Do you genuinely practice gratitude, or is it just a seasonal nod?
Just googling Gratitude Journal returns about 99,900,000 results. Goodness. This may be an indication of the perceived importance of gratitude, but the question is –
Are you really practicing gratitude?
In this season of Thanksgiving. Just having happened in Canada as well as preparations in the US at the time of this writing, it can be easier to get caught up in the wave of being thankful and focused on gratitude during this time. That is great. I want to encourage you to keep it up throughout the year.
Being human, we are consistent with what is important to us. To habituate something, it has to be a priority. We prioritize things when they have an obvious, immediate, benefit OR if the benefit is longer term, there is a good reason that is meaningful to us now – the why.
This is an invitation to find a good reason for you to prioritize gratitude in your life. May you find the “meaningful why” to leverage the power of gratitude in your daily life.
Because it can change your life.
So, here we go.
Understanding the Power and Priority of Gratitude.
Practicing Gratitude goes beyond a thank you.
I receive a birthday gift and I say “thank you.” 🎁 This is an immediate, worldly exchange. Transactional. Gratitude covers the otherworldly. Practicing gratitude shines a light on those things that aren’t planned, that just happen. Some call them “God winks”.
For example, do you know those times when things just go your way, like:
- Green lights and front-row parking spots?
- Running into someone you were just thinking about?
- Is your question being answered without your effort?
- Things that “come out of nowhere”?
- A breathtaking sunset that stops you short?
- A warm feeling of “all is well” that comes over you?
- An unexpected note, phone call, card, comment that is connecting, kind, caring?
- A warm hug?
- A broad smile from a stranger?
- A song that just says it all, right on time?
- A pause to notice the joy in what you already have?
Being thankful is a response.
Gratitude is a state
Gratitude is also an action.
Practicing gratitude can profoundly influence your mindset. Humans do not do well in isolation. When there is no focus on what is at work behind the scenes, work being done for you, it can be a lonely journey. Paying attention to the vast, unseen resources and support you receive can encourage, inspire, motivate you to take the next step, to leap, to take care, to be generous, and in addition, it just feels good to be supported.
When we tap into this consistently, we see it more often, just by frequency – yes, and also by honing our vision to see all of the opportunities to BE grateful. This is a muscle I encourage you to build.
Our brains are great search-engines. Think about it, our brains are always on the hunt, to answer a question. So, give it a good question.
Below is my favorite card from this deck, with my favorite question. I was given this question at a time when my life was falling apart. Nothing was going “to plan”, life seemed out of control. I had just found out the very disgruntled(at the time) father of my son was evicting our tennant next door and moving in with his girlfriend. Next door.
Needless to say, I couldn’t see ANYTHING good in this. I called my mentor in tears, “what am I going to do?”
She answered with one question, “can you be grateful for this?”
I answered, “heck no!” (with more colorful words)
“Well, I suggest you find a way.”
It took a couple days. There was a serious internal fight – Why the heck do I need to? Doesn’t she understand? What good is that going to do? WTF?
And then I did it anyway.
I realized I didn’t have to share the answer to the question with my son’s father and his girlfriend. I didn’t have to love the situation. I didn’t even have to like it. I decided to be grateful that the woman next door was already a mother and when our son was over there, I knew he’d be taken care of.
That’s what I stuck with. And I reflected on it when I was afraid, mad, sad, etc. I didn’t push away these feelings and emotions, I just added an AND I’m grateful that… I got to do both.
What this did was allow space for love to come through. I’d love to say it “fixed” it. It did not. What it did was remind me that I was not in charge of the world, and I could have discomfort AND a life at the same time.
Genuinely practicing gratitude is to find the gift in the midst.
It is not practicing AT your emotions or as a cover for what is going on. If you’re in an unsafe situation, address it – gratitude is not a justifier.
Esther Hicks tells an analogy of using gratitude as a cover. She paints the picture of placing a happy face over the gas gauge and then being surprised when the car stops running.
Gratitude is additive, it doesn’t remove responsibility.
Gratitude’s Role in Growth
A regular practice of gratitude, being in the state of, allows for more options, opportunities, possibilities, Wonder is a close companion and this is what feeds collaboration.
