I’m a fervent subscriber to all that is self-help. I adore Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday” on OWN. I read books about finding myself, how to forgive, live in the now, accept me and live my life, and teaching my children these values. I’ve gleaned valuable insights from most books and programs, but one resounding message that echoes through them all is: gratitude.
I consider myself an appreciative and well-mannered person and take pride in my constant chorus of “please” and “thank you.” My children are regularly reminded to use their manners and be grateful. But, when it comes to genuinely feeling appreciation for all the spectacular and ordinary parts of my life, it’s a sham.
All of these experts, life-livers, and guides are on to something. They say that by focusing on the positives in our lives we attract more joyful energy. But, saying we are thankful is not enough. We have to stop, even if for only two seconds, to process what is happening and feel what we are grateful for. This has awakened me to true, feel-it-in-the-gut gratitude. Let me be clear here, being and feeling grateful for ordinary things is not easy. Sometimes I even take the extraordinary things for granted. Sadly, being grateful has been overshadowed by expectation and entitlement. But, I am awakening to the power of gratitude and trying to heed the advice of the gurus by making it a practice and not a rote reply.
My work starts when my eyes open. Before my feet hit the floor, I thank God, the universe, and all that is, for the gift of a new day, the air I am breathing, for my children, my husband, and my fortunate life. I picture each as I say it in my head. I also ask for the patience to be kind and grateful throughout the day.
As the day barrels on, I try to pause and appreciate my experiences: the kids’ excitement as they recount their daily adventures; the feel of the sun shining on my face and warming me to my toes; the flutter of the birds soaring from the trees; the sweet, crisp taste of an apple; the joy in the giggles of my son as I tickle him; the beauty of my three children playing together—these are all gifts. Even the not-so-great moments are ultimately gifts for which we need to somehow muster gratitude. The heavy footsteps of my children at 5:15 AM mean those precious spirits are in my world, and I get to love them another day. The disagreements we have over listening, behaving, and treating others kindly, are a reflection for me to also live those lessons, especially as a parent. The broken washing machine is a gentle reminder of how lucky I am to have so many conveniences in my life. Authentically taking in all those moments, makes living so much richer. And, that makes gratitude genuine.
I’ve started to share this experience with my family by talking, probably ad nauseam, about being grateful for what they have and receive and for what others do to enhance our lives; and just as importantly, expressing that appreciation. But talk is cheap. So, we have a new daily ritual at the dinner table. We take turns sharing one thing each of us is grateful for. We say it, write it, and drop it in our “Family Gratitude Jar.” The kids at first, said the “expected” things: shelter, food, toys, warmth. Now, they’re beginning to notice some simple pleasures and experiences: a soft robe, time to play alone, having a friend over, an extra treat or video, one-on-one time with me, their grandparents, earning a behavior award at school, and lately just a sunny day. I hope this practice encourages them to notice blessings in their lives and not simply showcase manners forced upon them. I want them to feel grateful and start that work now. It also gives me a window into their lives and helps me see what is important to them, what is bothering them, and who they are becoming.
Just as gratitude starts my day, it also tucks me in. When I put my little loves to bed, we say a prayer together, and I express my unending gratitude for each of them. My heart swells just thinking about it. No matter what emotional obstacle courses they run me through that day, no matter the trials of my patience, I am overcome with gratitude that I was given the gift of my three children. Nothing they ever do can change that. Still, as I leave their rooms I am forever grateful for bedtime, too!
Then, hours later, when I finally crawl into bed, I again count my blessings and give thanks. I simply talk to God with my own words and thank Him for all that is in my life and that touched me that day. It is enlivening to feel it all again. My next goal is to keep an Appreciation Journal throughout the day or just before bed. I’ll just jot down three to five specific events, comforts, or moments from my day to help me stay focused on gratitude and the power of positivity. This routine has been shown to effectively nurture feelings of appreciation while encouraging you to look for things to be grateful for. And so the work continues…
To inspire yourself to see, feel, and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us, check out Louie Schwartzberg’s breathtaking video entitled “Gratitude.” View it on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nj2ofrX7jAk