“In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.” Albert Clarke
When I went into the coffee shop this morning, the manager offered me an eggnog latte. This gesture reminded that the holidays are around the corner. Thanksgiving is a time to rejoice and to be thankful for all of the blessings in our life.
Focusing on what I am thankful for, on a daily basis, has been significant in changing my experience of life. Because the media fuels the fires of worry, it has been a big challenge. Bad news sells. Even though on any given day there are more positive things that happen to us than negative things, it doesn’t seem that way. We become slaves to the latest alarm on global warming or dire report on the economy. With a 24/7 media, events, people, and things anywhere in the world, often having nothing to do with us personally, have the power to control how we feel.
In the process of writing this article, I made a discovery. There is a website http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org that focuses on good news, yet very few people know about it. Just for fun, I went to the website and looked at some of the articles for the day I began writing this article.
30 Top Surgeons Give 200 Kids a Better Life
Recycling Heroes include Parks, Schools, Stadiums and Corporations
Uruguay Becomes First Nation to Provide a Laptop for every child
Corvette Brings Tons of Toys to Atlantic City
Honest Filipino Worker Returns $320,000 found in cash
Target, CVS Encourage Recyclable Shopping Bags with Cash Rewards
The Green Lining in Economic Bust is Land Preservation
Gratitude is an inside job—it’s a consciousness from which everything flows. Grateful people see life as a blessing, as a gift. Being grateful includes being thankful and appreciating life. It’s a choice that we make over and over again. Choosing to be grateful becomes a life affirming habit.
I was reminded of this most recently. The synchronicity was amazing. I had just finished writing the first draft of the chapter on Gratitude that is going to be in my book. In the mornings, next to the coffee shop that I frequent, I occasionally purchase a periodical at the local Safeway. For the last few years I have always look forward to seeing Amy, one of the checkers, who always seems so upbeat. I asked her what her secret was. She told me that she practiced gratitude. It was a decision that she made years ago that became a life-affirming habit.
Developing a Gratitude Practice
It’s one thing to believe in the benefits of a gratitude practice, but it’s another thing to embody it. Some days I feel it more than others. My practice has evolved over time. At the end of my meditation when my mind is still, I express gratitude for the health of myself and my family, and the love that is in my life. I then express gratitude for the qualities and attributes that I like about myself. Think of these qualities and attributes as your inner resources. You might not have a sense of what those qualities are for you. I began with just a few qualities that I liked about myself and kept adding to the ever-expanding list. Just to give you a few ideas, I express gratitude for my smile, my curiosity, my ability to connect with others, and my faith. I could go on and on and you can too once you begin this practice. Our tendency is to overlook these qualities. At first I was a little self-conscious, but I got over it, once I noticed how much better I felt about myself.
I noticed that I didn’t worry as much. Let’s face it, most of us worry more than we would like. By expressing gratitude we shift our focus from what might happen in the future to the present moment. It is in the stillness of “the now” when we feel connected to an eternal presence and peacefulness.
Not only is there value from a spiritual perspective, there is also value metaphysically. It is a metaphysical principle that what you focus on expands. Like attracts like. When you express gratitude for what you have, rather than focusing on what you don’t have, you energetically attract to you more abundance. For example, rather than thinking that you are not loved, focus on the love that is in your life. Think how magnetic those who feel love are. You want to be around them. Rather than thinking that you don’t have enough, be grateful for what you have now.
For many years, in spiritual and religious circles, we were taught that expressing gratitude was a righteous thing to do. It was one of the qualities of being a thoughtful and caring person. Recently, Dr. Robert Emmons, PH.D., UC Davis, and other gratitude researchers and social psychologists, documented that grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions, such as happiness, vitality and optimism.
Rollin McCrary and his colleagues at the HeartMath Institute, in Boulder Creek, California, found that consciously experiencing appreciation is beneficial in controlling stress and hypertension.
The Four Keys to Developing your Gratitude Practice.
1. Express gratitude daily for all of the blessings in your life. Your challenges are also blessings. Be grateful for the challenges and struggles in your life. With every adversity, there is a tremendous opportunity for growth. Our soul’s evolution is accelerated whenever there is a crisis in our lives. We become more our authentic selves. In the process we discard any baggage in the form of false assumptions that are weighing us down. None of us like to experience pain. We’ll do almost anything to avoid it, but know this. The greater your capacity to face and experience your pain, the greater your capacity to experience joy and happiness and the greater your capacity to love and to be loved.
2.Write a gratitude letter to a special friend letting them know how much you appreciate them and how grateful you are that they are in your life. Just writing this letter is quite moving and if that’s all you do that’s fine. I went one step further. I wrote a letter to one of my dearest friends and called him and read it to him.
3. Keep a gratitude journal everyday for 30 days. Even though you express gratitude daily for all of your blessings, write them down in your journal. In the process of writing them down, not only will think about them more, you will be reminded of other qualities and attributes you are grateful for.
4. Create your gratitude honor role. Think about five people in your life, perhaps teachers, parents or mentors, who have helped you become who you are today and who have made you feel special and appreciated. This is an incredibly powerful process that has the power to transform your feeling of inner joy and sense of well-being. As you think about each person, write in your journal how grateful you are for their presence in your life.
Feel free to share Letters on Life with those in your circle. Let me know what you discover. I love receiving your many responses and feedback and if you have other stories or suggestions to share for future articles, let me know about them.
Mark Susnow, an executive and life coach, inspires others to experience more fulfillment and success in their life. A former trial attorney for 30 years and musician, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. Whether coaching one-on-one, speaking to groups, or leading a retreat, he shares his message that regardless of our life’s circumstances, we can find more joy and meaning in our life. He is a sought after speaker and coauthor along with Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy and other experts in the book 101 Great Ways to Improve your Life. Mark’s new book, Dancing on the River…Navigating Life’s Changes will be released in early 2010. email@example.com 415.453.5016