You’ve probably heard how beneficial it is to cultivate gratitude, maybe even keep a gratitude journal. That’s all well and good, except it can be easy for this to become something on your to-do list that you skim by.
At least, I notice this for myself. I write down 3 good things from the day in my journal, but they’re often high-level. I don’t actually pause to feel them.
So here are three tips to help keep this real.
On Wednesday I was thinking I was grateful for the Farmers’ Market. But without truly reflecting on why I’m grateful, it becomes a somewhat pointless exercise. Just a random note in a long string of them.
So if I want to get the full benefits of gratitude, I need to ask why. And in my example, I can think of a number of reasons why I’m happy about the Farmers’ Market.
One is the simple beauty of the food. This time of year, they have lots of color: red apples and tomatoes, green pears and even a few cucumbers left, rainbow chard, yellow summer squash and corn, golden honey, purple beets, orange carrots and sweet potatoes, white cauliflower. Though you can also get rainbow carrots, purple cabbage, and green cauliflower! It’s a gorgeous feast for the eyes.
I’m also grateful that I have easy access to food grown by local farmers. I don’t need to worry about contamination scares when I’ve gotten lettuce and spinach from them.
And because I’ve been getting a CSA (community-supported agriculture) share at the same farm for years, they know me by name. What a gift that is.
As if all that weren’t enough, the food is simply tastier when you get it in season. I used to think I didn’t like celery, but it was because I’d only had the anemic, watered-down, mass-produced version. It’s a mere shadow of the deep green, assertive stalks I can get at the market.
Does going deeper into the why of this take longer? Yes, but it’s also much more rewarding. I feel true gratitude this way, and it makes my heart expand and my day lighter.
Look in unusual places
Sometimes it can be hard to find things to be grateful for. We all have bad days. You may also have circumstances that put some roadblocks in the way of gratitude.
In these cases, you may be able to recognize that things could be worse. For instance, I’ve started watching The Good Doctor, a show about a young autistic man named Shaun who’s a surgical resident. He had many hardships in his youth, including seeing his brother die and being abandoned by his parents.
So it was interesting to see his reaction after treating an autistic boy. The boy had negative side effects from the kava root his parents had him take, done in an effort to help him in some other way. Shaun said that his parents didn’t love him like the boy’s parents did – but that also meant he never had to take kava root that made him sick.
Interesting way of looking at it. But it’s a good reminder that everything is about perspective, including gratitude.
Take nothing for granted – especially your body
It’s so easy to take things for granted, particularly our physical selves. We can get so caught up in thinking about all the things we don’t like or can’t do that it becomes very easy to ignore all the good things. Until something happens and it’s too late to appreciate.
For instance, how often do you have negative thoughts about your body instead of positive ones? Or maybe you don’t think much about it at all.
Except – without these wondrous forms, we wouldn’t have anything.
I don’t say this to make anyone feel bad about having negative body thoughts. I’ve had plenty of them.
But after last week’s post about the unusual sense of interospection, I started thinking about how miraculous our bodies truly are. Even when they don’t work quite as expected, they’re often able to recover and adapt. We can ignore them, or dislike them, but we lose so much if we do.
So in thinking about gratitude, what if you thought about the best experiences of your life – and then recognized how your body allowed you to have that experience?
What’s interesting is that these don’t even have to be things you’d consider particularly physical. Maybe it was going to an amazing concert… staying up all night talking with friends… reading a story that moves you to tears or laughter… or learning how to make your favorite meal. None of this would be possible without a body.
And the best part is, your body doesn’t even have to be perfect to give you these moments. Which is good, since perfection doesn’t exist!
Being alive and in your body can be such an amazing gift. And it’s even more incredible when we let ourselves acknowledge that.
What about you?
So I invite you to take a few moments to consider what you’re grateful for, and why. If you find that it makes you feel better, opens you up to the world around you, maybe you’ll decide to do it on a regular basis.
Either way, I’d love to hear what comes up for you.
And may you find much of wonder and beauty in viewing the world in this way.