Of all the things that I have brought into my daily life, purposeful gratitude has been one of the most powerful. You can read about gratitude from countless coaches, spiritual leaders, motivational speakers, athletes and other successful people and how it has helped to keep them grounded and ultimately leads to their success. This is not a new concept, certainly not my own and not original. However, it is foreign to many people and overlooked even by some who understand and appreciate it when life gets really busy. The one constant throughout literature, coaching, spiritual texts or actual practice is that it is extremely powerful and responsible for many people's success and happiness.
For me, gratitude is an underlying theme that I try to have in my day, every day. If this is a new concept to you, living in gratitude is simply being thankful for what you have right now. It is fine to set goals and have dreams and desires, but without being thankful for what you have right now, those dreams may never be realized.
The most simple gratitude practice is something that I try to do every morning. When the alarm goes off, I swing my feet out of the bed and when the first one hits the floor, I say Thank and when the second hits the floor I say You. So I walk to the bathroom to brush my teeth saying Thank You with every step. This alone starts the day off with gratitude and I find it easier to remain grateful for everything through the day.
I have read many other people's description of their gratitude practice. Many are similar to one another with a few variations. I have taken a few things from each one and developed a deeper practice that we do at the RRL often, but we should do it more often. I like doing this with the group, but I will also find 6-8 minutes in the day to practice this by myself. Here is how I do it:
1. Find a place where you will not be disturbed and set a timer for the time you have set aside for this practice. 6-8 minutes will get the job done, 12-15 is awesome, 20-30 may be a little much at first. I like setting a timer because you can let go of many of the thoughts about being late, losing track of time, or wonder about how long you have been in this state. It may not be necessary for you, but it really helps me.
2. Sit or lay down comfortably
3. Start with your eyes open and get your breathing under control. Go to a 5 count in-5 count out. This rhythm should be comfortable. As I am breathing, I think about filling my belly full of air at my belly button, then feeling my chest rise, filling my lungs and then ultimately filling up the entire chest cavity all the way to my collar bones and then letting it out feeling all those same parts falling effortlessly back to rest. I go for about 5-10 cycles of this breathing through my nose as long as that is comfortable.
4. Check yourself for tension. I find that if I scan my body from head to toe, feeling for tension, I will notice that I have it in my forehead, behind my ears, in my jaw, and shoulders. I allow those areas to relax and the tension released. I open my hands and give my legs a gentle shake.
5. Start with a small circle around your heart. Think about how grateful you are for your heart and your health. Stay there for a few seconds and think about how your heart is keeping you alive and healthy.
6. Move that circle out a little larger to include your physical body. Be thankful for your health, the ability to move and exercise, grow stronger and anything else that comes to mind about why you are thankful for a healthy body. If you are currently not where you want to be physically, have experienced an injury or are sick, be ultra thankful for your physical body, its ability to heal and the fact that you are on the road to recovery. Stay positive.
7. Move that circle out a little larger, beyond your physical body and bring in the most important people in your life. Maybe this is your wife and children, maybe mom and dad...whoever is closest to you, bring them into this circle and think of them. Be grateful for each of these people. Keep it small right now, maybe 5 people at the most. Be thankful that those people are in your life. See their face, visualize something that they do that makes you smile. Be thankful for them. Be thankful for their health and happiness.
8. Once you have clearly seen the people in this circle, push it out larger to include the next level of individuals in your life. This may be parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, mother in law, nieces, nephews...the next closest group of people. See them clearly and be thankful for them even if it is brief.
9. Push the circle out again and include what you consider to be the next group of people closest to you in your life. This could be your friends, work associates, business partners, a coach, a mentor, whoever that is for you. See them clearly and be thankful for what they ave brought to your life.
10. Push out again to include opportunities. Maybe this is your job, maybe it is the ability to provide for your family. If you are not where you want to be in life, do not think about that. Think only about what you are thankful for. If your job is not what you currently want, be thankful for the fact that you have it. Remain thankful for what you have.
At this point, you are probably getting really close to the end of the time you have allowed for this practice. If you find yourself thinking about other things, return to your thought that you were the most thankful for. You can always return to your breath also. Simply go to 5 count breath in, 5 count out.
I check my body for tension again and try to shake it away gently if I find any. as I hear the alarm go off, I will lay there for a second and then slowly sit up, open my eyes and gently and quietly return to the world.
I find that this practice is so incredibly good for maintaining a positive outlook through the day, slowing down and eliminating the feeling of being rushed, and most importantly puts me in a state of underlying gratitude.
It is almost like a computer that is running a program that is minimized. You dont really see it when you look at the screen but it is running in the background. It can be a positive program like this gratitude practice or a negative program like negative self talk, ungratefulness, jealously, resentment, or entitlement. Negative thoughts lead to negative outcomes. Positive thoughts attract more positive.
This practice is incredibly important to me and I try to do it every single day. It is not always the same and yours may be completely different in the things that you are grateful for and think about during this time. It really doesn't matter what you are thankful for, just that you are thankful and grateful consciously.
This is powerful. Do it every day for a month and I guarantee that you will see major changes in your life no matter where you are or where you want to be.
Let me know how it is going for you.