Gratitude as a connector.
Gratitude touches and connects us to what we cannot see – this in itself opens us up to growth. It allows for limitless possibilities and new perspectives. This is a trademark of a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset is a cage. It will blame outside circumstances, people, places for the pain or hurt or fear. A fixed mindset will only work within the parameters that it already knows. This separates us and is stagnant and really NOT FUN.
Gratitude connects, enhances relationships, and allows depth into our lives. We are connected. Like the Aspens we are all connected and in this noisy, worldly world – that can be forgotten. This can leave us feeling alone, us against the world (the boss, the teenager, the disgruntled client, etc.) and puts us in the cage. Practicing gratitude can get us unstuck.
Practice Gratitude as an energy booster.
It can also shift energy. Appreciation is gratitude’s cousin and puts money in your emotional bank account. One of my favorite exercises when facilitating retreats is to ask each participant to turn to the left and appreciate something about the person next to them. Most times, I’ll initiate this after the group has been together for a day or more and gotten to know each other. Although, it really comes up when the opportunity arises – often during a lull in the energy, or leading up to some deep work.
One at a time, they turn to the person next to them and offer an appreciation, touching/highlighting some unseen part of this person, this new connection. And as the witnessing travels around the room you can feel it – deep smiles, sometimes tears (the joy of being seen), and the tide rises, shoulders relax.
The whole room shifts.
Gratitude as a resource.
Our bodies are built to self-regulate, meaning our nature is to be in homeostasis, balance. Physiologically we utilize resources to bring our nervous system back into balance.
Ever watch a dog “shake it off”
or a duck flap its wings on the ground and then settle back in? These are resources – a physical calming of the system, to set it back on course.
We do this too, and we humans have free will to choose how we do it. Some resources are healthier than others. Meditation – healthy, binge watching Netflix all night and not sleeping – not so healthy.
Gratitude is a great resource. It can enhance dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters related to happiness. It can calm the nervous system.
Pause. Slow down. Pick something you are grateful for. Practice. Notice the sensation. Practice.
Gratitude as an action.
Okay the dictionary defines gratitude as a noun. I offer that it is also an action 💪. Take it or leave it. If you are willing, practice with everyday occurrences.
Ever washed the dishes and paid attention to the warm water? The ease of turning the faucet on and water just coming out? The smell of the soap? (Okay I’m a Dawn girl and that smell just brings lots of memories!) The gift to take care of what you have? A reflection of what you just got to eat off the plates?
How about a walk around the block, no airpods, no distractions. What does the breeze feel like? How many stars are out? What season is it? What does the air feel like in and out of your nostrils?
Sharing an experience with another. Slow down. Be curious. Imagine the connection, highlight it. Appreciate.
You may find something you weren’t expecting.
Gratitude is contagious.
As gratitude is really a state it radiates out, ripples out like a current. It’s beyond words and doesn’t take kindly to declarations or explanations. Live it and be open to it’s effects on you and others. It’s also not controllable🌊.
Make Gratitude Your Daily Practice
You don’t have to go to a retreat to practice shifting energy, although you are always welcome! Practice around the dinner table, on a long car ride. This is a portable practice.🎒
- Appreciate something that another did that day
- Appreciate who they are
- Appreciate something about being in relation with them
- Appreciate something that they said
- Your choice
Be grateful for what you have. Find the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Gratitude does not measure on a worldly scale. Big, small, significant, insignificant – these ‘measures’ are irrelevant to the process – ALL gratitude and the focus of it is powerful.
Choose ONE action, strategy, or practice from this blog and commit to practicing it daily. 🗓️
To help you to habituate this practice, you can associate it with a trigger. For example, everytime you enter your home, note one thing you are grateful for. At bedtime, as you get into bed, pause and reflect. Upon awakening, before you get out of bed, think of one person you’ll reach out to and appreciate that day. At the dinner table, bring gratitude into the conversation. When it is associated with an already habitual action, it is easier to be consistent. Begin with 30 days, see what happens…
and then Continue! Don’t let this powerful practice fade with the season.