I remember a particularly trying autumn during my first year in graduate school. Weary after working a long shift at a coffee bar and rain-soaked in true Seattle fashion, I stumbled into class a few minutes late and stopped in the doorway as my professor read this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.
I remember thinking, “so I am supposed to feel grateful for the puddles in my shoes, and the pounding headache, and the assignment I see on the board behind you that will guarantee I am burning the midnight oil?”
This fall, the quote resurfaced in perfect time as is always the way. I was looking for something in a box in storage to show my daughter and there it was. In my twenty-one year old handwriting, I had captured the words that day, with smeared ink from my wet coat, just in case Ralph Waldo Emerson was on to something I might want to remember as my adult self.
Of course he was …
This November is different for all of us. Sometimes, with politics and pandemics, travel restrictions, and on-line work/school, it can be challenging to find time for a daily gratitude practice.
We designed these practices to meet you wherever you are, even if all you have time to do is read one before you run to the next thing, it will shift your perspective. If you have a little more time to commit to this practice, pick one of the five below that resonates with your mood, quiet your mind by reading the blog that inspired the practice first, then do the quick exercise.
As you go about your day, we believe you will notice a gentle shift in your presence in each moment. These practices can be repeated as often as you wish and you can do one a day or all five right now!
Appreciate Your Daily Routine
Today I am deliberately grateful for everyday activities that I sometimes take for granted.
Try one or all of these things today:
- When your children, significant others, or pets come into the room, look right at them in greeting and really see them with joy.
- On your drive to work or the grocery store, notice how well your car functions and how comfortable it is, and make note of any natural beauty on your route.
- When you eat anything, take a moment to say thanks for the nourishment, and really try to taste and experience the food.
- As you move through your day, notice the ways in which your body serves you. Give thanks for your breath, your feet that carry you up the stairs, your hands that can be held, your eyes that take it all in.
- Find any and every way to simply notice what IS working today.
Today I am deliberately grateful for everyday activities that I sometimes take for granted because I know the more I see what IS working, the more of those things will come into my experience and I am ready.
Today I am deliberate in my appreciation of myself.
- Do one thing for yourself today that contributes to you feeling cherished. Maybe it is a lingering bath, a lunch date, a candlelight dinner, or a special purchase.
- Pick something that feels good from every angle and soak it up. This is critical. If you decide to buy something but you feel a twinge of guilt you are giving yourself a burden not a gift. Brainstorm ideas until you feel momentum and then jump in with both feet. Little things are a great place to start if you are new at this!
Today I am deliberate in my appreciation of myself because I know how to take care of myself better than anyone.
Appreciate Your Past
Today I deliberately celebrate my journey.
- Spend a moment reflecting on where you have been by writing down three pivotal experiences from your past that have landed you in the here and now.
- Give thanks for the journey and the lessons along the way (good and bad) that are a part of who you are today. This is not about longing for the way things were. This is about gently reflecting on how far you have come and appreciating your path now, in this moment.
- Take the strength of that journey into your day.
Today I deliberately celebrate my journey because I know giving thanks for how far I have come is just as important as where I am headed.
Today I deliberately give thanks in whatever way feels most natural to me.
- You have probably heard many versions of, “Be grateful,” or, “Give thanks,” throughout your life. Today is not about what you “should” do. Today is about who you are and how gratitude flows from you naturally.
- One of the best ways to reflect on this for yourself is to pay attention to what you appreciate in others. Do you notice when someone holds a door open for you or lets you merge onto the freeway? Do you notice someone’s warm smile every day? Do you hear kindness when someone is talking to their children?
- Today just pay attention to what you notice in others, and you will come into giving effortlessly.
Today I deliberately give thanks in whatever way feels most natural to me because, although there are many ways to ‘give’ thanks, feeling thankful is where the magic happens.
Today I deliberately open my eyes to the world around me with intention.
- Make a commitment to look up, out, and around.
- What beauty do you find in unexpected places? Is there a flower pushing through the concrete on the sidewalk? Are raindrops caught in a luminous spider web? Does a puddle reflect a grey sky from a new perspective?
- Simply look for the beauty around every corner.
Today I deliberately open my eyes to the world around me with intention because I know that my awareness is a vital part of the magic that reveals itself to me.
BONUS Practice: Creating New Patterns in your Growth as a Grateful Human
Since you made it to the end, we want to reward you with our favorite practice that has helped us move about the world with open and grateful hearts (most days). We call it Pattern Practice and it is simple and profound. Here is how it works:
As you move through your day, intentionally make a mental or written note about people, places, food, objects you come into contact with that remind you of something good from your past. Does your neighbor remind you of your best friend from childhood’s mother? Does the smell of something cooking transport you to a far off land you traversed before? Do you feel a pang of familiarity when you hear a favorite song? Does a landscape remind you of a place you once inhabited?
At the moment you feel a connection, call it out to yourself or someone you love and trust. If you do this, something magic happens. Instead of longing for the past, you seamlessly carry the feeling from that connection into the present moment and instead of feeling nostalgic, you will feel an overwhelming sense of appreciation and gratitude that this person, place, or thing showed up to bring you into the now!
Do you see the main picture we used for this blog? It is a picture of a tree at Marine Park in Bellingham, Washington. The moment we saw this tree, my husband said, “It looks just like our favorite tree on the shores of Lake Bohinj in Slovenia!” And just like that, we were flooded with feelings of connection. It is a small world after all. The more you create gratitude pathways through this type of patterning, the more quickly you will find yourself feeling fulfilled. Try it and see what you think!
There is no way to get it wrong or to check it off the list when it comes to cultivating, “the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.” What matters is that we begin somewhere, anywhere, today.
As we approach a very different looking American Thanksgiving this year, my wish for all of us is gratitude will remain a constant. Perhaps this year, we can even amplify the feelings, as we work together to find light in the darker days of winter.