Increasing Our Gratitude Through Mindfulness
Gratitude is a place. It’s a spot on the psychological map that we visit. It’s an emotional forest that we wander through, taking in the sights and listening to the sounds with no agenda. It’s the intersection of people, perspective and peace in our life in a way that allows and requires us to be fully present and experience a joyful sense of appreciation.
One of the reasons it is so hard for many of us to feel is that it’s the opposite of rushed. It’s the antithesis of hurried. And it’s definitely not something we can delegate. If we’re not careful, it quickly becomes that brilliant idea that we forget or that task we know needs to be done, but can’t quite remember what it is.
Those that have mastered gratitude in their lives are those that valiantly fight to create space to practice it. They don’t count on lightning to strike just at the right time, but instead create a power plant of gratitude using mindfulness that lights up the lives of all those around them.
How did they do it before the Thanks A Billion Project? How will they do it long after we’re gone? It’s easy. They practice mindfulness when it comes to the things in their lives that are worth being thankful for.
Mindfulness: Chewing Your Emotions Slowly
I have a dog who, like most dogs, lives for the moment that human food hits the floor. It’s incredible how patiently he will follow us around the kitchen, waiting for the clumsy moments when a chunk of something bounces his direction. He’ll literally spend hours waiting for just one bite of something.
The irony is that when he finally gets the chance, he gobbles it up so fast that there is no way he has any idea what he’s eating or what it tastes like. He’s like a vacuum cleaner sucking up legos, swallowing bits of steak, potatoes or a chunk of cardboard whole, without actually appreciating what he’s waited so long to get. In other words, he’s not mindful of what he’s eating.
We do the same things as humans. We work so hard to secure good things in our lives. We battle to overcome personal obstacles and tackle professional challenges. We spend years winning someone’s heart or trying to raise kind, productive children. And then, just like my dog, when the moment comes to enjoy and appreciate all the goodness we’ve unlocked, we gulp down the moments and move on to the next.
Developing an attitude of gratitude and becoming a more grateful human is about learning to chew your emotions slowly. It’s about learning to stop, observe the things we’re grateful for, take a deep breath of them, feel their texture in our lives and appreciate every last morsel of the moments as they become part of who we are. When we do that, we become connoisseurs of life. We become aficionados of affection and accomplishments.
Gratitude Before Our Feet Hit The Floor or Our Head Hits The Pillow
The most grateful people have developed a concrete routine for experiencing gratitude. Like a chef going to their favorite farmers market to see what new ingredients they have to work with, the mindful person creates routine and habit around exploring what there is to be grateful for.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to create a five-minute routine of accounting for the good in our lives before our feet hit the floor in the morning or our head hits the pillow at night. It’s as easy as thinking through our previous day and asking ourselves who or what made us smile. You simply walk through the events, conversations, errands and interactions and try to identify that which is good in your world. They don’t need to be big things. In fact, the smaller you try and think, the more you’ll find to be grateful for.
Do it tonight while you’re brushing your teeth or taking your dog on one last walk. Do it tomorrow morning instead of picking up your phone and reading about the chaos you cannot control. Spend five minutes in the morning and at night becoming an accountant of that worth appreciating, and you will be practicing mindfulness when it comes to the good in your life.
Do that and the fear will subside. Do that and your creativity will flourish. Tell the people who you think of during those times how grateful you are for them, and your relationships will begin to transform.