading, watching, listening to? Am I carving out time to sit in silence? 

And mindset. I know that the antidote to resentment, frustration and irritability is gratitude. Shifting my perspective towards not only all that I have to be grateful for (and there is SO much), but also looking at my current circumstances and finding gratitude for and opportunity to grow, to learn. This changes everything. 

In the Book of Joy the Dalai Lama shares that everyday he  wakes up and says to himself, 'I am fortunate to be alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it.'

Am I wasting my life focusing on everything that is going wrong or everything I don't have? Am I stuck in the mindset of scarcity and fear? The constant feelings of not enoughness? 

Our brains are hardwired to keep us alive, which means that they are constantly scanning the environment to see what might be dangerous.

The good news is that we can rewire our brains. Thank goodness for neuroplasticity. Practicing gratitude, intentionally, can help us in so many ways. Gratitude can actually carve out new neural pathways and our new default mindset allows us to also notice what is beautiful, what is good and what is right as well. This is powerful.

'It is the ability to see wonder, surprise, possibility in each experience and each encounter that is a core aspect of joy.' (The Book of Joy, p. 242)

As I mentioned above, I was very skeptical of this because I never wanted to become complacent or to no longer continue to work to end the many injustices that exist in our world.  To ignore the suffering in the world simply because I have the privilege to not see it. It felt too close to spiritual bypass and I resisted it for a long time. 

But, research shows the opposite. People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others. They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks. They are also more likely to have helped someone with a personal problem or to have offered emotional support to others.  

And, studies have also found that people who keep a gratitude journal (listing what they are grateful for) exercise more, have fewer physical symptoms, feel better about their lives and are more positive about the week ahead compared to those who focus on the hassles in their lives. Studies have also found that gratitude can have a significant impact on chronic pain management. 

I could go on and on. Because there are many studies to back this up and because I have felt the impact of this practice.

I hope that I have convinced you. It works...and it brings more joy to simply notice all that you have to be grateful for. And there is A LOT to be grateful for. 

How do you practice gratitude? There are so many different ways to make this a daily practice. 

Here's just a few ways to practice gratitude:

  • Gratitude Journal: Write down three things that you are grateful for each night before you go to bed. If it's helpful get yourself a journal that is designated just for your gratitude practice. There are so many available that give prompts and inspirational quotes to help you get motivated.
  • Gratitude Prayer: Before you go to bed say a prayer of gratitude. I like to do this with my daughter before she goes to bed. We each share what we are thankful for that day. 
  • Gratitude Meditation: Find a guided meditation that focuses on gratitude. Here's a gratitude meditation I recorded for you.
  • Thank You Cards: Write out thank you cards for those people in you life who support you. Maybe it's through snail mail, a text or another way to offer the message to them. 

Remember, what we appreciate, appreciates. 

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