Here you will find practices that draw awareness to the good things that are already present, or practices that strengthen gratefulness, an emotional response that involves both appreciating and expressing gratitude. Gratefulness kindles happiness, respect, generosity, responsibility and opening to opportunities.
We typically move through the day oblivious to the many things that are here for us, or give us happiness or contentment. A prompt is a tool that helps us remember to notice. It might be the sound of a train, a particular type of flower, rocks or boulders, a food, clouds …. Anything you are likely to encounter at random moments throughout the day.
Set an intention to think of something you feel grateful for whenever you become aware of this prompt. (You can read about how intentions work here.)
Of course, you won’t always become aware of the prompt. Sometimes you will, and sometimes you won’t. And that is fine.
I chose the sound of birds singing — not cawing or hooting; the pretty melodic sounds. Birds sing a lot, but I don’t often really notice. Since setting the intention, I find I notice a little more often, and when I do, I sometimes became truly aware and am reminded to pause for a moment and bring to mind something I feel grateful for.
These tiny pauses are a form of mindfulness. Taking in the grateful feeling brings a brief wash of peaceful happiness.
So many gifts are exchanged during holiday seasons and throughout the year. Would that all of them were given with joy rather than obligation, and received with openness and curiosity.
This season, see if you can accept material gifts with gratitude and intrigue, maybe even with surprise. Such feelings bring playfulness and genuineness to the exchange. It’s helpful to remember that gratitude is not indebtedness or obligation or guilt. These are things that make it very difficult to feel grateful. Gratitude is simply letting yourself . . .
Here is a very simple and widely used practice that can help you become more tuned into the many things you already have that you value and even treasure. Doing it will expand your sense of happiness and well being and produce noticeable effects in just a week or so: keep a gratitude journal! It only takes a few moments.
A common approach is to reflect each evening on your day, or on your life more generally, and note five things you feel grateful for. These things can be seemingly very small or quite remarkable. Examples of simpler things: a favorite song suddenly airing as you sat in traffic, an unexpected message from an old friend, a coworker helping with a task, your child doing something without your having to ask, a parking space appearing just when you need it, watching a playful puppy on a walk, something you learned, feeling and saying I love you or I’m sorry to someone ….. Examples of general things are something about your home, your car or your family you like, qualities or skills you have, aspects of your personality or your child’s personality, and even noticing that you have hands that do so much for you, or legs that are strong. You might also note something about the astonishing world in which we live, noticing minute or grand things in nature or the cosmos.
Jot each down as you think of it. A few short words or a longer reflection, whichever you prefer. Journals can be in any format you like: an antique-looking book of pages in which you write, or a memo format on an electronic device. You can add doodles, sketches, photos, pictures or quotes if you like, or keep it a simple quick list.
The journal draws your attention to what you already have, to your personal strengths and assets and to the flow of nice things that come during the day and that we tend not to notice much or that we take for granted.
If you would like to keep an on-line journal, there are several available. One is at A Network for Grateful Living, where you will also find a wealth of warm, interesting, supportive information about living gratefully.
This is a Gratefulness Practice for Children
Children love piggy banks -- they're intrigued by hiding coins away, the mystery of how many coins are inside and the fun of counting or dumping them out later.
A Grateful Piggy Bank works the same way — with one difference. Each time your child puts a coin into the bank, he thinks of something he is grateful for. It can be a possession, a quality, a person, a skill or anything else your child thinks of. A variant on this is for you or your child to write a few words . . .
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