Gratitude, although intangible, is something we can create.
Of course, feeling appreciation is wonderful. Maybe I experience it most easily when I’m given something as a gift I’ve longed to possess or when someone serves my favorite meal. Beyond ‘thank you’ is a place of being in gratitude. Here my eyes open to what I already possess (physical or nonphysical). That which is here and now and good in my life.
Gratitude isn’t simply a feeling of appreciation or thanks. Gratitude can open our understanding to see obstacles as an opportunity for growth.
Take a deep breath. What are you aware of now? You may have noticed your lungs filling, or a favorite scent, or your shoulders relaxing. Breathe out. What is here, now, and good is you had oxygen available and a healthy enough organ system to breathe in and out again. It takes practice to recognize that involuntary action which your body performs minute by minute for decades as a gift. One you are grateful to possess.
Unlike grace, I believe that gratitude is a skill we can practice.
Here are few ways I’ve discovered to help me create gratitude in my personal life.
- Do it daily. It’s best if you do it around the same time (or times) of the day. I like to start and end my day with at least a verbal (out loud if possible) list of three things I appreciate/appreciated in my day/life.
- Writing it down is best. You may have heard this tip a hundred times but it’s true, it’s true, it’s true! Regular journaling has done more to exercise my gratitude skill than anything else I can name. It is so powerful, I created my own gratitude journal.
- Have a ‘touchstone’. Whenever you touch, see, (or even smell) this item, you take a moment to feel grateful. This can be quite literally a stone or rock you’ve selected. But, it can also be any other physical object. A photo. A mug. A piece of art or jewelry. A swatch of fabric. You get the idea. Anything you wish to keep near you on a regular basis. I have one friend who uses a special screen saver on her phone.
- Gratitude for ‘obstacles’. This one continues to be a work in progress for me. So much so, I was tempted to not include it. What has helped me most is to reframe it as learning. If we are alive, we are learning. Life continues to give us puzzles to solve. I get many of these daily/weekly in the form of technology. It’s easy to berate myself or the circumstance, but gratitude allows me to see the benefit of my overcoming (even with a little help from my friends *wink*).
In gratitude to you
While you practice to create gratitude, remember to be grateful for you. Yes, you can be grateful for your life. That is a given. But find ways to appreciate who you are and what you are doing to support you right now. Modesty is fine in the appropriate setting, but not here. Praise yourself to yourself!
“I’m a safe driver.” “I love how I love old movies, or how I can laugh at myself.” “I like the way my eyes sparkle.” “Day after day, I arrive to work and do a good job.”
It doesn’t matter how mundane you think it is or how glorious. Who knows, maybe you’re a violin virtuoso? Appreciate it. That takes DEDICATION to achieve. And, yes, it will take a bit of dedication to exercise your gratitude muscle but I’m confident you’ll be glad you did.
This is the second part of a three-part series that explores my mantra of Grace creates Gratitude creates Growth.
If you haven’t read part one, you can find it here. Part three is still to come!