What do you think of when you hear the word “gratitude?” Like many of us, I used to think having gratitude meant saying “thank you” when I would receive a compliment...."hey girl, you look great today!".... a nice gift, or when someone held the door for me as I entered a building. I have learned that gratitude is so much more than this….practicing gratitude can change the way we think and feel....practicing gratitude can bring so much breadth and depth to what you’re grateful for and why.
We’re taught as children to always be polite.... “say please and thank you”, we’re told. Giving thanks becomes an almost automatic response. So much so that it can become robotic, mechanical, un-authentic. The practice begins to lose value because it becomes a chore, a ”have to.”
When we practice gratitude with feeling, as opposed to allowing it to be robotic, we begin to shift our gratitude practice from our minds to our hearts.
There are many different ways to develop a meaningful gratitude practice. One way to develop a feeling gratitude practice is to keep a gratitude journal (or even just a daily journal that you happen to write stuff you’re grateful for in!) I used to write down everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, I was grateful for….this can sabotage the practice, making it mundane and mechanical. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t grateful for the things I was writing down, just that it became a chore to write EVERY… little… thing in my life I was grateful for….I began dreading writing down my gratitude's…no bueno.
Instead, I learned writing down one (maaaaybe two) things I’m grateful for and then….write 2-5 reasons WHY I’m grateful. This practice doesn’t have to be on paper, you can type it out or simply say it out loud or to yourself….the important thing here is to FEEL it.
Practicing gratitude in this way is likely to leave you feeling more elated, excited, and alert because you’re really FEELING what you’re grateful for and why you're grateful for it! The practice becomes authentic…genuine….spontaneous. It means something to us instead of just being a chore to check off of the to-do list.
So, the next time you have something to be grateful for….like say a yummy thanksgiving turkey with mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce (and of course those nice folks to eat it with… like family and friends!)…I encourage you to take a moment (or three) and express gratitude from your heart….giving your practice of gratitude a whole new feeling.