Practicing Gratitude in Troubling Times
Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. I think it's important to be and feel thankful, as we're a part of a very generous Universe, and the more thankful we are, the easier life appears to be. Things may not always work out the way we expect; however, when we're in a mode of appreciating everything, we may be more receptive and more willing to go with the flow. We may be in a place of seeing adversity as part of a bigger plan. As the old saying goes, what we appreciate, appreciates.
Practicing gratitude has been a real challenge for me lately, despite often being described as someone who's naturally optimistic. In fact, ask my family and closest friends and they would easily say "optimism" is one of my top traits. However, as an adult, with my own personal hardships compiled with today's global tragedies, practicing gratitude requires a bit more effort from me and is something I need to make a conscious effort to prioritize.
I want to note that there often isn't an obvious relationship between optimism and gratitude. But despite this, I find a strong connection between the two! When I find myself in a more optimistic mood, I notice that I am more open, receptive, and grateful for the things around me. And when I practice being grateful, I find myself in a humbling place, appreciating my surroundings more.
When I find it tough to be grateful for my every day, or when I'm in the middle of a tough life experience, I will take time to take a deeper look and identify what lessons I'm gaining in the moment. If it's tough to see at present, then I'll redirect my attention to practicing patience and trusting in the process - trusting that there's something bigger in the works from this experience that I'll look back and understand later.
My biggest reminder is that I get this one life, and there are still so many things I want to do with it. I truly am grateful to be alive.
5 ways to practice gratitude right now:
1) Journal or practice a mindful exercise/reflection. If you're having trouble getting started on this exercise, take a look at the immediate things in front of you and build from there: For example, you are alive! You have access to basic resources like food, water, and shelter. You have your health! You have caring family and friends.
2) Immerse your senses. Take yourself on a sensory journey - grab your favorite beverage (e.g. hot chocolate, latte, etc) and close your eyes, savoring every moment as you sip. Love clean sheets? Take a few minutes to enjoy the warm fabric out of the dryer with your skin, and breathe in the smell of clean laundry.
3) Go on a walk outside --find gratitude in mother nature. Notice the clean air of the trees, the water that the rain brings, or the water of the lakes/oceans. Notice the earth beneath your feet that is full of life.
4) Observe your pet. If you have a dog, have you noticed just how present they are able to be in the moment and appreciate their surroundings? It doesn't matter how many times they have been on that neighborhood walk, they seem to be excited about it every time. I don't know if they practice gratitude, but they sure are excited!
5) Share with a family member or friend how grateful you are for them, and what you are grateful for them for.
How do you like to practice gratitude? What are your tips for finding gratitude when life is tough? I'd love to hear from you - respond to this post or share with us on Twitter.