Gratitude is a hot word right now. It’s popular in many circles to talk about adding gratitude to your daily routine as a way of inviting in more of the desirable stuff, and less of the not-so-desirable.
Gratitude is more than a word, more than a feeling; it’s a state of being. It’s not as easy to incorporate it into your life as it may at first seem. Saying ‘thank you’ is just the beginning. The hard part is being unconditional, which means expressing thanks for the things which feel the most challenging, as well as the fabulous stuff.
Why would you want to be grateful for everything, even the dark and dirty stuff you’d rather not acknowledge? Those experiences bring incredible opportunities for growth, that’s why. They allow you to explore life from angles that you might not have planned, leaving room for creative problem-solving and compassion.
So how do you begin to incorporate gratitude? There are so many things you could easily overlook in a day, and begin to take them for granted, so start by being present exactly where you are. Celebrate the existence of things as they are, with the knowledge that you are richer for the experience. Let’s start with the five senses, right now.
To start, you could offer thanks that you have five senses that provide you with different perspectives on the world around you. (I am alive! I can see! I am breathing! Thank you!) Then you can get more specific, going through each sense and what it specifically offers. I’ll start with some examples to get you started.
What do you see right now? I see a roof over my head, a computer in front of me, a cup of tea, a fridge filled with delicious food, a little dog to keep me company, comfortable furniture to rest on, a washing machine that does the work for me, and incredible views of the English countryside out the kitchen window, just to start. I am hugely grateful for all of these things. There have been times in my life when I took them for granted, and times in my life when I didn’t have them. That makes them all the more meaningful to me.
What do you hear right now? I hear music coming from the radio, a clock ticking, people passing by on the street out front, birds singing and calling to one another in the back, a dog snoring and the sound of my keyboard tapping. All of these beautiful sounds make the tapestry of life richer. I’m grateful for each and every one of them, as they all remind me of my place in the world in different, magical ways.
What do you taste right now? I taste lemon and pear, salt and pepper and the deliciousness of the omelette I made myself for lunch. Think about the ways we taste the world: the intoxicating taste of a lover’s kiss; the taste of ripe fruit fresh off a tree or vine in the summertime that tastes like a slice of heaven; the year’s first snowflakes caught on our eagerly waiting tongues. Celebrate them all, and give thanks for these experiences which have added depth to your life.
What do you smell right now? What do you feel? Gratitude arises naturally from conscious acknowledgement of all that life has on offer for you. It doesn’t have to be a ‘thank you’ said out loud, nor does it need to be addressed to anyone specific. Celebrating life is an act of gratitude.
Using the previous examples as a guide, think about ways you could find gratitude for everything you have in your life. Have you ever sat eating something and thought about everything that happened for it to reach your plate? Send gratitude for every step of the journey, from seed to plate. The food might even begin to taste better.
It’s more challenging with the things we think we want or need, and don’t yet have. Or with things that are painful or triggering.
Again, start from where you are. If it’s a loving relationship you want but don’t have, think of examples of relationships you’ve had or that people around you have had. Send gratitude for the fact that you’ve been shown beautiful examples that inspire you to bring that experience into your life. Give thanks for the experiences you’ve had that showed you what you didn’t want, and the ways you’ve grown as a result. Offer your gratitude for the life you’ve lived, that has made you an interesting, lovable person, and for the billions of souls on the planet you could meet.
Every moment, no matter how ‘wrong’ it seems, offers opportunities for gratitude. The key is to disengage from the ego’s focus on what is missing, and focus instead on the inherent beauty of the moment. There will always be distractions that exist, or excuses to not be grateful. Luckily, there are just as many reasons to give thanks. Start where you are.