the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
It is common for many of us to focus on the situations and events in our lives that we perceive as undesirable, inconvenient, and difficult. We’ve each experienced moments, maybe even thousands of them in total, when we’ve felt as if everything was working against us and that there’s no overcoming the barrage of bad luck plaguing our careers, relationships, and finances. These moments can range from tragic to miniscule, but no matter their severity or size, they consume our range of vision and distract us from the abundant joy and simple beauties that surround us every day.
Practicing daily gratitude has been shown to improve health, happiness, and to make us more resilient. It can also increase energy, enthusiasm, creativity, determination, and alertness, strengthen relationships, and reduce stress. There are few of us who don’t long for something to increase our happiness and lessen our stress, but many of us fall prey to the pattern of “I’ll be happy when…” “I’ll be happy when I have more money… when winter gives way to sunshine… when I purchase that new outfit… when I have peace and quiet.” We neglect the happiness that is already available to us in the moment and search tirelessly for it elsewhere.
Gratitude, albeit simple in theory, can prove challenging when first put into practice. How can one be grateful when their car has broken down, or when health issues come into the picture? Such realities of life make it difficult to gain perspective, but it is in these overwhelming moments that it is most important to find relief and gratitude in the simple things. You may despise the cold floor greeting you as you pull yourself out of bed every day, but be mindful to the feeling of slipping on your warm socks. Perhaps you feel that you leave one job for the day just to come home to what feels like another job, but your drive home allows you to soak in a vibrant sunset or a rare moment of silence. Maybe even the realization that you are breathing and life is continuing on is enough to help you put one foot in front of the other on your worst days.
It is important to understand that gratitude does not make life easy nor does it make it perfect. It is not ignoring the ‘bad’ and covering it with a silver-lined band-aid. Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present.
What have you taken for granted lately? Maybe it’s your home, your health, your family, or even the seat you’re sitting in. Imagine losing one or all of these things, then imagine getting each of these things back one at a time and consider how grateful you would be for each and every one.
It is also important to find fulfillment in the small things rather than only labeling large achievements as success. Give yourself permission to experience joy before landing a promotion, buying a house, or having a child. Goals serve great purpose in our lives, but grasping onto them too tightly may hinder our ability to enjoy our journey towards achieving these goals. It may even be beneficial to re-evaluate your goals from time to time and to consider why they are important to you. Are they based on your needs, or on the opinions of others? Will they make you feel truly and deeply fulfilled, or will it just fill your bank account?
We are where we choose to be at this very moment. It takes a lot of courage to let go of excuses, to stop placing blame, and to take responsibility for your ‘here and now’. Where you stand in life at this very moment is a culmination of your decisions. Maybe some of these decisions were made out of courage and determination. Maybe others were made out of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of the unknown. Maybe you decided to let others make decisions for you.
Take this very moment and be present to it. Step out of your busy mind and glance around to where you currently stand in space and time and try to do so without judgment. Be curious about what steps got you here. Be mindful of emotions you may experience about it. Maybe you feel proud…regretful…grateful…disappointed. Maybe you just noticed how the light reflects off of the wall for the first time. Or maybe you realized you’re cold, warm, hungry, or content. Whatever your experience might be, it is entirely yours to observe and learn from. Can you feel grateful for this moment and that your next step is entirely up to you? The next time you’re faced with adversity, can you ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” “What’s good about this?” “How can I benefit from this?” rather than only absorbing the negative? Challenge yourself to be grateful for some aspect of a less than perfect experience.
To ease into practicing gratitude daily, try journaling at least 3 things that you were grateful for during your day – no matter how small. With time you will begin to see more and more magnificence in everyday things that may have gone unnoticed before. Soon you may even be the odd neighbor frozen in your driveway beaming with gratitude as you stare up at falling snowflakes and breathe in the brief, but peaceful, silence. Enjoy those moments and give thanks.
Author: Christie Kruisenga is a naturopathic practitioner offering consultations for those desiring holistic direction on their wellness journey.