Updated: Oct 4, 2018
I tell you what. We're all but inundated with this gratitude thing these days aren't we? It‘s become almost a “should do” thing that we sometimes even feel pressured into doing, or more accurately, feeling. And if we aren’t grateful, or we have a hard time finding things we are genuinely thankful for, guilt or anger or jealousy or entitlement can ensue.
But with more gratitude comes more happiness, more contentedness, and more patience, we’re told. I actually think that’s true. And it sounds good on the surface of course. But when the heck are we supposed to have time to really sink our teeth into feeling grateful?
We could be too busy running from one thing to the next, truly spent and feeling incapable of giving more time to yet another thing, or coming from a set of circumstances where finding thanks seems just a little too far-fetched anyways. No matter your situation, getting clear on ”grateful” can seem a monumental task indeed.
But we all want more happiness, contentedness, and patience, right? We all have something to be grateful for, don't we? I mean there's the obvious things, especially if you live in a safe neighborhood with a roof over your head and food in your fridge, healthy kids playing outside on the lawn while you fold piles of clothes just inside on the couch. And most of us probably have that general commentary running through the back of our brains that keep us aware, at least a little bit, of how *lucky* and *blessed* we are.
However, that running commentary, perhaps good as a built-in safety net in which we can file away our obligatory gratitude, is not the kind of gratitude that propels us to the next level of overall health and well-being. It doesn't slow us down enough. Those thoughts and feelings that fly by in the backs of our brains don't do the miracles of our lives enough justice. They leave us feeling halfway happy, maybe even undeserving or guilty at times, at the conveniences we keep. There's got to be more to this whole gratitude thing than meets the eye.
What I wanted was to uncover gratitude in its rawest form. I wanted to approach finding gratitude in ways that were more poignant and present than that low-level backdoor hum I was subjected to when I finally slowed down enough to even hear it at all. Sure, I could write out a list in a journal every night before bed, or tell my kids how much I appreciated them every morning before school, but those things still left me feeling like I had just checked off an item on my to-do list. I didn't want another thing to do, or another thing I felt I SHOULD do. I wanted to get under the surface and actually FEEL gratitude wash over me and still my heart.
So what on this earth could I do you ask? Something that wouldn't take up too much time, that wouldn't hinge upon the circumstances of my day, that wouldn't be affected by the challenges I was carrying heavy at the moment? What would be able to really get underneath the surface of this normal life I lead? Well, although far from exhaustive, I've so far found five ways to live in gratitude even while keeping to my every-day patterns and habits. And I should say that they didn’t all happen at once; one begot the next, and the next. So I’m sure I’ll keep finding more. In other words, endeavoring to do just one of these things gave me enough perspective and presence to want to find other ways to feel more of the same.
So without further ado.....
Taking a shower: Just stand under the falling water. No scrubbing or brushing or shaving. Close your eyes. Let the water hit your crown. Surrender to its ping ping ping as the individual little jets bounce off your head. Feel it spill over your brow, your eyelids, your lips. Notice how the warmth of the water envelopes your entire body, from your shoulders to your breast to the small of your back. Down the backs of your legs and calves. Press your toes into the shower basin, into the pool forming there, all of your thoughts and worries of anything past or future washing away. This moment is all there is. And then down the drain it goes as another wave of warmth pours over the surface of your skin from tip to toe, smoothing it, releasing it, grounding it. This is not just another shower, this is a cleansing of the most miraculous kind. Appreciation reigns supreme.
Going Outside: Even if just for a couple minutes to grab the mail or take the dog to pee or set the sprinkler right. Or maybe stop at the park for five minutes before you get home from work. Take off your shoes. Go barefoot. And let your feet touch the earth. Not the concrete driveway or sidewalk, but the dirt or grass of the earth, even if it's just a small patch. Stand for a moment and feel the natural energy in the ground connect with the bare skin of your heels. Let the grass tickle your arches and the dirt yield just a bit under your wiggling toes. Revel in the relation we have with this place. With this moment. With this miracle that is the circle of life. Pretty amazing place to be, if you ask me.
