As I continue this series on developing self-love, I am fascinated by how the Universe opens up chances for me to write in the most perfect timing. Isn’t it amazing that the topic of gratitude comes up in the same week that we are to celebrate a day of thanks? I don’t believe in ‘accidents’ and this is no exception.
I am so grateful for many aspects in my life. The first being that I’m still here to experience both the challenging and the joyful experiences but also that I get to share those experiences with people I love.
There is so much research out there about how expressing gratitude is right for your soul. Words are powerful and using yours to speak words of love into another person – and yourself – is one of the easiest and direct ways to express gratitude.
Expressing gratitude is linked to happiness, success factors, and even receiving more of what you are grateful for as a ‘reward’ from the Universe for merely acknowledging the goodness in one’s life. In her book, The How Of Happiness, author Sonja Lyubomirsky posits that 40% of our happiness and success can be attributed to partaking in intentional activity – and part of that is expressing gratitude regularly. (Here’s a great PDF with ideas on how to practical intentionality) Additionally, David Steindl-Rast tells us that the key to being happy is in the practice of being grateful.
I think I am a grateful person. From a young age, I realized that the hand I’ve been dealt could always be worse. I am extremely grateful for the items and materials I have at my disposal. Having worked with the unsheltered in my community in some form or another for nearly 30 years, I’ve learned to be less materialistic and more cognizant of the importance of a warm bed and a roof over my head. As a minimalist, I don’t care too much about amassing a lot of clutter and I am grateful for all the things that I own that allow me the opportunity to live a comfortable, albeit simple, life. (Like, for example, a coffee pot.)
But what about those experiences that aren’t so great? The divorce? The disappointment? The struggles with anxiety and depression? The job losses? The holidays that can’t be shared with loved ones because of a global pandemic? And speaking of a random global health crisis…are there aspects of that we can be grateful for even in the midst of calamity and setbacks? I don’t have the answers to my questions – I’m putting these are there for you to ask yourself. Some folks, like Brother David Steindl-Rast (see his Ted Talk), suggest that we don’t have to necessarily be grateful for negative experiences…but rather to be grateful for the opportunity to rise to the occasion of becoming resilient.
I am grateful for my life. My brother died at the age of 27, leaving a six-month-old child and a life of possibilities and what-ifs ahead of him. I am grateful for all the experiences, even the painful ones, because I know I am a calmer, gentler person than I was even twelve months ago due to those life lessons. I am grateful for the little things: How my child has learned to push the button on the coffee maker if he gets up first so that I have freshly brewed coffee when I wake, the texts from my friends telling me they are thinking of me, the sounds of the birds who wake me in the morning. I know from experience how hanging on to bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness only breeds discontent and rage. In contrast, gratitude begets more for which one can be grateful.
So what really is gratitude? Well, I think the expression of gratitude is unique to every individual but gratitude in and of itself is wonder…appreciation…looking on the bright side…fathoming abundance…counting your blessings. There are many ways to which one can start expressing gratitude and begin an intentional practice of becoming a grateful person. Here are some ideas:
- Say Thank You. I work an IT help desk for a national nonprofit organization. When the customer tells me I’ve fixed their issue or answered their question, it would be really easy for me to simply mark the ticket ‘resolved’. But, in most cases, I don’t. I say “Thank you for allowing me to be part of the important mission you carry out each day” because first, I realize I am here to help and if they don’t need my help, I’m out a job…but also because I’m grateful that my skills and my knowledge can be of service.
- Give A Gift. Ok, I admit…gifts are not my first love language, and I don’t like to spend my money on items that seem completely impractical, but some people love this expression of love and gratitude. When choosing a gift aimed specifically at expressing gratitude, opt for meaningful over monetary value.
- Ask how someone is and actually listen to their response. In this age of COVID it is easy to feel overwhelmed; the simple act of listening to your loved ones can be an effective way to show them that you value them. Put down your phone, remain attentive, and let them steer the conversation. Listening rarely requires you to respond. Keep that in mind.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Psychologist Sean Achor talks specifically about how expressing gratitude can rewire your neuropathways and can result in feeling happier. He suggests that grateful and happy people are more successful (not the other way around: “When I’m successful I will be happy”)
- Say it outloud. Dr. Wayne Dyer once spoke about how he, before even placing his feet on the floor each morning, opened his eyes and expressed gratitude outloud for three things, thanking Source for the opportunity to have another day.
Today I don’t have song for you but rather a short gratitude story for kids that I love to watch. Also, know this…I am grateful for you. Not for the increasing blog stats but rather for your presence on this planet.