Tag Archives: gratitude

How to cultivate gratitude

Expressing thanks to others, appreciating your accomplishments, and being grateful in every moment are vital wellness habits. They need to be honed, practiced and repeated daily. They do not come naturally in our hyperconnected world — where comparing and competing often take precedence over cultivating self-worth and personal excellence.

Thanksgiving is a national day in the United States celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.  It is one of my favorite holidays even though I did not grow up here as a child and did not really begin to appreciate it until well into my adulthood.

Whether you celebrate this holiday or not,  you can take a day (schedule it if you must) to take stock of your life and reflect on what you are truly thankful for.

Dig deep in the positives

Family, friends, community, health, home, and life itself are some of the most common short answers to the question, what are you grateful for? While these do bring out feelings of gratitude, you will benefit from digging deeper. Engage in higher-level appreciation by noticing the unique attributes of your favorite person or prized possession that are easily taken for granted or overlooked.

Why do you turn to a particular friend when faced with a personal crisis?

Which quality do you appreciate most about your life partner? 

What special thing does your child do that melts your heart every time he does it? 

Why is having good health so important to you? 

How does your home bring you comfort and  a sense of security? 

As you explore and discover what you treasure most, you build knowledge and insights into how to create more of it in your life. Feeling deep gratitude and offering a sincere thank you will help call in the interaction, experience or thing you desire most, again and again.

Gain perspective on the negatives

After you have exhausted your list of big positives and major wins, dare to reflect on the first three losses, challenges or negative experiences that immediately come  to mind. What was it about them that floored you,  outmatched your grit, or tested your patience?

You don’t have to be grateful for them. You’re not going to be thankful for needing to euthanize your pet, staying up to finish a project you put off close to the deadline, continuing to watch a crappy movie just because you paid for it, or getting your car stuck in a ditch in a heavy snowstorm.

But with the passage of time and a different perspective, you can acknowledge the lessons learned and the actions you took to solve the problem and improve the situation. While the experience itself might never be met with gratitude, it can make you a more courageous person and empathetic human being when you stay open to the results.

Notice the small great things in your daily experience

Even when you get to the end of the day with nothing much to show for it — in terms of goals accomplished, major tasks completed, or big changes made — you can always have a moment of gratitude. All you need to do is pay attention to the little things that seem inconsequential but add up to make a good life.

It might be the neighbor who cleared snow from the sidewalk outside your home while he was ploughing his own space. It could be the barista greeting you with a genuine smile and remembering your name when you stop in for your regular caffeine dose. Maybe it’s the courteous driver who used his turn signal, checked his blind spot, and moved into your lane well ahead of you, instead of cutting you off. Or perhaps it’s your kindergartener giving you a hug every time she parts from you at the school bus stop.

Keep track of the small moments that bring a smile to your face. Practicing daily gratitude goes a long way in cultivating it for the long term, no matter the countless times you get angry, feel sad, or face disappointment.

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Photo by: pixel2013

How to experience gratitude

Gratitude clears a path for life-sustaining habits, positive transformation, and wise action.

Gratitude wipes out limiting thoughts, regret and despair. It preserves time and energy that you would otherwise spend on complaining and criticizing.

Across the U.S. today, we celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a special day for families and friends to get together for a feast and to give thanks for what they have.

But this morning I woke up feeling sullen and somber over losing some prized (digital) possessions.

Last night, I discovered my toddler deleted from my camera every single video and photo I took of her over the past 16 months from the day she was born. Three clicks on a single button are all it took.

Had I uploaded the files before they got deleted? No. Did I have backups? No.Could I recover the deleted files? No… or not likely (for reasons I won’t get into here).

This episode amounted to a refresher crash course on how to experience gratitude. Here are a few key points:

Acknowledge what sucks.

When crap happens, gratitude is not always the healthiest immediate response. Instead, you first need to acknowledge what sucks.

It doesn’t help to wallow in misery and self-pity. But you also don’t want to deny your pain by reframing the situation too quickly. It’s okay to be ticked off. Just face the loss or the less-than-ideal experience, as is, without trying to make it less troubling with affirmations of gratitude.

Mistakes are human and they teach us to do better next time. Losing the videos and photos taught me an important lesson. It reminded me that if you care about something, you need to take steps within your control to avoid outright loss.

For now though, I choose to feel disappointment over the loss. I’m not going to gloss over it with “everything happens for a reason” or “it is what it is” platitudes.

Realize that dissatisfaction can coexist with gratitude. 

Gratitude involves rejoicing in what you have, which is often more than enough. Gratitude doesn’t mean you won’t have unfulfilled desires, dreams and wishes that create dissatisfaction.

If you cover up the negatives with your positives, life might start to feel superficial and shallow. But if dissatisfaction greatly outweighs gratitude, life can be pretty depressing and heavy.

Aim for the right proportions and make conscious choices. If you’re getting too complacent, work toward building a new habit. If you’re complaining too much, focus on an existing thing that brings you joy.

Dissatisfaction and gratitude are non-dual experiences that can coexist well together. While I’m disappointed about losing the videos and photos that were on my camera, I’m grateful that I still have many that were stored elsewhere.

Appreciate what is before you.

While I was missing the videos and photos I lost, I was missing out on my daughter standing right in front of me – eager to play and have fun.  She’s no longer the helpless little baby who could barely lift her head. Rather, she now walks around like she owns the place.

Getting wrapped up in the past and worrying about not having certain mementos for the future made it hard to be present. The sweetest moments are right here, right now. The present is when life is most delicious, abundant, real, and full of possibilities.

Get specific about what you’re thankful for. 

Whatever you’re grateful for becomes more tangible and immediate when you know exactly why you appreciate it. Picking five things you appreciate is great. Listing five reasons why you’re thankful for one particular thing is even better.

And if you’re having trouble naming one thing, dig deep and search wide. Are you grateful for that faithful friend who will give you a ride when your car breaks down? Do you own a nice pair of boots to keep your feet warm in winter?  Do you have strengths that you get to use daily or regularly? Is there at least one person on earth who holds you accountable?

Why do you wake up in the morning? Be grateful for that. 

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Photo by: Jessica Lucia