Gratitude comes in all shapes and sizes. There is the gratefulness we feel for being around kind, loving people – a friend’s time, a mother’s hug, and stranger’s smile. The gratefulness we feel for a rainy day when we are able enjoy a great book. Gratefulness we feel for a hot meal. And then there is a deep sense of gratitude for being alive that often comes from having worked through the healing of something big; like an illness, death of a loved one, near loss or any significant difficulty. There can be a deep sense of gratitude for a teacher, therapist, coach, friend, doctor, nurse or family member that helped us tap into and remember that we are valuable, loved and whole just as we are.
Why Gratitude is a Gateway to Joy
It’s a new year and before I let go of the old one, I spent a few days thinking about all the beautiful changes that took place and some of the more difficult challenges. For the difficult challenges I held them with loving kindness and gratitude for all the lessons I learned, all the opportunities to find the good within the situation and that I’m now on the other side, I made it through. And for all the beautiful, fun, empowering changes that manifested, I thought about each and every person that helped make those changes possible.
Mary Oliver captures a deep sense of gratitude in “Alligator Poem,” from her book, New and Selected Poems. She is brushed aside by an alligator, falls down and watches as it goes on by. She writes:
“… this isn’t a poem about foolishness
but about how I rose from the ground
and saw the world as if for the second time,
the way it really is.
The water, that circle of shattered glass,
healed itself with a slow whisper
and lay back
with the black-lit of polished steel,
and the birds, in the endless waterfalls of the trees
shook open the snowy pleats of their wings, and drifted away…”
A deep sense of gratitude often includes a felt experience. A sense of resounding love for still being here, able to tell others about it, able to continue to fulfill our purpose. And there is an incredible beauty on the other side of challenges as well as through positive change. This beauty comes from standing within gratitude and can reach and stretch to touch every part of our lives in order to become more of an every day experience. Beauty can be glimpsed or lived within by any one of us at any time. (IE) And if the beauty of the world around you isn’t currently evident, it can be – for Gratitude is one of the gateways to Joy, which is ecstatic Love – beauty in every moment.
How do we get there? By taking the time, a few moments each day, to express gratitude. It is a very accessible, wonderful place to start, as gratitude lives in the past, present and future. You can be grateful for past events and people, you can be grateful in the moment for that moment and you can be grateful for the future by focusing on the energy of today. Gratitude takes you into conversation with your heart and as you touch into your heart space with gratitude, you supercharge that moment, which influences the next one. It is a feedback loop where one moment feeds the next and so on. The more moments of gratitude you practice the more of a shift into Joy you will see.
Here are a few ideas to make gratitude a part of your daily practice and increase the expression of JOY that is right there in your heart:
3 Things You Do Every Day
Choose three things you see/do everyday and practice gratitude by listing all the things you are grateful for regarding any aspect of that activity. For example:
- Starting your car: gratitude that it starts, that you have a job to go to, that you can afford gas, that it gets you where you need to go, etc.
- Brushing your teeth: that you have a healthy mouth, a beautiful smile, that you can afford toothpaste, that other people smile back when you smile at them, etc.
- Reading: that you are able to read and understand words written on a page, that there is material available to you, that someone thought of you to send you a book/article, that you have healthy eyes, etc.
Use any person, event or activity that you see everyday and follow your line of thoughts to see where they take you. Challenge yourself to do the same three for a week.
GCI (Gratitude Check-In)
Team up with friends who will enjoy this fun way to collectively and interactively increase JOY. Text/post/email these three letters at random and when received, write back what you are grateful for, in that moment, just as it is.
Recite a List
Spend those extra minutes in bed reciting all the things you are grateful for before going to sleep or before getting up in the morning.
Reach Out to Others
Tell the people around you, weekly/daily, how much you appreciate them and their efforts. Choose one person a day to reach out to and say thank you. Text, phone, email, any way you choose, make it simple and fun.
Family Gratitude (any communal living situation)
Write down a funny thing you are grateful for that day (everyday) on a small piece of paper, put it in a jar and after a month, add one and read one.
Make gratitude your theme and free write for 5 minutes or more in the morning before you start your day or the evening before you go to bed.
Increase abundance and the positive energy of money by being grateful every time you spend and receive money. When there is a transaction of any kind (paying for a coffee, receiving change, charging a credit card, getting a check in the mail, finding money in the street), silently give thanks for the positive energy of money that flows through you.
There is a practice in mindfulness that starts with taking a moment to be grateful for the food on the plate. It begins by being grateful to the seed, sun, water and wind that helped this food grow. Then to the farmers that planted, tended, harvested the food. Also the packers, truck drivers, grocery store helpers and clerks that made it possible to purchase this food close to your home.
Your gratitude is the music that sings your song. The conversation with your heart is you noticing all the lovely events and all the love you feel throughout your day. After a while you may start to observe the various qualities of gratitude. That the things you are grateful for in any given moment may be basic ones that occur to us all, like shelter, food, company, etc. It may have a deeper sense of feeling, one that lifts from the heart. And you may notice that it will also include things that are unique to you, ways your heart helps you find the Joy that is out there, everywhere, looking for you.