In the summer of 2011, the day before my birthday, I was living with my handsome new husband, in our new home, teaching relationship classes at a local non-profit. Life was good. But as I sat at the computer about to write a post on my personal blog at the time, my joy was hijacked with negative thoughts…One small thought led to the next and the next…What am I doing with my life? My life isn’t amounting to anything. I haven’t started a masters program yet. Maybe I won’t be able to have kids. I don’t even own an iphone. My blog has five readers including mom and dad, my teeth are crooked, my nose is long; It went on something like that. I was trapped in that downward spiral of self sabotage.
I am not a stranger to that negative voice in my head. None of us are. I let it go on for a few minutes, but as I was almost in tears, mindfulness stopped me dead in my tracks. Gratitude swooped in like a gentle healer, holding my hand and guiding my thoughts down another path. One small thought of thanks turned into another. And another. And one by one I moved from a mindset of scarcity and fear to a place of love and abundance. Peace started to fill me up again quickly and gracefully. It started as simple as, I am grateful. I am grateful I am sitting here today with people in my life that love me. I am grateful for my education. I am grateful I am choosing to show up; contribute to the world no matter how seemingly small that may be. I am grateful I get to shower in warm water. I’m grateful I was able to have these experiences (dot dot dot) that have shaped who I am. I am grateful for these jeans I wear almost daily because they are so comfortable. I am grateful for these walls in this house for keeping my husband and I safe. I’m grateful for my husband…
Gratitude is powerful. It pulls us out of a place of scarcity and into a state of abundance. It is the author of joy and opens our hearts, aligning ourselves with all the good that exists around us.
Deepak Chopra has written, “If you want more happiness, joy, and energy, gratitude is clearly a crucial quality to cultivate. It is a fullness of heart that moves us from limitation and fear to expansion and love. When we’re appreciating something, our ego moves out of the way and we connect with our soul. Gratitude brings our attention into the present, which is the only place where miracles can unfold. The deeper our appreciation, the more we see with the eyes of the soul and the more our life flows in harmony with the creative power of the universe.”
A regular practice of gratitude aids our mindset in recognizing we are enough. And we have enough. It brings us out of feeling sadness about our past and anxiety about the future and grounds us right in the middle of our present moment. And even gives us greater physical, mental and spiritual health. I’m in! Who’s with me!?!
Here are some simple ways to get you started practicing gratitude daily:
1. Gratitude Journal
Each day for a month write down at least three things you’re grateful for. You can keep it as simple as you like. I challenge you to not write the same thing twice. That will help you dig a little deeper and begin to see the little joys all around you. I find it easiest to write before bed, when you wake up, or just before you meditate or pray.
2. Gratitude Meditation
Meditation involves focussing on the present moment without judgement. Include attention to the things you are grateful for. Begin by focussing on your breath, then express gratitude for your body (get specific!), then move on to the things you hear and smell, and go from there. I like to do a variation of this mindfulness exercise while I’m walking. Getting out in nature, with my kids strapped in their stroller, and again, paying attention to my breath, body, and the beauty of the world around me–cultivate an awareness that immediately shifts my attention to abundance, gives me energy and helps put me in a better mood. Yay!
3. Write a Thank You Note
Take the time to write to people who have impacted your life. The written word is powerful and can be re-read and treasured. A friend recently wrote me such a letter and I have read it countless times and keep it stapled in my journal. A thank you letter has a ripple effect of love. It makes us happy and nurtures our relationships, blessing both the sender and recipient. Make a habit of writing at least one a month.
4. Express it Out-Loud
This one is really personal for me. It’s been working really well for my family to increase a culture of gratitude and abundance in our home no matter the circumstances. Each night at the dinner table, we go around and tell each other what we are grateful for that day. We do it often enough that now our 2 year old leads the discussion if we have forgotten. “Mom, what you grateful for?” It’s not always perfect. Dinner can be a little rough around the edges: kids are tired from a long day of play and school, husband is coming home a little overwhelmed, and mama is just keepin that smile on my face before I can climb into my warm bed with my favorite book and Netflix. However, that moment where we highlight the good, accentuate the bountiful gifts we’ve been given that day, our hearts are lifted, and the energy of the room transforms. There are many ways you can adapt this exercise in your home. A few good times might be: during bedtime routine with kids, just before bed with your spouse, when you wake in the morning, or during your car ride to school.
There are so many ways we can begin a regular practice of gratitude in our life. How are we going to start?? I want us to feel more grounded in the present and to feel the joy of fulfillment. Let’s start today! I’m cheering us on.