Several years ago, a friend introduced me to a novel idea that would eventually change my life – A Gratitude Practice. I was told that incorporating a daily ritual of reflecting upon what I am grateful for would transform my perspective about my life and the world we live in. Of course I was not a believer. And like myself, you might be thinking, “How can gratitude possibly make much of a difference when there’s so much suffering around me?”
I agree. Life is hard right now and sometimes it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel; However, maybe it’s worth giving it a try. Of course, I was not a believer. I did not believe that this one simple act would make a difference until I actually put it into practice.
The word gratitude comes from the Latin word “gratus” which means thankful or pleasing. Gratitude is about taking notice of the small or insignificant things in life and being appreciative and grateful for it. One might consider gratitude a gift that keeps on giving because it allows one to focus upon and appreciate the good all around. The practice of gratitude is not about denying our pain but it is an acknowledgement that there is still good in the world and in our lives. It is about taking notice and appreciating the small pleasures and unmerited gifts around us.
Do you know there are many health benefits to possessing an attitude of gratitude? Gratitude mitigates the damaging effect of negative experiences and leads to improved mental health, happiness and increased life satisfaction.
Take a moment to ask yourself one question: Do I allow my circumstances to dictate my level of happiness? If so, consider the possibility that as your level of gratitude increases your perspective and outlook on life might not be so dim and daunting. What we lack may not be as important as what we do have and challenging circumstances can be handled with dignity and grace. Cultivating gratitude into a habit to express thankfulness, delight, and appreciation can make a difference.
Today, I want to encourage you to begin cultivating an attitude of gratitude by focusing upon the five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. For this exercise you will need a pad of paper and writing instrument. Now take a moment to consider the tangible things in your life. These are the things that we can touch or feel such as having a bed of our own to lay our heads at night or even the clothes we wear. Make a list of all the things you get to touch or feel throughout your day, including those things that might appear insignificant but in reality, makes life a lot simpler.
Next, let us consider our sense of taste and smell. Maybe you can express gratitude for the delightful taste of your of favorite meal or enjoy the lovely scent of an aromatic candle. Make a list of all good things that are pleasant for you to taste and smell.
You might agree we live in a world filled with wondrous beauty. When was last time you used your sense of sight to gaze at the moonlit sky or noticed the intricate details of piece of artwork? Now create a list of all the things you see around you that bring you delight.
Now let us consider our sense of hearing. I wonder when was the last time you simply experienced nature by appreciating the delightful chirping of birds or listened to the rustle of tree leaves or even your favorite song. Gratitude helps us take notice of the things we generally take for granted and appreciate the uniqueness of each moment. Now create a list of the things that are pleasant to hear.
Now that we’ve covered the five senses let’s take a moment to consider our intimate relationships and all the people we encounter on a daily basis and bring joy or delight to our lives. I’d like to challenge you to consider persons outside of your family and friends such as the postal carrier who delivers your daily mail or the cashier who always greets you with a friendly smile. Make a list of all the relationships and people you can be grateful for. Other suggested ideas for cultivating gratitude include health, job, and pets etc.
Remember gratitude helps us take notice and appreciate the things we tend to take for granted and embrace the uniqueness of each moment. I encourage you to start by committing to the practice of gratitude one time per week and try to increase to a daily exercise. I think you will notice a difference in your life if you give gratitude a try!