An Attitude of Gratitude
Over holiday break, I went to visit my parents in Florida. I was walking with my mother, listening to her complain for about twenty minutes about something her friend did, when she spied a wig shop. All of a sudden she said, “Oh my goodness, I get so jolted when I see the wig shop because it reminds me of when I had cancer and had to wear a wig. What am I complaining about? I feel well today, the sun is shining and I am walking next to you.” I smiled at her and thought to myself, Why do we always forget to be grateful and appreciate our lives and the moments we have with each other? How many times have you lost a friend or a loved one and committed yourself to appreciating every day of your life? Or were you sick and got better and said you will never take your life for granted again? Maybe a stressful situation worked out and you vowed to have more gratitude for what you have or not worry so much? Why do we always seem to get lost in the everyday upsets of life and lose a greater perspective?
What is really most amazing about our ability to forget to be grateful in our lives is that when we forget gratitude we often increase our emotional pain. Getting lost each day in everything that is not happening in our lives, or how our friend hurt our feelings or our project at work that is not going well can make us feel down, worried, and emotionally hurt. These problems take over our minds and we can become oblivious to all the other positive things that are going on from the simple to the magnificent. It's not that we shouldn't get upset about bad things that happen, it is just a matter of allowing our gratitude to grant us perspective on what is important and what we do have. Finding and holding gratitude allows us to couch the hurt and the pain in a bigger place - a place that gives us strength to persevere and not let every little thing that happens ruin our day.
So how do we add gratitude to our everyday living so we don’t forget it when we deal with the everyday upsets in our lives? Gratitude is a habitual way of thinking just like complaining and we need to create the habit of gratitude. I do the following practice every day to remember my gratitude. I have noticed that, when I faithfully practice it, I live with less emotional pain and my troubles don't seem like such a big deal. I realize that stuff happens but I can rest in the beauty of everything that I am thankful for in my life.
1. In the morning when I wake up, before my mind starts going through everything I need to do for the day, I stop and remind myself of all the people and things for which I am grateful. I was never one that liked to list things or keep a routine, but the gratitude list helps me gain perspective before I get out of bed. This makes a real difference in how I approach each day. I also end my days with a similar exercise. A better perspective on the day before I go to bed allows me to calm my mind, stay hopeful and sleep better.
2. It is also effective to symbolically connect some material items with gratitude. I have a bracelet on my arm that reminds to be grateful, pretty items on my desk, a trivet in my kitchen and a picture in my bedroom that says gratitude to me. You can also connect noises that you hear everyday to the idea of being grateful. Sometimes I use the ringing of my phone, or the honking of a horn.
3. I try to use walking as a tool to remind me to look around at all the glory of being alive instead of letting it be a fretful walk of thought and worry. This keeps my head clear and ready to tackle whatever comes my way at the next turn in the road.
To some this may seem like too many things to do to remember gratitude so Maybe pick just one and see if it makes a difference. For me, the entire list is worth practicing everyday; it helps me find gratitude wherever I go and find more joy in my life.