One of the simplest and most powerful things we can do to make ourselves a whole lot happier is practice gratitude. (Seriously, the research on gratitude is pretty solid — if you aside time to count your blessings it actually boosts your happiness.) So let’s get started…
Find the Beauty in the Ordinary
Luckily, we don’t have to look very far to practice gratitude. Sure, you can give thanks for the really big things that are awesome in your life, but you can also be thankful for warm coffee, or your child’s smile, or a pretty snowfall.
And if things are just plain hard, well, you can try to be thankful for that, too.
The Dalai Lama says we should even be thankful for our “enemies,” for they have much to teach us about equanimity and understanding and forgiveness. What if we approached slights and insults as opportunities for practice? What if we were thankful for the hardships that challenge us to grow and transform? (Okay, so that one’s not exactly simple, but see if you can give it a try…)
Gratitude is Many Things
Happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky writes that gratitude is
wonder; it is appreciation; it is looking at the bright side of a setback; it is fathoming abundance; it is thanking someone in your life; it is thanking God; it is ‘counting blessings.’ It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is coping; it is present-oriented. Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, avarice, hostility, worry, and irritation.”
To practice gratitude, you can…
- marvel at something wonderful
- focus on all that you have, instead of the things you lack
- tell someone how much you appreciate them
- write down 10 things you are thankful for right now (here’s a pdf I made for you to get you started! )
- savor a small moment of quiet today (what does it feel like to close your eyes and just breathe?)
- resolve to not take things for granted today.
One of my teachers describes gratitude as a “love letter to the universe.” What would you write in yours?
Jon Kabat-Zinn says that as long as you are breathing, there is far more right with you than there is wrong with you. So take a deep breath of gratitude.
Gratitude is Real Presence
We spend so much of our time wishing things were different, or anticipating how much better things will be when we have more money, or when the kids get older, or when this project is finished, or when we can move to a bigger house…. Essentially, we tell ourselves, “Things might be okay now, but my real happiness will come later.”
If we do finally arrive at our elusive “when,” instead of celebrating our accomplishment, we usually discover that we’ve already moved the goalposts. We find more reasons to be unsatisfied with our current situation, and more reasons to wish for things to be other than they are.
The Dalai Lama says that gratitude is a way of embracing reality instead of fighting it. It is being present with whatever is here, right now. In any moment, you can, as Sam Harris reminds us, “find good enough reasons to be satisfied now.”
By all means, DREAM BIG DREAMS FOR YOUR FUTURE.
But do not lose sight of all that is good right now.
This is Precious
Gratitude brings us completely into the present moment. We are thankful for things that are here right now because they are precious, because they are (as all things truly are) impermanent. Chade-Meng Tan encourages us to savor the present moment by saying, “This is precious, and I know this because…”
Why are you thankful? What is precious and tender and delicate and amazing and ephemeral about this moment?
Pause and Give Thanks
What if every time you grabbed your phone, you stopped to give thanks?
By my rough estimation, that would give you approximately 2,374 opportunities to be thankful this week.
To facilitate your iGratitude, I’ve created some thankful phone wallpapers that you can download and set as your homescreen. Just right-click on the images below and save them (you can also click on the image to access a larger version).
Have a lovely, mindful, and thankful Thanksgiving.
And please know how thankful I am for YOU, for being here and reading this and taking care of yourself so you can nurture others and heal the world. 😊
Want some Thanksgiving-themed mindfulness practices for you and the kiddos? Check out this post here.