If you are living in the U.S., you know we’re celebrating Thanksgiving this Thursday. I’ve always loved Thanksgiving – not just for the four day weekend, but for the fact that our country has dedicated a national holiday to gratitude and giving thanks. There have been many times in my life when gratitude and thanksgiving have come naturally to me, and I embrace these times with relish. My recent trip to Michigan to visit six soul sisters is one such example. It was next to impossible to feel anything but overflowing gratitude on a daily basis, and still is a full week later. There have been many times where gratitude and giving thanks seem completely out of reach as well, and that’s what I’d like to talk about today – cultivating gratitude when it’s the last thing you want to do.
There are several reasons that I try to do this in my own life. The first, and most critical, is that it is impossible for me to feel both grateful and bored/angry/whiny/discontent at the same time. Gratitude feels good, and I want to feel good as often as I can. Second, I believe that gratitude activates our Law of Attraction mojo in a major way. When I concentrate on what is going well in my life…more wonderful things come. When I concentrate on what is going poorly…more horrible things come. Third, I believe that gratitude connects us – to others, to ourselves, to the natural world, to the world of Spirit – and being authentically connected is one of my main life goals.
Despite believing all this, there are times when I can’t access gratitude, when I’m snarling at other drivers in traffic, and whining about how overwhelmed I am. I’m offering several gratitude/thankfulness activities below. They are listed in order of my starting mood, from “I feel like killing everyone” to “the universe is eternal bliss and I’m so glad I’m here.” Hopefully you can find a practice somewhere on the spectrum that fits your mood, and give it a shot.
Remedial Gratitude Practice (Mood: “I feel like killing everyone around me.”)
When I feel abysmal and all seems hellish, I try to take the advice of the fabulous life coach, Tonya Leigh. Her advice is simple, yet profound. Stop complaining. This is painful when I’m in a foul mood. I want to complain. I want to bitch on and on about the various minor troubles that plague me. I ignore her advice often, but I have never forgotten it. On some days, cultivating gratitude is not going to look beautiful. It’s going to look like silence or a simple absence of venom.
There have been certain days in my life when this feels impossible. I need to complain or I will explode. For those times, Karla McLaren, in her book The Language of Emotions, describes an exercise that I love – conscious complaining. The idea is to write down or state out loud (to yourself) your list of complaints. This allows the complaints to be aired and cleared, while sparing those around you from listening to your negativity.
Basic Gratitude Practice (Mood: “I feel okay.”)
Possibly you have been encouraged to make gratitude lists or keep a gratitude journal. It sounds like an excellent idea, and I’ve diligently attempted to incorporate it into my daily practice. I’ve even included it in my Daily Strategy Guide (if you don’t have your copy yet, sign up for my newsletter in the box to the right.) The strength of this practice for me is beginning to train my mind to seek out things I feel grateful for, knowing my list is coming up in the evening or morning. Does it excite me? No, not at all. Sometimes I feel the most gratitude for being able to check “do gratitude list” off my to-do list. It’s not earth-shattering, but it is a decent place to start.
Priming for Gratitude (Mood: “I feel pretty good.”)
In Kaizen Muse Creativity Coaching, we love the practice of asking “small questions” – questions that prime the brain to seek answers, but are small enough to be non-threatening. A “large question” might be, “how can I experience rapture today?” This can feel overwhelming if you are not used to daily rapture (and if you are, please, post your tips in the comments section.) A “small question” might be something like, “what might spark gratitude in me today?”
Opening to Gratitude (Mood: “I feel good.”)
I’ve found that I am genuinely grateful only when I am present in the moment. When I remember to check in with myself, and notice the world around me, it’s very hard not to feel gratitude. If you feel good right now, try it! Take this very moment to become present, and notice that you likely have all of your needs met, and many bonus “wants” met as well. See where your gratitude flows.
Expressing Thanks (Mood: “I feel really good.”)
There is nothing like expressing thanks to lift me from a good mood to a great one. I don’t even bother trying it when I’m anything below feeling really good, cause it comes out drudging and icky. When I feel really good to begin with, expressing thanks feels like it raises my own mood and raises those of the person or people I’m thanking. This can be anything from noticing exceptional service at your deli counter to a heartfelt thank you letter. This one is a lot of fun for me – some days when I’m feeling really good, I seek out opportunities to express thanks and appreciation, and usually by the end of the day, I’m nearly high.
Capturing the Moment (Mood: “The entire Universe is blissful”)
I love these moments and cherish them when they happen. The entire world seems magical, the moment is perfect, and I am connected and blissful. When this happens, I try to write down a description of the moment later and keep it somewhere that I can go back and re-read it to experience the moment again. (Eventually I will collect them in one place – a “real” gratitude journal or a gratitude box. Right now, they are scattered in various journals.) Writing down the experience helps to sear it deeper into my soul, and reading it later reawakens the sense of wonder I felt in the moment.
I hope that you have found something here that has sparked your interest, and I would love to hear your suggestions and experiences in the comments. Finally, I want to say THANK YOU for reading my blog. I can’t begin to tell you how much joy you bring me, and how deeply grateful I am for each one of you!