Gratitude makes us healthier and happier, increases our sense of connection and well being, and will grow if you feed it. As with any practice, it may take some concentrated effort if you have fallen out of the habit. We all have dark times when we are too busy or caught up in some drama or trauma that brings our focus to loss and grief and negativity. Sometimes we forget that those are the times that we most need gratitude to shore up our resiliency and bring us back into balance. So what do we do when we’ve lost that awareness of the good and beautiful in life? Perhaps nature doesn’t sing to you quite the way she does to me, and you need some different tools.
One way to jump start gratitude is to make a list of everything you can think of to be grateful for and take a few minutes at the start of every day to read it and add to it. If you struggle with coming up with things for your list, think about what you would miss if it were gone. Your eyesight, a loved one, your home, mobility, books, the trees, the breeze, music… and write those down as gratitudes. Say thank you and sit for a moment with whatever feelings of appreciation you can summon.
Remember that action can change thoughts and feelings. Go to a support meeting, call a friend, do yoga, volunteer to help someone in need, pick up trash on the beach or at a park. Pet a friendly animal, sing a song, give someone a compliment, or go for a walk to change the way energy flows through your body. How our energy flows is really what it is about so pay attention to how that works and bring out the tools you need to shift the flow in a more positive direction. If you need more tools, ask for help to acquire them.
Adjusting your expectations and celebrating small steps can add to your wellspring of appreciation. So can being mindfully present. Savor that cup of coffee or hot shower instead of hurrying through or thinking about something else. Human nature seems to want more that we have, which can be a good thing as long as we appreciate what we do have.
“It’s not that happy people are grateful, it’s that grateful people are happier.” – Erik Barker