When I think of gratitude, I immediately remember being a small child, when being rude was the ultimate tragedy. To avoid shaming my family (and myself), I professed my gratitude for anything and everything, to everyone, lest my parents had to [ gasp! ] remind me. It became a bit of a reflex, which is why I think I, and many others today, sometimes struggle with sincere gratitude in the moment. Mindfulness and gratitude definitely go together, as both have come to light in the last few years as instrumental bringing us an incomparable peace and satisfaction with our lives that leads to happiness and enlightenment, or at the very least, bolsters our health and wellness.
In an article I recently read about seven Native American chefs' favorite traditional recipes and thoughts on Thanksgiving, the idea that we should give thanks every day was presented as a tenet of Native American culture. The fairly recent gratitude movement is a welcome one. A little bit of gratitude goes a long way and can even create a ripple effect of gratitude through society, which in turn can inspire a chain reaction of good deeds and mood boosts. As I do my best to make moves
every day toward a more mindful existence, I often weave genuine moments of gratitude in there. A practice I admire that I've been trying to adopt is thanking retail and service employees by name.
[What a concept, huh? ]
I am admittedly uncomfortable doing it, as it feels very strange to me, and sometimes even elicits quizzical looks from the employees ("Do I know you from somewhere?"). In reality, I'm most likely just out of practice, and am mistaking looks of pleased surprise for "strange" looks.
A practice of daily gratitude is, like any other routine, sometimes difficult to establish. Also like any other routine, it helps to add the routine you're trying to create to a routine that already exists. You already brush your teeth every night before bed, so why not floss? You already eat breakfast/lunch/dinner around the same time and place almost every day, so why not bring your mind to a state of heightened awareness before your regular meal? Some people pray over their meals before eating them, so if that works for you, great! If prayer is not a part of your daily routine, a small pause before a meal to reflect on one thing you're grateful for could be your new favorite practice.
Think small (your cheerful nail polish color), think large (your incredible new home), insignificant (the cute flower you passed on your walk to work today) or significant (you survived that car crash). If life is tough right now and you find yourself running out of things to be grateful for, repeats work fine (grateful for your legs again today); maybe you can even just think a positive thought (You got up this morning!), or be grateful for a sense you experience (feeling the warm sun).
What routine could you piggyback your gratitude practice on? Do you already have a gratitude routine? Do you speak your gratitude, or write it down? My routine is still evolving, but I'm definitely a list-maker as well as a tactile person, so I like to write things down. I was gifted a gratitude journal, and I maybe have used one or two pages of it, so my gratitude is sprinkled throughout my many notebooks and even scribbled on some random scraps of paper. Maybe one day I'll put them together into a scrapbook, but for now, I'm practicing gratitude during my daily morning stretch sesh, which takes all of 20 seconds. I don't have to wait until morning to let you know, though: I'm grateful for you.