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Start with Gratitude


The day I decided to start a blog, I knew that I wanted to start with gratitude. For me, the source of every positive change I have made on my own personal and spiritual journey began with gratitude.


Is Gratitude an Attitude?


Over the years, I have heard and read so many spiritual teachers and thought leaders on the topic of gratitude. I regularly encountered the slogan, “Gratitude is an attitude.” But in 2015 when I heard New York Times best-selling author, Gregg Braden, lecture on the topic of the physiological effects of gratitude on your body and mind, something shifted inside of me, and I decided to start a daily practice of gratitude. I began to sit in a quiet spot for a few minutes every day and feel grateful for what I had and for what had shaped me as a person. I was grateful for my home and my education. I was grateful for having had my parents and my mom’s parents in my life. I was grateful for having been with each of them when they made their journey into Spirit. And I was grateful to be the new caretaker and companion to my mom’s dog who moved across the country to live with me after my mom’s passing. Most of all, I was grateful for having been the recipient of all of their love.


I have now spent time almost every day for the last few years focusing on gratitude. For me, that means thinking about – and feeling grateful for – the things and people that feed my soul. My gratitude is wide-ranging from my dog’s health and happiness to my home and the food on my table, to the ever changing natural landscape in the park in our neighborhood, and just about everything in between.


One day a few months ago, I was listening to Oprah Winfrey interview Brené Brown on Super Soul Sunday. Brené said, “Gratitude is not an attitude. It’s a practice.” And I nearly jumped out of my seat and yelled, “YES!” That was exactly it.


I found that practicing gratitude on a daily basis helped me to reframe the current state of affairs in my life. Instead of feeling like an orphan who was completely alone in this world and without a safety net. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for all of the abundance in my life and all of the ways in which my life was going well.


Gratitude as a Practice


Over time, I found that through the practice of gratitude I began to look at myself, and the world around me, through a gentler, happier lens. I found myself saying “thank you” even more often, and I noticed that when I did, I exuded the gratitude behind that thanks. And I find that some of the things that used to bring out the worst in me didn’t rile me in the same way. Here’s an example:


A few weeks ago, I was driving home from the veterinarian with my little dog harnessed in the back seat. We were at a complete standstill in traffic. When I glanced into my rear-view mirror, I noticed the man in the car behind me with his cell phone in his face; not paying any attention to the flow (or lack thereof!) of traffic. I felt myself tense up because there was no place for me to maneuver to get out of the way. All of a sudden, the driver looked up and slammed on his breaks, managing to stop just as his front bumper brushed against my rear bumper. There was a time when I would have been livid that this man was not paying attention and had almost rammed into me. I would have thought about it several times over the course of the day. I would have had outrage in my voice as I told the story of the almost accident to my friends, and I probably would have had a hard time sleeping that night because I would have replayed the scene over in my head thinking about all the ways that near accident could have ended badly.


Instead, as the careless driver stopped in time, I immediately felt such an overwhelming sense of gratitude for not having been in an accident. I actually exclaimed “Thank You!” to everyone and every thing that caused the car to stop in time.


For me, gratitude is a means of focusing on what is good. By recognizing and acknowledging what is good and what I appreciate, I have re-mapped how my brain and my body react to what is going on in my life. I am calmer and happier, and I venture that I’m a lot nicer to be around.


How to Begin a Practice of Gratitude


Perhaps your interest is piqued enough to give it a go and begin a gratitude practice. In order to get your practice off to a good start, here are a few tips:

  • What Makes You Feel Grateful. Begin with a slam dunk – something that will reliably make you feel really grateful. It needs to be personal to you and it must invoke the feeling of deep gratitude. That could be your children’s health, your partner, your home – anything, really that makes you feel truly grateful.

  • Gratitude as a Feeling. Thinking that you are grateful for something is great, but it’s not enough. In order to rewire your way of being, and achieve the most benefit from the practice, you need to feel grateful. If you’re not feeling grateful for the gratitude items on your list, re-draw your list.

  • Practice Gratitude. Spend a few minutes every day in a quiet place where you will have some privacy with your own thoughts and feelings. In that space, enumerate to yourself the things for which you are grateful. It can be out loud or it can be in your head. If you’re a writer, write it down in your journal. There’s no one right way to express it other than to feel it. The important thing is that you do it every day (or as close to every day as you can).

  • Build on Gratitude. Once you get the hang of it, mix it up. What are you grateful for today? Perhaps it’s the stranger who showed you a kindness, or the thing you learned or a synchronicity in your day.

  • Express Gratitude. When you experience a moment in your life where you feel gratitude, express it! Don’t wait to add it to your list. Say “thank you” to the people who give your life a boost, and mean it. Let the feeling of that gratitude exude from you as you say thank you.

If You Could Use More Inspiration…


I recommend Oprah Winfrey’s two-part interview of Brené Brown on the Super Soul Sunday Podcast from August 7, 2017. If you’re looking for a more scientific approach, check out the HeartMath® Institute at www.heartmath.org or www.greggbraden.com.

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