I have to admit. I'm a little embarrassed.
If you've read my book, you may have noticed: my chapter on 'Be Grateful' is the shortest chapter in the book. I remember sitting at my desk, staring at my computer, knowing that gratitude was an integral part of the personal and spiritual growth process, and yet not knowing what to say.
I don't think I've been a grateful person.
This is embarrassing for me because I have a good life. I think I have been so immersed in the spiritual growth journey of wanting to learn more, grow more, and be more, that I never stopped to enjoy where I was at or what I already have. Nor did I have an appreciation for the significance of gratitude as a way of life. I felt thankful for people and moments. I recognized and embraced God's grace in the ordinary moments of my day but there was something missing.
That all changed over the past month and a half.
If you follow me on Facebook, you saw I posted gratitude reflections every night in October in preparation for my gratitude retreat. Between that and preparing for the retreat, gratitude was always on my mind. The more I read, the more I was amazed at how healing practicing gratitude can be. One researcher - Robert Emmons from UC Davis - studied gratitude for fifteen years and found gratitude increases well being and happiness by 25%, improves relationships, loneliness, mild depression, makes people more resilient to trauma, and even has a positive effect on heart and kidney health.
I decided to get serious about practicing gratitude.
Every morning before my family gets up and I'm alone with my coffee and oatmeal, I say a prayer thanking God for three things. That's it. I don't write anything down in a pretty journal, I don't pull out my special music. I just sit and pray a prayer of gratitude with my list of three.
The result? Extra padding on my heart.
This is the best way I can describe the effect. When I start the day praying and reflecting on the people and situations I'm grateful for, I feel extra love in my heart for these people and situations. When the busy-ness of the day begins, the little things that usually bother me bounce off the padding in my heart or don't land as hard. I've noticed that the mornings I forget to say my prayer of thanksgiving, there's nothing to 'cushion the blow'.
Try a gratitude practice of your own.
During this month of Thanksgiving, I invite you to try a new practice of your own. Practicing gratitude is more than a 'self-improvement to-do list'
It's allowing yourself to receive God's love and goodness and pass it on to the people around you.
Download my list.
I have a great list of 40 meaningful ways to practice gratitude. I love this list because it shows gratitude as a way of being, not just a bunch of things to put on your 'to-do' list of self-improvement. I hope you'll go to my Facebook page and download them there. While you're there, "like" my page. I'll have more gratitude reflections for Thanksgiving and tips to enjoy the holidays.
Time to Reflect:
What is the one life-giving practice that you know helps you to have a more peaceful day? For me it was gratitude, for you maybe it's daily mass, or a daily walk, or a moment of silence.
What gets in the way of your daily practice?
What can you do to get back into the practice? Is there something you need to say 'no' to in order to say 'yes' to a daily practice?
Please comment. I'd love to hear from you on anything that resonated with you from my reflection. We are on this journey together and the more we share, the more we can enjoy this wonderful journey of growth!