If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.
— Meister Eckhart
As the world opens up once again, it becomes very easy for us to get stuck in all things that are wrong with it. The loss of jobs, loss of lives, uncertainty about our own future, fear about our own health and that of loved ones- the list is indeed endless. While all of these concerns are certainly valid, focusing only on this leads to poor quality of life.
Many of us focus only on the “glass half empty” and complain about all the things that are not the way we want it to be. Unfortunately for us, we end up feeling helpless and disempowered when we do this.
What if you could alter our way of looking at your life?
What if you realised that life owes you nothing?
Most importantly, what if you realised that what you have is actually a GIFT and cannot be taken for granted?
Would this not help you change the way you think no matter what your circumstances are?
Research shows that when we look at life this way, the effects are quantifiable and sustainable. This is in terms of the quality of our life, our relationships, inner peace, happiness and health. We are never too old, young, rich, poor to live gratefully.
According to Robert Emmons, psychology professor and gratitude researcher at UC, Davis there are two main components of gratitude, affirmation and recognition. One, we affirm the good things that we have received as a gift from sources outside of us and two, we also acknowledge the role that others play in bringing it about for us.
In gratitude, we recognize that the source of goodness is outside of ourselves. So when we feel grateful, we know that we have been given a gift which we did not necessarily earn but benefited from.
There are many health benefits which have been shown to be linked with gratitude such as
- Increased happiness and positive mood
- More satisfaction in life
- Less likely to experience burnout
- Better sleep
- Less fatigue
- Greater resiliency
(Source: a white paper from the Greater Good Science Centre titled “The Science of Gratitude” 2008)
Count your blessings
Each day you have many opportunities to develop a grateful heart by learning to pay attention to all the blessings in your life- big and small. But if you do not learn to clear your mind of negativity on a regular basis, you leave no room in your heart for gratitude to enter. However, when you do so, even in the midst of your pain and suffering you will find that you cannot be lost in worry about the future.
What gets in the way of gratitude?
For most people, it is the frenetic pace of modern life. It leaves little room to pause, reflect and ponder upon all the gifts that we receive every single day. It robs us of the little moments that can open our eyes to all that we have already- right here, right now. If we get into the habit of using our senses and pay attention and look for all the gifts that we are given every day, we can find valuable gifts even in the most challenging times.
When our daughter went through a severe health crisis several years back, being grateful for the fact that she survived that ordeal gave me the strength to find ways to heal her. It also led me to a path of self introspection and discovery which ultimately paved the way for me to become a Health Coach.
However, the key here is this (including in my own experience) - that we remain open to whatever is we are experiencing and not fight it tooth and nail. This allows us to (sometimes in retrospect) to see all that we can be grateful for even in the midst of our pain and suffering.
Gratitude is the gateway to “JOY”
In an earlier post, “INTENTION- a pathway for inviting happiness into your life”, I shared with you how deciding to be happy and then becoming intentional about it could help you to train your mind to see more joy in your life. Gratitude is yet another way of training your mind by awakening all your of sense and rewiring your brain to see more of joy in your life.
I have shared with you guided practice in this week's podcast episode that can help you do just that.
Gratitude for small wonders
The Zen teacher Jon Kabat Zinn had once said..
“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.”
I want to leave you with one of the most effective ways to train your gratitude muscles to start noticing and appreciating all the good in your life. Keeping a GRATITUDE JOURNAL is one amazing way of magnifying the good in your life and expanding your experience of gratitude.
Here are some key things to keep in mind as you get started
- Take 15 minutes before you go to bedtime to write down 3 things that you are grateful for (you can also use the journal prompts listed below to help you)
- Let your writing flow without trying to change it or force and don't worry about the grammar.
- Make sure that you are writing down specific things that you are grateful for rather than very general ones so as to avoid gratitude fatigue- using different journal prompts every day can help as well
- Know and accept that it will take time for you to notice any difference in your life and that you will need to keep practicing to become better at this
Journal prompts to get you started
- What I appreciate most in my life right now
- 5 things that I am grateful for right now (or as many as you can think of)
- I am grateful for my family because…”
- “Something good happened this week…”
- “I am grateful for my friendship with… because…”
- “I am grateful for who I am because…”
- “Something silly that I am grateful for…”
- “Something else I am grateful for…”
- The best part about my day today
- What I am learning from my challenges
In this week's podcast episode, I have shared with you three ways (including journaling) that you can change the way you look at life by training your mind to look for the good.
After all, a GRATEFUL HEART IS A JOYFUL HEART.