The Practice of Gratitude
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
It had been an incredibly busy day. The big box warehouse store was my last stop. In my mind I was mentally calculating how long it would be until I could sit and turn my brain off for a little while.
After having shuttled the children to and from appointments, errands, refereed what seemed like endless disagreements, tackled a couple baskets of laundry, and fed and cleaned up after said children twice that day; I was spent and sporting a serious case of the grumps.
By the time I made it to the cashier, I was in a full state of self-pity.
Poor me is pushing these two carts of food.
Poor me has to get all of this mess put away into the pantry, fridge, and garage.
Poor me still has to make dinner.
I approached the cashier, thrusting my card towards him, we exchanged the necessary pleasantries, to which I mindlessly replied, “Hey, how are you?”. With a reflective look on his face, he replied “Better than I deserve!”
His words had the effect of someone throwing a glass of cold water in my face. Through the line and into the car, his words continued to chase around in my head. His recognition of the blessings that have been given to him over his lifetime were extremely convicting.
That cashier’s words were a catalyst for a major heart change in my life. We are all living lives far better than we deserve and frankly better than most have in the world. Right then and there, I vowed to live everyday with intentional gratitude. To recognize the blessings that each day brings with it. Even in the struggles there are gifts to be seen if we tune our hearts to them.
Since that fateful day, there have been some stand out lessons that I have learned about this thing called gratitude.
Gratitude Provides Clarity: It is so easy to focus on the negative things that happen to us. Looking at those difficult things with gratitude goggles, brings clarity. Lessons that we would have never learned, people we never would have met, and on and on the list could go. The true trick is to stop your mind from traveling to the negative and intentionally look for the blessings.
Gratitude Provides Contentment: The quote that opened this post, is a perfect assessment of what a heart of gratitude can do for your contentment level. Where I was moaning about having to push two carts through the store, had I exercised gratitude, I would have been delighted for the family I was feeding, a husband who provides a pay check to purchase it, a car to haul it all home, or even a body strong enough to go get it. Suddenly my outlook has changed completely and I am happy to be there. Content in the situation that I am in.
Gratitude Provides a Healthier Outlook: A study, completed by the Rotman Research Institute, found that American’s need to find better ways to reduce stress and anxiety in their lives or risk developing depression or dementia later in life. One of their suggestions to do this was by practicing mindfulness. Studies have shown that people who are less stressed, on average, live longer lives. Intentional gratitude has been proven to decrease stress levels and anxiety.
Gratitude is Contagious: There are very few things better than hearing one of my children or my husband provide a heartfelt thanks for something done or given to them. If feels so good to know that you are appreciated. When someone feels that warmth from genuine gratitude, they can’t help but want to release it to someone else. If we all intentionally practiced authentic gratitude, imagine the epidemic we could start.
For me the practice began by spending time at the close of my day and intentionally finding three things for which I was grateful. I like writing them down, allowing me the ability to go back at a later date to review all the blessings that have come my way. I built it into my night time routine so that it would become a habit. In the early days, I just wrote the easy things that came to mind, now I really try to dig deep. Expanding my mind to turn situations and events around to see different aspects to them.
There is no need for a fancy journal, a piece of notebook paper or the notes section on your phone will work just as well. Once you establish this habit of wearing your gratitude goggles, you will find blessings everywhere.
Let’s practice right now! In the comment section below, list a blessing that today brought with it!