What does Gratitude mean? Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given. This awareness can lessen our tendency to want more all the time.
How does practicing my awareness of Gratitude help me?
Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present.
Take notice of what you have.
Being aware of and routinely practicing mindfulness of gratitude leads to a direct experience of being connected to life and the realization that there is a larger context in which your personal story is unfolding.
In order to be grateful for the little things you need to notice them first and this is why the practices of mindfulness and gratitude go perfectly hand in hand. A grateful person is a mindful person and vice versa.
Mindfulness teaches you to see things as they are, rather than as they used to be (or how you would like them to be). For example, you may regularly get stuck in traffic on the way to work. Normally this is a huge headache that causes you anxiety and generally puts a damper on your entire day. However, when you become mindful of what that commute really means, instead of loathing it, it instead it becomes a time to reflect on how fortunate you are to have a working vehicle to get to work and a job to go to. Being mindful changes your perception of that experience and makes you grateful for it rather than resentful of it. It makes you realize that getting to work after the horrible commute is not the only thing to be thankful of. It’s also the car that got you there, the patient commuters you encountered, the friendly neighbourhood barista on the way in to work, etcetera and so on.
Where to start…
Focus on the present moment.
You will always find a reason for gratitude in the present moment. Right now is the only reality — the past and future aren’t real. If you are grateful for this moment, you will live with gratitude always.
By focusing on what you are doing right now, there is no room for dwelling in the past or future. If your present moment is a moment of sadness or frustration, stop and breath, and observe your feelings with loving compassion — not resistance. Be grateful to yourself for loving compassion.
Gratitude is always available to us, even when we don’t feel it. Recognize its presence and turn to it in your darkest moments. Return to it again and again, and you will see how it lightens your heart and rewards you with expansive, contented, and joyful feelings that expand your gratitude.
1. How can you practice gratitude?
To practice gratitude, you say “thanks” and you appreciate what’s important to you.
- Spend a few minutes at the end of each day and think about, or even write down, what you are grateful for that day. Think about people, events, or experiences that have had a positive impact on you.
- Call or email someone just to say “thanks.”
- Write thank-you notes as well as saying “thank you” when you receive gifts or favors. Or write a letter of gratitude and appreciation to someone. You don’t have to mail it.
- When feeling burdened by your health, give thanks for the abilities you still have.
This is a spiritual practice that gains momentum over time and with practice. You will start to notice your day-to-day world from a point of gratitude and be amazed at all the goodness we take for granted.
3. Gratitude journal:
This is the most common gratitude practice, and one of the most effective. Get yourself a journal and write down 5 things you are grateful for. You can do this each night before going to bed, write a list of the things about your day for which you’re grateful. Some days you’ll have exciting things to write down, and some days you’ll be writing down simple joys. You can do this just once a week, but do it regularly. It’s not how often you do it that counts—it’s how regularly and how sincerely.
So do it. Sit down with pen and paper or at your computer and start, “I am grateful for…” Maybe you will have to stop there for a minute and wait because you just can’t think of anything. But just wait. Surrender to the moment. Something inside you will shift. The words will come.
This force that you are tapping into is bigger than you and it is bigger than your problem, no matter how big that is. That tide of fear that is overwhelming you is not all there is. There is so much more to you than that.
4. Do for others:
Reaching out and assisting those in need often reminds us of the good in the world. Even better, make volunteering a family affair-and teach your children the power of giving and gratitude.
Join a cause that’s important to you. Donate money, time, or talent. By getting involved, you’ll better appreciate the organization — and it will appreciate you more, too.
5. Feel it.
Some days you will write without feeling a shred of gratitude. That’s ok. Just do it anyway. And when you can summon up the feeling of gratitude in your heart, let it percolate through every cell in your body. Embody it.
Gratitude requires humility, which the dictionary defines as being “modest and respectful.” Explore where it fits in your life.
6. Practice present-moment gratitude:
As you move through your day, pause now and then when you remember, and think as you do something “I am grateful.”
I like to do this with my morning cup of coffee. While you’re having your first cup of coffee, sit back and think of the things that you’re thankful for. You can even start out by feeling gratitude for the following:
- The warmth of the coffee mug you’re holding
The aroma of the coffee
That first sip of coffee
The beautiful morning
The beginning of a new day full of promise
The quiet just before the day officially starts
Moving through your day with awareness and grace in this way will mean that when you do sit down to write your gratitude list those things will come to mind.
When you find yourself in a bad situation ask: What can I learn? When I look back on this, without emotion, what will I be grateful for?
7. Share the Gratitude:
Find someone, it can be a friend or a family member, and share what you’re grateful for with each other. You can feed off of each others’ ideas. In addition, if the other person knows you well they can remind you of things you may be leaving out or things you’ve forgotten. You will keep each other going and that sense of obligation to that person will give you the push you need to write your list on those days when it just seems too hard.
Reading what the other person has written helps you to access your own gratitude more easily, and it is fun to watch your gratitude email grown longer and longer and longer! You can see your progress.
Vow to not complain, criticize, or gossip for a week. If you slip, rally your willpower and keep going. Notice how much energy you were spending on negative thoughts.
8. Things you take for granted.
Imagine losing some of the things that you take for granted, such as your home, your ability to see or hear, your ability to walk, or anything that currently gives you comfort. Then imagine getting each of these things back, one by one, and consider how grateful you would be for each and every one.
9. Put things in perspective:
Obviously, things won’t always go your way. However, gratitude isn’t an emotion that is reserved for those moments when you get what you want. When things go wrong you can use the power of gratitude to release some of the negative emotions that you may be feeling due to the failure or setback that you just experienced.
After a negative event put things in perspective by remembering that every difficulty carries within it the seeds of an equal or greater benefit. When faced with adversity, ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s good about this?
What can I learn from this?
How can I benefit from this?
Is there something about this situation that I can be grateful for?
10. Practice Mindfulness to appreciate each moment:
Focus on the present moment. Notice what’s all around you. Use all of your senses: What do you see, feel, hear, smell, taste? Experiencing what is right in front of you is one of the surest ways to keep a grateful heart. And it also helps ensure that you don’t miss a single blessing!