Gratitude is so much more than just a "feel good" emotion. Feeling gratitude is your connection to your spirit as you share in the beauty of life. Gratitude is your spirit playing with life, looking for the many good things, both large and small, that happen every moment. Gratitude is a genuine soul-felt appreciation for being personally involved with life.
The more gratitude we feel, the more optimism, relaxation, and overall happiness we experience. That's because focusing on gratitude shifts our attention away from stress and worry and has us look at the bright side of things. Concentrating on things we are grateful for brings us deep into our divinity, beyond the conflict and drama, where we can focus on what is most important to us. What we focus on expands. One of the greatest gifts anyone can give to themselves and to the world, is the gift of gratitude. Gratitude is not about being loving and happy only when life is ideal. Instead, gratitude is an awareness that while things may not always be perfect, life is still filled with wonder and beauty. It's right there, in front of our eyes, within reach, available to us – all we have to do is take a breath and allow ourselves to participate in the beauty.
If you've spent a better part of your time lately focusing on what's wrong, what's bad, what's frightening, or what's missing, then you might be surprised at how easy it can be to turn things around. The simplest exercise is to begin writing a daily gratitude journal. In addition, below are some innovative ways to expand gratefulness that will soon have you feeling the spirit of genuine appreciation and joy.
1. Begin and End Your Day With Gratitude Imagine beginning and ending each day with an expression of gratitude for the blessings in your life. Instead of rushing into your day, or inattentively falling into bed every night, consider taking a moment to generate a sense of gratitude for life and all good things. Each morning and each evening recall five things (people, events, memories, smiles, etc.) you are grateful for. Enlarging your feelings of genuine thankfulness doesn't take much time, but you do need to be willing to slow down and make room for it.
2. Be Present By allowing yourself to come back to the present moment, you can let go of resistance and struggle. Instead of dwelling on our perceived shortcomings, inadequacies, weaknesses, or deficiencies, find something good about right now. By breathing into this present moment, you let go of the past and return from an imagined "worst outcome" future. Several times throughout the day, pause, and breathe deeply. Then consciously look for your often overlooked strengths, talents, and abilities. Look for evidence that you already have some of what you want more of in your life. Breathe into that joy and choose for it to expand.
3. Eat Good Food I love food. I love to eat it. I love to cook with it. I love to grow it. I love to smell it, touch it, and taste it. And I'm so incredibly grateful for the abundance of colorful, fresh, healthy food. However, many people overeat without truly being grateful for the experience of eating. To increase gratitude in life, pay attention to the joy of eating. Pay attention to your innate preference for color, flavor, sweetness, saltiness, crunchiness, and tartness. Be newly aware of where certain food flavors activate specific areas of your tongue. Be present as you chop some vegetables, stir some batter, or fry an egg. Share the love that you are with the action of eating, cooking, and digesting. By gaining a deep gratitude for food, you gain new appreciation for your body, your senses, and the importance of discovering a wealth of joy within you.
4. Love is in the Details Intensify gratitude by paying attention to the small everyday details of life. If you want to increase the enjoyment of your overall life, then enjoy the small details everywhere. For example, instead of blindly walking through your day, activate your senses as you feel the sun on your skin, smell the bright red roses, look deeply into the eyes of a kindred soul, and let your heart smile as children giggle past you in the mall. Paying attention to the small details enables you to expand your awe of life.
5. Switch Off the Autopilot Have you ever driven home from work and not really remembered the journey? Sure, you got home safely, but without being thinking about it, feeling it, or even noticing it. It's easy to live your whole life on autopilot – going through the motions, doing what you are supposed, going to bed, and getting up and doing it all over again the next day. Get out of living your life on automatic by being interested in life. Starting today, commit to making conscious choices as you go about all the activities of your daily life.
6. Awaken Your Passion Take a step out of the day-to-day noise, confusion, and stress, and deliberately do things that you love. Don't overwhelm yourself looking for your one big underlying true purpose in life. Your passions don't have to be earth shattering events. Instead, focus on the activities that bring joy to your heart. This can be simply turning off the television and going for a quiet walk around a pond in the evening, sitting in front of a fire at night and toasting marshmallows, or getting involved in a new hobby. Experiment, pay more attention to the things you do, and find a way to make them interesting. Then watch as gratitude expands and fills every fiber of your being.
Like anything else, cultivating gratitude is a choice and process. Simply make a decision to feel more gratitude, and then seek out activities, actions, and choices that make you feel grateful. Before long, your life will become a beautiful expression of gratitude.