A simple, yet profound practice
For many of us, Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday. Maybe it’s yours? If so, is it the mashed potatoes, the pumpkin pie or the chance to reflect on all of life’s blessings? Oh yeah, that.
Sometimes, we’re too busy to be thankful. Sometimes, things suck. When times are rough, or even when they’re not, it can be difficult to be appreciative. A simple way to cultivate thankfulness into our lives is with a gratitude practice – a regularly written reflection of the things for which we are grateful.
Take the holiday season: we feel the swirl of excitement but stress over expectations of buying gifts, entertaining family and serving the perfect meal. This time of year, it can be especially difficult to resolve our feelings of contradiction. We worry over party planning, then feel guilty because we’re not enjoying Aunt Sally’s visit. Then our guilt makes us freak out more, which makes us enjoy the holidays less, which turns into a vicious cycle of dread. Gratitude can help break this cycle.
Not only is a gratitude practice especially appropriate during the holiday season, but also year round, to help us be in the moment and appreciate all that we do have.
Thanks to the insurgence of spirituality and self-help in our current culture, reminders to “be present” and “in the moment” appear on every Instagram feed, including mine! We all know it’s sage advice, but as with so many things that are meant to be good for us, like eating kale, it’s often easier said than done.
A gratitude practice, however, is a very simple, no-cost vitamin for your soul that takes very little time or effort. The theory behind recording your gratitude is basic: what we concentrate on increases. By focusing our thoughts on our blessings, they become bigger in our minds. We think less of what we lack and manifest more blessings. When we’re acknowledging what we have right here, right now, regrets and worries fade. We realize that we have enough; we are enough.
Ready to be grateful? Here’s how:
- Grab a pen and piece of paper – or better yet a pretty journal designated just for the purpose of gratitude.
- Pick a practice time – first thing in the morning or before bed are good options.
- Write down three things that already exist in your life for which you are grateful. Be specific. “I’m grateful for marigolds because they’re cheerful and make me feel happy,” is much more expressive than, “I’m grateful for marigolds.”
- Repeat daily.
- As you get good, increase your list to 10!
Gratitude is a surefire balm for stress or distress. I’ve talked myself out of many a perceived crisis with the help of my gratitude journal. If I’m tired or overwhelmed and feel the slippery slide into woe is me, I start a list. It’s hard to feel sorry for ourselves when we can see in black and white how fortunate we truly are.