A strategy for a happy and fulfilling life would not be complete without gratitude. Our ability to recognize and feel grateful for the blessings in our lives is an integral part of our happiness. Gratitude is a means to increase happiness by teaching us to think about what we have instead of what we don’t have.
To truly experience gratitude, take it a step beyond just thinking. For each thing you are grateful for, take a moment to experience what it feels like to appreciate that thing. Focus your mind on what you are giving thanks for until you experience a physical sensation, perhaps a flutter of energy or a wave of happiness. There is a different, deeper quality to our gratitude when we do this. Taking the time to shift our awareness from words in our head to a physical experience will reveal that feeling grateful is different than just thinking we are grateful.
Opportunities for Practicing Gratitude:
1. Anytime you catch yourself thinking about something that you do not have, shift your thoughts to gratitude for the things you do have. If you are thinking of a break-up, missing someone, financial problems, an illness (lack of health), or something you desire that is causing you suffering, redirect your thoughts towards what you already have.
2. When you wake up in the morning and your thoughts start to wander, use that time to focus your thoughts on the things you are grateful for. This will help set your mind to a positive energy for the day.
3. If you are the kind of person who takes a while to fall asleep, try thinking of things you are grateful for instead of just letting your thoughts wander or counting sheep.
4. When something upsets you, pause and take a brief moment to be grateful for something. This will take the edge of your negative emotions. If you are with someone who is upset, try gently bringing up things they might be grateful for “At least you still have . . .”
There is so much in this world to be grateful for. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Language, stories, books and the ability to read, to talk and communicate with others. Eyesight, hearing, smell, taste, and the sense of touch that connects us so vividly to the world around us. Our bodies, organs and cells that seem to know what to do on their own. Shelter, heat, gas, lights and electricity, sun that warms the earth and nurtures the plants, the rain that waters them. Animals, pets, birds and their songs. Technology, computers, email, printers, word processors, cameras, scanners, cell phones, cars, planes. Supermarkets, drug stores, toilet paper, toothpaste, soap. Sunsets, the moon, stars, beds, pillows, blankets, pajamas, and dreams. Favorite sweaters, warm and cozy socks. Mailmen, garbage men, roads and the people who build them. Coffee, tea, water, bread. Fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and all the humans throughout time who risked and even lost their lives figuring out which ones are safe to eat. All the animals who gave their lives to feed human beings. Beauty, art, paintings and paint, pottery, jewelry. The people we love, family, friends, things that make us laugh. Vacations, adventures, parks, the ability to walk, hike, run, bike, swim, and dance. Couches, tables, cups. bowls, plates, spoons, forks and knives. Fire for warmth and cooking. All the trees that decorate the landscape, giving us oxygen and shade. Flowers that add color to our world and feed equally colorful creatures such as hummingbirds and butterflies. Oceans, beaches, and waves that break on shore where we can wet our feet and hear the hushing, soothing sound of the ocean’s music. Music, the humans that made the effort to master instruments and write the songs that move us. Our ability to learn, grow, and evolve. Our ability to change and become masters of ourselves, our minds, and our lives. Our capacity to create, to nurture, and to love . . .
It is an amazing world we live in when we take the time to recognize what we have instead of focusing on what is lacking.