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When November rolls around, I have noticed that everyone seems to be talking about gratitude. We teach our children to “count their blessings,” and we remind ourselves that there is always something to be grateful for, even in the midst of challenging times. But do you really feel grateful? Or has it become just words in your head, rather than powerful feelings in your heart? And is saying you are grateful good enough if the gratitude doesn’t come from the heart?

Perhaps it would help to understand what gratitude really is. Gratitude does not come as a response to something you have been given or earned. That is “being thankful.” Gratitude is a much deeper way of living that comes from an awareness of the millions of moments and people and circumstances that have come together for you to simply be here, right now, alive in this moment. Stop and consider this for a minute. Look back at this last year and recall a memorable moment. If just one event was slightly different, or one person made a different decision, or one storm had a different trajectory, or one promotion had not occurred, how would that moment have changed?

And, of course, you can go back even further. What if one ancestor made a different choice, or was received by their new country in a different way? Or what if an illness or injury occurred?

It really is quite an amazing miracle that we are who we are, where we are, and doing what we are. Gratitude is the deep feeling we get when we acknowledge that things are pretty amazing, and in response, we choose to meet our life with an open-heartedness that comes from that recognition.

Of course, when life is overly busy and distractions abound, we can slip into living on autopilot, not recognizing these moments, and therefore, missing the powerful affects of true gratitude. We give lip-service to being grateful, but those words come from the head, not the heart, and they are rarely felt. If you want to bring the power of heartfelt gratitude into your way of living, try this simple practice:

Mindfulness Gratitude Practice:

  1. Choose a time each day to sit quietly and write down 3 things for which you are grateful. Whatever you notice that day is fine. There is only one rule-you cannot repeat anything. Keep looking…how many days/months can you keep this up?
  2. Pay close attention to your body sensations while you are writing. What are you noticing? Warmth, lightness, tingling, tears, etc.
  3. After you have been practicing gratitude for a few weeks, look for an opportunity to express your gratitude to someone else. Did you notice anything different about feelings of the experience?

As this season begins to kick into high gear with all of its distractions and busyness, this practice can help you put it all in perspective. The warm, powerful feelings of authentic gratitude can ground us in the midst of the bright lights, and the superficial tugs on our time. We begin to more readily recognize how grateful we are simply to be here right now.