I woke up this morning and took a long breezy ride on my new Schwinn bike. This experience stirred up many gratitude memories – the bargain price, finding it in stock, right in my home town, how pretty it is (even though it is white and purple, not indigo), the discounts I nabbed on the accessories, a new option for transportation, and the pleasant exercise challenge cycling offers. Every time I pass my bike in the garage, I can’t help but smile and feel all happy inside.
It is very valuable to take stock of gratitude on a daily basis. According to Robert Emmons, author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happy, people who write down 5 things they are grateful for each day report:
o Feeling better about their lives overall
o More optimistic about the future
o Fewer health problems than the other participants.
o Improved sleep
o Protective effect against heart attacks
Guiding others in gratitude practice as part of coaching has raised my awareness about the blessings in life and also about the emotions and feelings that are woven into the gratitude experience. Clients often ask what I put on my list each day. I used to be surprised about this, but now realize that many people feel challenged as they begin. I remind them that little things are very important. Here are some of my favorites from the past month:
o Technology for conference call worked flawlessly
o Weight Watchers friends who inspire me with stories of their health recovery at today’s meeting
o The sparkling sun in the early morning
o My friend Patti looking so healthy and radiant after beating pancreatic cancer
o New butterfly twinkle lights for the patio (a bargain and they change colors in a cool rhythm)
o The audio book, After Life, that keeps me wanting more (+ got it free at Book Expo)
o A little boy’s hearty laugh during a show at Lakeside
o Coffee break with Sig and Gracie on the patio
o How kind my women’s group members are to one another
o Fresh flowers everywhere!
o Delicious new recipe with chick peas (healthy, pretty and filling!)
What you might have noticed is that many of these things aren’t about what you have or own, but about experiences and moments of delight. They are moments when you witness something that excites your values and what you hold dear.
Clients have admitted that they can write the list, yet don’t feel the powerful positive feeling they want to feel. As with any new and developing habit, patience and persistence are advised. You build these skills, experiences and feelings over time. Be both curious and open.
As a guideline, I would suggest the following to boost your awareness and positive feelings:
Notice what grabs your attention. You will find yourself distracted every day, often in a good way. Catch yourself in the present moment and make a mental note about what is there. What’s the best part? How are you experiencing the moment? This can happen while eating lunch, doing mundane household chores or during meetings.
Use all of your senses to uncover both the obvious and hidden gems. Gratitude moments exist in every corner of life. Challenge yourself to find the less obvious things. You might also ask others to help you notice the world around you through their experiences. Slow down a bit and notice details, sounds, tastes, scents, words, music and creations around you.
Share your gratitude awareness with others. A very pleasant conversation should follow. There is so much good in the world. You do your part by spreading it around. There are many who are stuck or simply not plugged into this habit yet. You can get them thinking and their comments may prod you to enjoy even greater appreciation for life. Perhaps they will even add YOU to their gratitude list for the day!