Maintaining an attitude of gratitude is one of those things which most people find relatively easy to do when things are going well in their lives. When you have a secure and well paying job, it is easy to give thanks. When your relationship is stable, it is easy to give thanks. When you are doing well health wise, it is easy to give thanks. The problem is that most of us have those days in our life when our job may be at risk, or we may be worried about trying to find one. Perhaps you are having one of those days when you just found out that your relationship is not as stable as you thought it was, or your health is now, especially as you age, full of challenges. Sometimes when you are going through life, the last thing you want to do is give thanks.
However, giving thanks, especially during these times can be transformative. My Bubby, which is Yiddish for grandmother, used to say when you can give thanks in a bad situation you know you are going to be ok. Over the years, I have learned that it is physically impossible to stay focused on all you have to be grateful for and be depressed at the same time. Giving thanks when the last thing you want to do is give thanks can be the very thing you need to give you a new perspective and out look on life.
Giving thanks and maintaining an attitude of gratitude is a spiritual exercise which calls on us to practice every day. Sometimes it is helpful to have a gratitude buddy, just like those of you who go to the gym have a gym buddy. Try asking someone to be your gratitude buddy and create a way, either orally or in writing, to share three things each day for which you are grateful. My preference is to always put them in writing.
For approximately the last year, I have written down five things I am grateful for that day. Some days I focus on life events/moments I am grateful for. Other days I focus on people I am grateful for in my life. Still other days I focus on random acts of kindness others have done that made me feel loved. Sometimes it is something I hear, smell, see, feel, or taste. Sometimes what I write in my gratitude journal comes from a place of compassion for others and or an appreciation for what is not going on in my life. In thinking about the shooting which happened in Colorado recently, I am grateful for the lives of those who survived. I was also grateful I was not in that situation and did not have to experience that.
Keeping a written gratitude journal is always helpful. It not only provides one with a space to record what one has to be grateful for that day. It also provides a historical record of all you have been grateful for over a period of time. On those days when one is feeling like they have nothing to be grateful for, it is a reminder of all the things we have and pulls our attention off of the things which are attempting to steal our joy and pull us out of the present. Eckhart Tolle once wrote, “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.”
This piece of advice also reminds us to stay in the present. Sometimes revisiting the past or travelling to the future can create stress and prevent us from experiencing the present for what it is and the gifts we are experiencing. Staying in the present is not always easy. However, doing so enables one to manage what one is feeling emotionally. It can prevent us from yearning for what we do not yet have or rethinking all the things we wish we would have, could have, should have done in the past. The past and the future can prevent us from experiencing the beauty and gifts of the present.
So just for today, no matter what is going on in your life, stay present, and give thanks for each moment. Do not worry about what was or what will be, but give thanks for what is. Remember in all moments to give thanks. So what are you grateful for today?