Eating a snack: We all eat. And therefore, we all pretty much take it for granted. We rush through it. We scroll through emails during lunch, we drive to work during breakfast, we pick off of our kids‘ leftovers after dinner. Bottom line, we aren’t intentional about it in the least. So, become so. Just for one meal or snack a day. Practice mindful eating. No distractions. No music or Face Book. Notifications off, TV off. Quiet but for the creaking of the house or the chirping of the birds or the hum of the traffic outside. And slow down. Say thank you before you begin. Notice your food. Appreciate it for the nourishment it will provide. Chew slowly, savoring the flavor and texture of each bite. Even if you’re eating a bag of chips or an Oreo cookie. Find the miracle in your body’s ability to turn that food into energy. And when you've finished, sit just a moment longer and acknowledge your appreciation. Wow. Right?
Looking in the Mirror: Usually just a quick glance, I know. Maybe a bit longer if the situation calls for it, but we don't spend a whole lot of time looking at ourselves. Such a missed opportunity! Look into your eyes, smile and see them light up with the lines at the corners. Allow yourself a moment of awe at this body that is yours, through the thick and thin, from the very beginning and all the way along. This body carries you, this body wants to be healed and healthy and clear and confident. Imagine all of this appreciation drop into your heart, and let it expand into the pit of your stomach and the tips of your fingers and toes. No criticisms, no shame, no comparisons. You are you, no matter the yesterday that brought you here or the tomorrow that will take you with it. Quite a miracle indeed. I hope you agree. And if you don't agree yet, keep at it. Uncover the miracle that is you, a little at a time, over and over again.
Falling asleep: Every one of us has to crawl into bed at some point. But before your head hits the pillow and your eyes close in on your dreams, breathe. Not just any breath. As you lay there in the dark, or before you lay down if you prefer to sit instead, commit to taking four or five deep breaths. Put the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, breathe in through your nose to a count of four, and fill your belly up with air. Imagine your diaphragm pulling your lungs down so as to take in all that fresh oxygen and life-giving energy. Then hold that breath for seven seconds, keeping your eyes soft and your mouth in a slight smile. Think of nothing, just quiet. Then exhale for a count of eight, letting all of that air out through your nose, deflating your belly as you go. Repeat, breathing through your mouth if you need to. There's nothing like feeding your brain and your body with fresh oxygen right before bed. If nothing else, we can find thanks in our ability to make life out of breath. So simple, yet so complex. It just has to be a miracle.
Now some of you might be thinking how silly this seems, or obvious, or difficult, or time-consuming in an already crazy day. But try it anyways. Just one thing. You’re going to be showering and eating and sleeping anyways, so you might as well experience a moment to the max while you’re at it.
Go inside yourself, even if for 30 seconds, and slow the eff down. Feel gratefulness for the moment, for the earth, for your body, for your being. No judgement, no contingencies, no conditions. Just be.
And then, just like that, keep going. Back to the dishes, the errands, the kids, the lazy, the grief, the busy, the tired. But you won’t be quite the same as before. You’ll be different, if even for an eighth of a turn. Because you will have stopped to feel your heart beat. And you can’t just go on unaffected after that kind of experience. That deep connection to your humanity in the midst of the happy, crazy, exhausted, overwhelmed, or defeated.
So i hope you try it. And then try it again. And again. I hope you let that one moment you take expand into another and another. Maybe we don’t need the big house and the healthy kids and the good job and the fast car to feel grateful after all.
Maybe what connects us all is ultimately the willingness to deeply experience the ups and the downs, the goods and the bads, the beautifuls and the uglies, of life. Without trying to change any of it. Maybe the release of thoughts, the surrender to feelings, the acceptance of the present moment, is what gives us the greatest sense of gratitude there is.
Intrigued even a little bit by what you read here? There’s a book for that!
Here's to putting our healthiest selves first more and more often, as we connect more deeply and honestly with our inner power and passion!
Feed Your Body Well, and It Will Reward You With LIFE!
Visit me at My Body Can Breathe on Face Book for lots of interesting articles about doing health the slow and steady way!
Want to stay connected to sustainable ways of uncovering your health? Click here to sign up for the Quarterly Newsletter!