Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude
Gratitude is a divine attitude in the wisdom traditions. It takes you out from the ego self and takes you into the higher self. That higher state of consciousness initiates self repair, self-regulation and healing. Deepak Chopra
As a young child, I was taught to say “thank you” whenever I received a gift. I was taught to show my appreciation when I received something of value. Like many others I grew up thinking, probably subconsciously, that thank you was only required when I perceived that something of value was extended to me. I also grew into adulthood thinking I was really good at “please and thank-you”. A good girl, I knew right from wrong and I always remembered thank you.
The idea that pretty much everything begins and ends with gratitude is a somewhat recent revelation to my grown up self. I did not make the connection that maintaining an attitude of gratitude is a cornerstone to the power of positive thinking. This is one of those things I wish I could go back and teach my 15-year-old, 20-year-old, and most definitely my divorced, single mom, 28-year-old self. No matter though, I know now.
I know that if you lead the way with gratitude, everything is better. We tend to underestimate the power of gratitude in our daily lives. By making an attitude of gratitude central to our day, we can raise our mood, our outlook on life, how we treat others and our perception of how we are being treated. It is nearly impossible to be thankful and have hold onto ugly, negative or unhappy thoughts. They just can’t exist in the same space. Having an attitude of gratitude keeps us in synch with our true self and on the right path. Cultivating and maintaining an attitude of gratitude isn’t always east. I’ve assembled my top 5 go-to methods to using the super tool that gratitude is below:
- Begin each day with thank you and you will experience a boost of energy and optimism. Start the minute you wake up, before you even open your eyes and hop out of bed. Think of all the things you are grateful for. Your list will contain everything from, “I am so grateful for my kids”, to “I love my new sheets” to “I’m so thankful my cat didn’t wake me up before the alarm”. There is always something to be grateful for. If you follow this dreamy gratitude session with meditation every single morning, you will feel a big shift in the way your days start and flow.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Write in it every single morning. Journals are super valuable when they are a data dump of all the jumbled thoughts in the mind. Some people even have more than one journal to keep creative ideas and day-to-day musings separate. I have an “everything” journal and a smaller gratitude journal just focused on what I am thankful for. No matter how you do it, be careful the complaint column doesn’t take over. In fact we are sort of programmed to categorize thoughts, beliefs and decisions into “pros” and “cons”. Absolutely not necessary. There is no need to spend time focusing on what was or even what is, look forward instead. Focus on just the pros, on what is ahead and be thankful and excited for what is in the pipeline and on the way.
- Practice gratitude throughout the day. Say “thank you” to everyone you come in contact with. Literally thank everyone for even the smallest of things and the briefest of interactions. What a wonderful habit. Be mindful when receiving so that you can deliberately be appreciative and experience how lovely it feels to be thankful. Learn to be grateful in situations that might be annoying or not appear to be especially pleasant. For instance, sometimes when I am cut off in traffic, I smile and say thank you. Have a lovely day. I may be the only one who hears it but that is Ok because I am the primary beneficiary of the good will and lightened mood. This is a great way to stay above negativity and frustration. You can’t be saying thankful and frowning at the same time. Saying thank is an instant spirit lifter.
- Flip the script and change “please” to “thank you”. This may sound weird but in almost all cases, please can be removed from a sentence and replaced with thank you. Instead of saying, “please take out the trash for me before you go”, replace it with “thank you for taking out the trash for me before you go”. This is the secret sauce to raise your vibration. Gratitude is the key to the power of positive thinking. Warning, saying thank you more often will produce unexpected smiling. Smiling muscles will be getting a work out.
- End each day with another gratitude session. Flip the script again, in prayer, instead of saying “please help me”, say “thank you for showing me”. Add in meditation and boom, you are ending the day with a smile on your lips and love in your heart. Using this may induce blissful and restful sleep.
I have never interviewed a single person who talks about the capacity to really experience and soften into joy who does not actively practice gratitude. Brené Brown
I frequently talk about having the right tool for the job and gratitude is the ultimate power tool for joy. It is the kind of tool you want to practice using regularly throughout the day. Keep it sharp, tuned up and at the ready. Easily accessible for any situation that may arise. Used as prescribed above, expert status will be achieved. With expert status you become the ultimate creator of your reality. You now control your own happiness in any given situation, in any minute on any day. This is what joy feels like.