Einstein said, "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." When you see everything as a miracle, the gratitude comes flooding in—and flowing out.
Gratitude is an inherent quality that resides within each of us. It’s both a feeling and an attitude. Gratitude begins by looking within and appreciating the value of one’s experiences. Gratitude is an immensely powerful force that we can use to expand our happiness; create loving relationships, and even improve our health.
Many scientific studies, including research by renowned psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, have found that people who consciously focus on gratitude experience greater emotional wellbeing and physical health than those who don’t. In comparison with control groups, those who cultivated gratitude:
If you want more happiness, joy, and energy, gratitude is clearly a crucial quality to cultivate and express. Here are three practices you can begin using this week to open your heart to gratitude and love.
1.) Keep a Gratitude Journal
Each day list at least five things for which you are grateful. Challenge yourself by not repeating items from the previous days, for this will make you look more deeply at all the “little” things that enhance your life and give you joy, such as waking in a comfortable bed, listening to your favorite song, receiving a phone call from a friend, hugging your child, or being able to access a wealth of music, literature, and so many other gifts of human creativity with the click of a computer key.
You can write in your journal just before bed, when you wake up in the morning or just before you meditate. The time of day isn’t important; what is important is that you consistently take a few moments to consciously focus your mind on your blessings.
What we put our attention on expands in our life, so by focusing on what we have to be grateful for, we feel happier and open ourselves to an unlimited flow of abundance in every area of our lives.
2.) Write a Thank-you Letter
Make a list of at least five people who have had a profound impact on your life. Choose one and write a thank you letter expressing gratitude for all the gifts you’ve received from that person. If possible, deliver your gratitude letter in person.
In studies of people who have practiced this form of gratitude, the results have been amazing. Often the recipient of the letter had no idea what an impact he or she had had on another person and were deeply touched by the expression of such authentic gratitude.
While we may often thank people verbally, the written word can often be even more powerful because someone has taken the time to write their appreciation. A letter can also be re-read and treasured, creating joy and love that will continue to ripple out into the universe.
3.) Take a Gratitude Walk
This is a particularly useful practice when you’re feeling down or filled with stress and worry. Set aside twenty minutes (or longer if you can) and walk in your neighborhood, through a park, around your office, or somewhere in nature. Pay attention to your senses – everything you’re seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and maybe even tasting – and see how many things you can find to feel grateful for. This is a powerful way to shift your mood and open to the flow of abundance that always surrounds you.
Practicing Gratitude in Difficult Times
But what about when challenges and difficult circumstances befall us? How do we practice feeling grateful when we are sad or fearful, or when a relationship has soured and we are feeling frustrated or even depressed? In these circumstances, a practice of mindfulness and gratitude has the power to bring new perspective. We cannot change the fact that we are affected by the world around us, in the same way that a tree cannot stop its branches from swaying when the wind blows. However, like a tree with deep roots, we can learn to steady ourselves and use the breath to ground ourselves in the present moment. During difficult times and periods of loss, an attitude of gratitude can be transformative. Appreciating even one little thing – like the sound of the rain, a beautiful bloom, or a child’s smile – can change the tenor of the day from despair to hope.
Martin Luther King Jr. said “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation -- either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
Within every obstacle, there is an invitation to heal and cope. In fact, a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrates that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether that involves minor everyday aggravations or major personal disruptions. So next time you feel lost in your challenges or sabotaged or burdened by circumstance, take a moment to pause and breathe. Then consider the question: What am I learning about myself? And can I find ways to feel thankful for the learning and gifts that are present?
Source: The Chopra Center, www.deepakchopra.com