On this lovely day, I want to remind you to take some extra time to sit down quietly, close your eyes, and give every bit of your attention to one or two special people, or things, or ideas for which you are grateful. This can be a five minute thing, or it can flow through your heart for thirty minutes or an hour or however long you want. A quiet space of all-consuming gratitude is a lovely place to be.
I suggest, at the minimum, making a gratitude list every day. During my mornings, I spend time interacting with at least three things that come to the forefront of my mind. Throughout the rest of my day, I express gratitude at every turn. Even if I just look at my dog for two seconds, I think (or say aloud), “I am so grateful for you.” In those moments, I do not spend a ton of time really bringing my full awareness to that moment. If I come across something I like, I am reminded of gratitude and I notice that gratitude and then keep on moving through my day. I think you’ll feel good when you make time to intentionally focus on gratitude. You can acknowledge gratitude in just a passing moment. Any attention to gratitude is excellent, you do not always have to make time in your schedule. Think about it, feel it, allow it into your life in any way it shows up.
As an extended practice, in order to actually schedule that gratitude, you can set aside meaningful time solely dedicated to how grateful you are. I want to remind you of the comfort and hope that arises when we really let our brains fire the good stuff that fires when we feel grateful and put ourselves and the things we are grateful for directly in the center of our minds. So often, negativity is the most commonly quick to consume us before we even notice. Today, practice letting gratitude be the mighty force that takes hold of your soul. The way negativity ripples through our behavior, so does gratitude. In addition to your quick gratitude list, try this exercise to let gratitude fuel the rest of your day.
Find a quiet moment in a space with minimal distractions. Put your phone on silent (with vibrate off, too) or leave it in the other room. Sit or lay down comfortably, in a position that won’t cause you pain or bring you away from your focus. Close your eyes or leave them quietly open, whatever feels most comforting for you.
Fill your lungs with oxygen
Take a deep breath, picture your lungs filling with oxygen and feel brain calming. Let yourself let go. While you exhale, pay attention to the weight that is lifted from your chest as you open and welcome the peace you are ready to feel. Do this a few times, inhaling longer for each inhale. Let your body release any tension — relax your jaw, drop your shoulders, unlock your knees.
Whatever comes up, love that
As you sit, feel the word gratitude and try to choose what comes to mind in the first few seconds of thought. You do not have to scroll through all of the things in your life in order to find something that is especially profound. I usually pick the very first thing that comes to mind. You can invite a person (your pre-school teacher, your best friend, the cashier at your coffee shop, anyone), you can think of any material object and not consider yourself shallow if you think it’s too fancy and ultimately doesn’t matter in the scheme of things (your very cool new shoes, your expensive watch, your favorite stuffed animal). You can focus on the things that tie you to your existence, such as your ability to read, your spiritual practice, how cool your hair is, the fact that you experience emotions.
Hold it exactly as it is
Put yourself in a spacious and quiet moment alone with what you chose, or let your memory bring you to an exact place where you felt the true joy associated with the specific gratitude. If you chose a person, picture their face and their smile and their perfect wrinkles that have developed as a result of their lifelong laughter. Think about how it feels to hug them or hear their voice or dance with them. Allow yourself to really be there. Whatever you are bringing your gratitude to, look at every detail of it. Study the stitching on the shoes that you love, bring yourself to the moment you picked them out and put them on. Remember how that felt? It was a spark that you listened to. You experienced a moment of connection with an object. You’re not shallow, you’re giving yourself nonjudgmental permission to enjoy the way look, to embrace the person you want to be, to appreciate the person you are. That is pretty cool. You thought, “These shoes are my style, they are the look I’m going for, they are the only cool pair of shoes I own.” Take yourself to these moments. Breathe.
One thing at a time
You can spend your time holding just one thing in your heart, or you can move on to one or two more things. If you move on to another item on your gratitude list, do so with a slow transition. There is no need to jump quickly from one thing to another, getting as many things done as you can. When you have completed expressing gratitude for one thing, say thank you to it, and let it float away as your welcome in the next thing. When you have completed this exercise, bring yourself back to your physical surroundings by taking some deep breaths and opening your eyes to the quiet around you. Slowly bring your body back by doing a body scan and relaxing each body part you notice as you uncross your legs and move up from the floor or your chair.
Come back to gratitude
As you go about your day, it is okay if you find yourself back in automatic thought loops and a high-intensity focus on your to-do list. Let yourself live the way you are used to without shaming yourself for not changing in the ways you want to. If the word gratitude comes into your mind at all, simply notice it and look for gratitude in exactly what you are doing, even if you are feeling frustrated or stressed or sad.
This practice is super helpful and over time it will naturally infiltrate the parts of your life that usually leave you in a tangled mess of frustration and loss of perspective. I hope you enjoy it and find ways to customize this idea in a way that is realistic and sustainable for you. Even if this doesn’t sound cool, try starting by making a quick gratitude list during any part of your day, whether you write it down or keep it in your head. Driving in the car is a great time to practice this, especially if you are stuck in traffic.
See how this feels, try it once, try it a few times. Use it when you are stuck in a whirlwind of stress. When anxiety consumes you, counter it with gratitude and see if that eases your racing thoughts.