As children, we were taught to say “thank you” every time we received something from others. This thoughtful gesture is a part of gratitude, but only a small part. Gratitude is a way of life and a way of being that can bring joy and strength to every moment. Mindfully weaving gratitude through your day is a personal choice that can be activated at any time and doesn’t rely upon the actions of others. At its core, gratitude is an active trust in the mystery of life.
Choosing to view everything that happens in your life with the understanding that it is happening FOR or WITH you, rather than TO you, allows you to meet each moment with gratitude for the gifts that will be revealed. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall.”
Trusting life and expressing gratitude for all its gifts — even during the hard times — allows us to shift our perspective to spacious possibility and all that it may offer. We never really know what lies ahead on our life’s journey, but we can choose to meet each new moment, fully present, with unconditional trust and sincere gratitude.
Simple but consistent practices that establish a foundation of mindful gratitude will infuse joy into routine activities and provide strength and resilience in times of crisis. Here are some ways you can bring gratitude into your life:
- Notice the thresholds in your day. Thresholds connect one space to another and provide an excellent opportunity to pause, breathe, and feel gratitude for the space and experience you’re entering. Whether you are stepping outside your home or entering a conference room, a doctor’s office, or a Zoom meeting, create a moment of gratitude for where you are and the opportunities that lie ahead. Feel gratitude for the smile from a neighbor or an easy commute. Feel gratitude for the skills you bring to the meeting. Feel gratitude for current medical advances or the opportunity to catch up on some reading while waiting. Pause, look around, and ask, “How can I choose to activate gratitude in this specific situation?”
- Become gratefully aware of your senses. It takes only a moment to breathe into gratitude as you smell your coffee, hear the morning birdsong, see a brightly colored mural, or taste the freshness of a crisp apple. There is so much to be grateful for right at our fingertips that we fail to notice; pause, breathe, and gratefully savor every experience. Each morning, as you pour your first cup of coffee or tea, set an intention to activate your senses for the next few hours. At lunch, reconfirm your intention and gratefully take in all the sensory pleasures life has to offer.
- Genuine connection to others is a powerful resource for health and wellbeing that increases longevity, strengthens the immune system, and decreases anxiety and depression. Feeling grateful for the opportunity to show up for and with someone else puts you squarely in that moment with heightened presence. Others will sense your availability, your openness, and reciprocate in kind. So, put down your phone, set aside assumptions, and be gratefully present for someone else — if only for a moment or two. The reciprocating energy will linger long after the interaction.
At the end of each day, find two minutes to sit quietly and reflect on the consequential moments from your day. Acknowledge gratitude for unexpected pleasures, new insights, lessons learned, or a surprise adventure. The day is done, and you can let it go with the grateful understanding that with each experience, each moment, each breath, life is holding you in its hand and will not let you fall.
Jane Wilson is the owner of Esme Faire, a company that guides and facilitates accessible Mindful Living practices for individuals and organizations through speaking engagements, workshops, coaching sessions, and business infusion projects. In addition, Esme Faire offers mindfulness and meditation memberships at esmefaire.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to schedule a consultation.
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