“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life…It turns what we have into enough, and more. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Melody Beattie
Gioia and I frequently open workshops with a simple exercise “Think of three things that went well this morning or three things for which you are grateful.”Small blessings often get mentioned “I was able to find a parking space close by”, “there was a fresh breeze in the air this morning”, “traffic was light and I made it here on time”, “I had a tasty cup of coffee.” More weighty reflections emerge as well, “I’m grateful for my husband and my kids,” “that I can walk and talk,” “that I love my job and I am able to work”.
Although most of us, when prompted, can identify what is functional and good in our lives, our attention is frequently focused and dwells on what interrupts that field of positivity. In other words, most of our experience is uneventfully positive (we are able to walk, talk, eat, work, play). But when something disrupts this baseline, it naturally gets our attention; understandably as it identifies that something needs to be dealt with. To use a visual metaphor, you could say that our attention is like a photograph. The good forms the background, it frames the picture but it is less distinct and may even go unnoticed; whereas difficulties appear sharply clear in the foreground and command our focus.
So, we use the blessings/gratitude exercise to bring this backdrop of positivity to the foreground. Why bother, if we are more naturally inclined to notice what is problematic? Because focusing on what is good in our lives makes us feel more hopeful, it relaxes us and makes us more receptive to others and to possibilities, it keeps us from taking things for granted, and it counteracts negative feelings. In other words, it makes us feel better. And when we feel better, we are more likely to be able to cope with and feel empowered to handle the difficulties that confront us.
How to “do” gratitude:
- Think about what is going well for you at this moment.
- Think about what is going well in your life in general.
- Think about what is going well for others in your life.
- Think about what is going well in the world.
Research suggests that doing this several times a week is most effective. Click here for a lovely handout on “gratitude journaling” with useful instructions on developing a gratitude practice.
Feel free to post the things for which you are grateful on our facebook page.