Times that challenge us physically, emotionally, and spiritually may make it almost impossible for us to feel grateful. Yet, we can decide to live gratefully, courageously open to life in all its fullness. ~ Brother David Steindl-Rast
In life there are good times and there are bad times. Sometimes the bad times knock you around so much it is hard to consider being grateful for anything. But gratitude is a choice.
You can choose to be grateful. To step out in courage. Because it does require courage to choose to be grateful. Gratitude allows you to live your best, most plentiful life.
Although gratitude as a therapeutic concept has been around for many years, it has become very popular lately.
I think it is a great idea. There has been much research into the impact our thoughts have on our mental well being. Filling our thoughts with the positives in our life has been shown to improve our health, our resilience and our overall mood.
It is true that the thoughts we fill our minds with have an influence on how we cope with life.
WHEN GRATITUDE ISN’T HELPFUL
What concerns me is that there is a lack of understanding on how to practice gratitude in a helpful way.
Some people opt for the false happy statements. These ignore the understandably difficult things that happen in life and make gratitude statements that are not authentic.
The result is more pain as the ignored emotions are suppressed, only to emerge later in an amplified form.
Then there are the people who will write long statements about how miserable their life is and how badly treated they are. Then they will say they are grateful for something that has just been negated by their long sad statement.
HOW DO YOU PRACTICE GRATITUDE THEN?
Gratitude is finding the things in your life that you are grateful for amongst the stressful and sometimes horrible things that are happening to you.
You may be dealing with terrible grief but you are grateful for the wonderful friends you have who are willing to sit with you and care.
You may be struggling with the triggers of childhood trauma but you are grateful for the trigger today that you were able to manage.
The way I learned to express gratitude was to write down every day 10 things I am grateful for.
After I have written each gratitude point I write why I am grateful for that thing.
Once I have written the list, I go back and say out loud every gratitude and say “Thank you thank you thank you” after each one.
THE RITUAL OF GRATITUDE
It helps to make a ritual out of this. If it is a ritual you pay more attention to it and take it more seriously.
Being grateful should be something you give thought to and enjoy doing.
As part of my ritual I write my list of ten gratitudes at the same time every day. Some people do it in the morning but I prefer to do it at night before I go to bed.
I also have a stone that is special to me that I hold in my hand, against my heart, as I say the gratitudes.
My stone is a piece of Ocean Jasper I bought in a crystal shop, but your stone may be one you found on the beach. It doesn’t have to cost money to have this stone.
The best stone is one small enough to hold in your hand. It should also be smooth with no rough edges to hurt you when you hold it.
WHAT AM I GRATEFUL FOR?
There are obvious big things to be grateful for.
• I may have had a good day with something lovely happening and I felt so special.
• I may have walked on the beach and am grateful for that because the sand, water and breeze lifted my energy and left me feeling relaxed.
• I may have had a visit with a good friend and it felt to wonderful to chat and be together.
• I am grateful for my partner/children because of the love I feel for them.
There are things that I may have noticed during the day.
• The sunset was beautiful, and my spirits soared at the sight.
• I saw some birds in a tree and they were such lovely colours and I felt so happy seeing them.
• The sun was shining, and it was so lovely to sit in its warmth and feel at one with the universe.
There are the things we don’t think of to be grateful for.
• I am grateful for my feet that hold me up and get me places because it feels so great to be able to get things done.
• I am grateful that I have eyes that see the beauty around me because I feel so enriched by that beauty.
• I am grateful that my heart pumps constantly and keeps me alive because I love being alive.
• I am grateful that my stomach and intestines digest my food because then I am nourished and feel well.
Some other ideas.
• Being grateful for the opportunity to laugh at xxxx today because ….
• A good thing that happened at work that made me feel xxx because ….
• That other car letting me in when I needed to change lanes which I was so relieved at because I was getting stressed at the heavy traffic and I realised people do care after all.
The lists are endless.
THE ADVANTAGE OF TEN GRATITUDES
It is easy to find one or two things to be grateful for. But when you need to find ten then you have to work harder and think outside the box.
This is when you start being thankful for the mundane things you take for granted.
It is when you start to realise how much about what your body does to keep you alive and functioning is something to be grateful for.
It is when you pay attention to the moments in your day looking for something to write down as a gratitude point.
When you do this, you start looking for the positives and focusing on them.
Yes there are negatives in every day, but there are also positives in every day.
Acknowledge the negatives, but don’t dwell on them. Attend to what you can change and let go of what you can’t.
Notice what is positive so that when the negatives feel overwhelming you have a long list of positives to reduce that feeling of overwhelm.
Here is a challenge.
• Start your own list of ten gratitudes every day.
• Write them in a dedicated notebook if you can. It works much better if you have somewhere dedicated to write them.
• Visit them when you need reminding of the positives in your life.
• Do them every day.
• Remember the little things you take for granted and acknowledge them too.
• Don’t forget to say “Thank you Thank you Thank you” after you have spoken every gratitude.