Expressing gratitude can bring a positive and loving feeling into our everyday lives. It not only lifts our spirits when we’re down, it brings joy and inner peace into our hearts and allows us to tap into a well of happiness that dwells deep within our core. If we make gratitude a daily practice and really tap into this core of happiness, it cannot be taken away from us — at least not without our consent.
On a deep level, I believe all of us know the importance of being grateful. Why else would we bother to have a holiday such as Thanksgiving that by its name alone implies a time when we give thanks to things, events and people in our lives. Valentine’s Day (despite being created by the chocolate and flower industry) is another such holiday when we show our love and appreciation for our significant others. Christmas (other than being a consumer trap) is filled with sentiments of “peace on earth” and “good will towards men”.
But why only reserve these acts of love and kindness for “special” occasions? Why not carry these feelings with us every day rather than merely a few days out of the year?
Now that the holiday season has wound down it’s easy to let the humdrum of everyday life settle in and lead us back into our old ways of being. The Christmas Spirit of generosity and kindness seems to go by the wayside once we receive our credit card bills, returning us to higher levels of stress. It is at times like these when being grateful can actually help us transition through periods of stress or perhaps uncertainty.
Expressing gratitude is one of the simplest things we can do for ourselves that is completely free and within our grasp. We need only make the conscious choice to express it…to make it a habit.
Gratitude is a practice, yet it is also a joy and a gift. It supports our feelings of happiness and helps us cultivate a sense of inner peace and well-being. Complaining, blaming and constantly longing for what we do not have — sadly, these are habits to which we humans are very well accustomed — creates the opposite effect in that they actually hinder and rob us of our happiness and well-being.
By being in a constant state of wanting, which many of us are prone to do, without taking the time to appreciate what we already have (material or other wise), happiness becomes fleeting and elusive. This also holds true when we base our happiness solely on material possessions, which ultimately can be taken away from us very easily and at any given moment. For instance, what if we lost all of our worldly possessions in a house fire? What of our happiness then?
To be in a state of perpetual gratitude makes life more enjoyable and facilitates our ability to cope with the stressful and not-so-pleasant — and at times even traumatic — events in our lives.
If you happen to be in a particularly dark place in your life as a result of a tragic event and find it especially difficult to find anything to be grateful for, sometimes choosing something very simple can do wonders to lift your spirits, even if just for a short time. It makes you aware that you do have a choice of what to focus your energy on and that you can shift that negative energy by merely thinking about what you like, love or enjoy.
If you’re in a funk and feeling kind of “blah”, take a moment to express gratitude for what you already have. If expressing gratitude is new to you, it can sometimes be challenging to find things to be grateful for. I know that in the beginning I found myself racking my brain for things to appreciate. This at first made me feel like I had little to be grateful for, when in fact the opposite was true.
The mistake I was making was that I assumed that I had to think of big significant things that were happening in my life rather than simply taking the time to appreciate the simple joys in life, like sunsets, sunny and rainy days, or trees, or even the seemingly insignificant things like, a smile from a stranger as you cross paths on the sidewalk, a delicious piece of chocolate, a moment of laughter, puppy kisses or even your favourite colour.
For example, I woke up in a funk one morning, brooded for a while and then decided that wasn’t how I wished to spend my day feeling, so I made the choice to go for a walk and think of something simple to be grateful for. From that moment I decided that every time I saw anything red I would express gratitude for this beautiful colour.
What transpired as a result of my little experiment was amazing! I got much more out of my experience than I had originally set out to do. I realized that it was not only a lesson in shifting negative energy by learning to appreciate the simple things in life, it was also allowing me to be fully present in the moment and enjoying every second of it.
I had never noticed how many different shades of red the city of Victoria had on display until then. Everywhere I looked there was at least one hue of it somewhere, however small. This meant that I basically spent the entire day in gratitude….and within a short period of time, before I knew it, my funk had been lifted and I felt “great fullness” within my heart, and over something so seemingly banal as the colour red.
I had given myself the opportunity and gift to be in a consistent state of gratitude simply by what I was seeing at any given moment and it really made such a huge difference in my mood. I carry the feeling from this wonderful experience with me even to this day as I remember how simple expressing gratitude can be.
There are so many moments in life that when noticed, acknowledged and appreciated can bring us great joy.
It is important to remember that gratitude is a practice and moods come and go. There will inevitably be times when we aren’t feeling in the best of spirits. Yet since I have embracing gratitude in my own life, I have noticed lasting change in my level of happiness — I can gleefully say that it has been way more consistent. Yay!
However, I recently went to bed one night feeling a little “meh” and not really knowing why. I resigned myself to this feeling, acknowledged its presence and allowed myself to fully feel it. I realized that my daily “practice” had gone by the wayside and that this “blah” feeling had been with me for a few days. With this awareness in mind, in that moment I decided I had had enough and wanted to end my day and enter my dreams feeling more positive.
Nestled under my blankets, I lay on my back and put one hand on my heart and the other on my belly, and began to focus on my breathing. Soon the warmth from my hands began to calm my unease. I started by voicing just a few of the things in life that I am grateful for, from the simple to the significant. Then it just began to snow ball. I must have listed off an entire scroll’s worth of things, people and events, both positive and negative — for I have learned so much from every experience. I even expressed gratitude for the air I breathe.
My heart filled up with so much joy that I felt like I was smiling from the inside out. I was on a roll and could have easily gone on all night but the deed was done, my blahs had completely vanished. I would not be at all surprised if I had a smile on my face the entire time I slept…and quite restfully I might add.
Depending on individual circumstances, the joy we get from gratitude may not come as instantly as I just described and may only be for a moment. However, by consciously choosing to make the time and effort to do so will eventually change your life in a such an amazing way. Imagine living day to day appreciating everything, rather than complaining about everything.
We have the power to take our happiness into our own hands by being mindful of our thoughts and moods: by catching ourselves when we are being negative, complaining or blaming. Replacing our rants with expressing gratitude can make a world of difference in the quality of our lives.
Gratitude is the simplest and most readily available way for us to cultivate happiness, inner peace and well-being on a core level. Speaking from the joy I have experienced, I wholeheartedly invite you to practice gratitude daily. Make it a habit, in the morning when you wake and at night before you sleep…and begin to witness yourself “smiling from the inside out”!
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