The Magic in Gratitude

1 Nov

In contemporary Western culture, the idea of gratitude is something that we draw attention to only once a year, on that third Thursday of November. The other 364 days are filled with achievement, desire, and gratification to accomplish all of the things that others want and expect from us. In the busy-ness of everyday life, we are left with little time and inclination to pause and contemplate gratitude.

In Buddhism, gratitude—along with other attitudes of the heart, such as generosity and kindness—is considered one of the eight paths to happiness. And, as far as I can tell, this is grounded in solid experience of the human psyche. It took me some navigating to fully commit to and understand the power of gratitude apart from the polite “thank you.” But being polite has rather little to do with the authentic, or heart-centered, feeling of giving thanks.

Gratitude collage

Gratitude collage reflecting my summer visit to Germany

I first started experimenting with gratitude when my world felt rather glum. The idea was to use gratitude to bring light into a dim situation. Did it work? Yes, it did.

 

What did I do?

Every night before I settled into bed, I created a gratitude list in my journal. When you’re feeling glum, it is not easy to come up with anything positive for which to give thanks. Nevertheless, you can uncover basic gifts of your existence:

Today, I am grateful for making it through another day.

Today, I am grateful for having a house/apartment to shelter me.

There are so many things to be grateful for: your life; your body; the use of your arms, hands, feet, legs; the sun that shines; the rain; the food you eat; a random friendly smile; the friend you talked to; the seasons; nature….. As your outlook gets lighter, gratitude tends to flow more easily.

Gradually the darkness in my soul and my gratitude list became more playful — I began to notice the songs of the birds. And as my awareness for the positive grew, I began to see the light again. Eventually i turned my mind to the possibility of a positive future. And, voila, it unfolded. My experiment proved that gratitude has nothing to do with any outer situation or riches. It is an inner attitude.

Recently, I conducted a second gratitude project. This time, it was not about me but about others. Because i knew from own experience that gratitude has a tremendous power to transform I wanted to share in order to inspire others to try out a gratitude practice for themselves. I began posting a daily gratitude thought on Facebook. The response exceeded my expectations. Many shared the things they were grateful for as comments on my wall. Others started posting their own gratitude thoughts on their Facebook walls to share with their friends. In a short time there was an entire wave of gratitude sweeping through my corner of Facebook. I received notes from people saying they were looking forward to finding my daily gratitude posts and adding their own. Others thanked me for the inspiration to post their gratitude. My hope that others would follow my example and post something they were grateful for was more than rewarded. Then came the real surprise. After engaging in this public gratitude practice for about five months, I began to notice that I was much happier than I had been, and for no ‘real’ reason. I had not moved to my dream house, and the world at large was still not at peace. All that had changed was that I had picked up on my old gratitude practice again. There it was, confirming once again: A gratitude practice leads to more happiness. And doesn’t it make so much sense? Focusing on the good lifts the spirit and contributes to an overall sense of positivity and so enhances our happiness.

 

Try it for yourself.

Gratitude 101: All you need is a journal or notebook, or, if you prefer to do it publicly and inspire others as well, a Facebook wall. Choose one time every day to think about what you are grateful for. I recommend doing it either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, but it can be done any time of day with consistency. It takes only a couple of minutes. Write down at least one item (or create a list of things) for which you are grateful. Commit to doing it for at least 4 months. Soon enough, you’ll notice how you reap more happiness!

Gratitude 102: If you have a practice of sharing meals with your partner, children, or colleagues, suggest focusing on positive experiences and thoughts over the meal. Share your gratitude and invite them to share theirs. And do this not just on Thanksgiving. The positive will beget more positivity!

© Eva Ruland, November 2013

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4 Responses to “The Magic in Gratitude”

  1. Julia Carpenter November 4, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    Thanks so much for this beautiful and powerful reminder, Eva! It’s funny how we can “fall off” the gratitude wagon at different moments of our lives and how just a simple, gentle, loving nudge can bring us back. You are such an inspiration – such a lovely Nudger!

    with deep gratitude for the important role you play in our lives,
    xoxo julia

    • sfsoulspa November 4, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

      Julia, thanks so much for taking the time to read and leave a message. Yes, it’s so easy to ‘fall off’ the gratitude wagon and it is much more difficult to get on it again. I just started the facebook gratitude again. Please join if you’re so inclined.

      Thanks for appreciating me. I take it in with gratitude.
      And send the appreciation right back. Thanks for being the shining presence you are!

      ~Eva

  2. Karen Mireau November 13, 2013 at 2:42 am #

    Eva:

    I love this call to practice . . . so important to remind ourselves to take simple steps every day towards wholeness.

    You are true force in the universe. Thank you for keeping us in tune with our most perfect natures!

    Love & Happiness,

    Karen

    • sfsoulspa November 13, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

      Thank you so much for your affirming feedback, Karen! I know that it is high praise coming from a writer like yourself.
      Love + happiness right back at you,
      Eva

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