Daily blessings - cultivating a practice of gratitude

I think we all have moments of feeling gratitude. An amazing sunset, a gorgeous meal with family and friends, getting to the other side of a health scare. We all have moments where we say, "thank you".

But I also know that many of us (myself included) have moments of not enough.

Not good enough.

Not smart enough.

Not successful enough.

While I have to say, this negative inner voice has subsided in my thirties and early forties, it does still rear it's ugly head. Gratitude is the antidote for the not-enoughs. But it is more than just saying the occasional thank you. It's about cultivating a practice of appreciation for all that you have and all that you are.

As many teenagers, I was on the “ungrateful” end of the scale during that time in my life. Sure, I appreciated my education and the fact that I lived a relatively unscathed existence as a teenager. During my first trip to Pakistan when I was 16 years old, gratitude seemed to have new meaning. Witnessing such unbelievable poverty and hardship that so many people faced gave me great pause. Enter gratitude into my life and I was forever changed. 

Despite this, I fall down on my gratitude practice occasionally.

How do you practice gratitude, especially when things in your life may feel hard? It’s a good question and the answer, fortunately, is really simple and can be implemented with a little dedication and perseverance. 

The answer is: Practice and habit. Luckily, the two are intertwined. If you practice consistently, you'll form a habit. The real practice comes in when the shit hits the fan in your life--that's when you'll know whether your gratitude practice has stuck with you. In fact, the "shit hitting the fan" scenario might not even feel like that when you have a practice of gratitude. 

So how do you practice gratitude and what do you do? Here are a few ideas to bring gratitude into your life. 

  • Insert gratitude into your already established routine. That's been the biggest change for me. When my alarm goes off, my first thought is 'thank you'. The habit is triggered by my alarm and I find it really works. Remember, these moments of gratitude don't need to be big things (though they can), they can be small blessings. Do this for 20+ days and you've got yourself a habit. It will feel weird not to do it.  

  • Make a list. Yep, the pen and paper kind of list. Start with 3 things you are grateful for on a daily basis. There isn’t anything to be grateful for, you say? Well, are you breathing? Is your heart beating? I’m assuming it is if you’re reading this (unless you’re a zombie!). There are two things on your list already. Keep going.

  • Breathe. I have found during dark times in my life, the despair can become all consuming. It’s hard to see the light. But gratitude is the crack that lets the light in. Please trust me on this one. When you think you can’t get out of your pain, start breathing. Forget any formal meditation practice at this point - that can be too much to handle. Just breathe. First start with 5 deep breaths and then 10. And then do it again. That is the best form of meditation there is.

  • Family gratitude. My family all have a moment of gratitude at meal time. Not only does this help my issues towards food, but it teaches my child an important lesson about being thankful for what we have. I love doing this as a family and hearing what they are grateful for.

  • Gratitude jar. I love this idea for the new year. Grab a big jar and every day for a year write a note of gratitude. At the end of the year, you get to look at all of the amazing things that you have been grateful for. This is certain to fill your heart up to the brim.

My gratitude practice is now incorporated into my daily meditation and prayer practice. The meditation practice is a habit, so I inserted my gratitude practice into that. I can't even tell you how life changing it is. If you're looking to live a more glass-half-full kind of life, this is definitely the trick

How do you incorporate gratitude into your life?