Gratitude is a recognition that we have nothing that we have not received. Everything we are and everything we have—yes, everything—has been given to us.
I came across a book in 2013 that made a great impact in my life – One Thousand Gifts | A Dare to LIVE FULLY Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. In that book, she wrote about hunting for joy in our daily lives by counting gifts, little blessings that often go unnoticed which are really there if we can only train our minds to see beauty in the ugly or chaos in and around our lives; a celebration of grace, and having the presence of mind to recognize the power of gratitude and how it can turn our lives around.
So I began to keep a gratitude journal, and although I’m not very faithful to it, I always go back because counting blessings not only trains our minds to focus on the good, it can also help develop stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, longer and better sleep, more positive emotions including joy, optimism, aliveness, helpfulness, compassion, forgiveness and generosity, according to Gratitude expert Dr Robert Emmons.
But why is gratitude so difficult?
- Technology – Gratitude means we are paying attention to life, beauty and people. To do that, we need to look up from our phones and computers and be fully present.
- Suffering – It can be hard to be grateful when we are challenged by certain events. Through feeling and expressing grief and other painful emotions in healthy ways, reflecting and getting wise support; growth, wisdom and healing can emerge that we never would have received if not for the “negative” that happened.
- Community – If the people around us tend to complain and focus on what’s not working, it can affect us if we don’t stay awake to our intention to be grateful.
- Media – We encounter a lot of bad news in the mainstream media. Yet there is an increasing focus on positive news too. Look out for them. There are lots of other social media sources where you can get inspiring and positive news or information. Try to get some of these into your daily media diet.
There’s also hurry. Comparison. Unrealistic expectations. Complaining. Grumbling. Annoyances. Regret. Worrying. Bitterness. Perfectionism.
Want to cultivate more gratitude in your life?
Start a gratitude practice today. Your practice can be as simple or elaborate as you want. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Keep a gratitude journal. Every evening write down 3 things you’re grateful for. Nothing is too little or ridiculous. Very soon, 3 won’t be enough.
- Visually track your moments of joy and gratitude with small objects. It could be anything, get creative.
- Give a genuine compliment to at least one person daily.
- Feel the power of and be grateful for nature and the simple things in life.
- Really notice and look at the people who you pass by each day. Smile and watch your joy spread to others.
- Write a letter, an SMS, to someone in your life that you are grateful for.
The key is to be intentional about it, truly it’s not easy but it can be done. Choosing gratitude gets our focus off of ourselves, removes bitterness and self-pity, and helps us walk down the path to the joy that awaits everyone who lives in a constant state of thanksgiving. Keep up your gratitude practice for just a month and see the difference it makes in your life.
Will you join me this year?