We tend to think of gratitude as an emotion, which is only felt when inspired. It’s easy to feel disingenuous when we try to make a gratitude list, while also being a bit disgruntled with the world. I want you to reconsider the idea of gratitude. Instead of a feeling, try using it as a practice.
With any practice there are good days and bad days. Piano, yoga, meditation, running – sometimes it flows easily, and sometimes we just push through. But if we only do it when it’s easy, and stop if it gets tough, then we may never improve. A daily practice happens daily, not just when we feel like it. Why not do the same thing with gratitude?
As with most in a privileged culture, I used to complain a lot. Older co-workers told me to be thankful for what I had. You can’t tell someone to feel something, it doesn’t work like that. But it really is more mental than emotional… at first. By regularly changing your mindset, you eventually dwell on more peaceful thoughts, then the emotion follows. Gratitude opens the heart, when practiced daily. It’s a shortcut to a higher vibration.
If you use the media to inform your life, there’s just not much to be grateful for. Always remember, it is monetarily profitable to keep us unhappy and divided. There simply isn’t any money in people being satisfied with themselves, or what they have. Human connection satisfies most needs (real connection, not superficial socializing), so keeping us divided, isolated, and fearful is good business. Find sites that send you daily good news, to balance out the standard stuff.
To begin this journey, I want you to really shrink your scope to only YOU. No world news, no local politics, not even personal relationships – just you. Not even you compared to someone else. There is no “more than” or “less than”, if there’s no comparison. Start here. Start with your basic needs as a physical being. It might go like this:
“I am grateful for having food to eat. I’m grateful for running water to bathe in. I’m grateful for my home, that gives me shelter from the weather.” And so on. List at least 5 things per category.
Next, expand just a little into the natural world. “I am grateful for the warm sun on my face. I am grateful for the feel of the grass underfoot. I am grateful for the animals I see, and those I share my home with.” Again, list at least 5 things. Then move into relationships, old or current. “I am grateful for my loving mother. I am grateful for everything my relationship is teaching me. I am grateful for the support of my friends.” You can even include “things”… “I am grateful for this beautiful shirt. I am grateful for this amazing book.”
Once these lists come easily, bump it up from gratitude to appreciation. Appreciation is just a little more empowered. Start with gratitude, then change the wording to see how it feels. Once you can truly appreciate your own world, then you can expand beyond that. Keep the scope small, at first. Find things in yourself, and you own life, to appreciate.
A little trap to watch for – don’t confuse gratitude with being a professional victim. “I’m so grateful for ___ (insert invisible entity here) watching over me. I’m so grateful for ___ (insert political candidate here) because they are going to save the world.” Gratitude involves some level of personal responsibility and personal empowerment. The point is to notice things in your own world that are pretty amazing, just the way they are. Gratitude brings you to the present moment, in your current personal existence.
I recommend making a list twice a day, in the morning and right before bed. Some of you will do better with an actual journal, others do better with a mental list. Make it part of your routine. For me, I make a mental list as I wake in the morning, and again after I turn off the light at bedtime. If you have a partner you appreciate, voice your gratitude out loud. During the day, when it comes to mind, make a mental list of what’s amazing. Could be anything… the delicious lunch you just had, or something nice a co-worker said.
Like attracts like. As you gradually move your thoughts to a heart-based state, you will find others doing the same. Mostly, you will begin to be more comfortable in your own life. And it’s absolutely true that we change the world from within. Raising your own vibration raises the whole planet. Gratitude is a worthy practice.
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