That picture above is definitely an image that evokes gratitude for me…cozy at home…time to relax with tea and a good book.
I’ve written about gratitude a number of times (and devoted a chapter to it in my book, Choose Joy) because I consider it to be one of the most transformative habits we can have. (Meditation hits the number one spot for me…but gratitude is a close second.)
If you listen to a lot of the popular Law of Attraction & manifesting chatter, you might get the idea that expressing gratitude has a mystical way of making more of what you want fall in your lap. But while I do believe we can experience miraculous things, gratitude does something more magical: it changes us.
Practicing gratitude regularly–out loud, in a journal, to your friends, etc.–has a way of changing the lens we use to view the world. We start to see life has happening for us, instead of to us. We find inspiration and beauty in small things, instead of being constantly disenchanted no matter what we buy or experience. It’s like an anti-aging potion–for your attitude–that takes us back to that childlike amazement at life.
I first started an active and intentional gratitude practice when I was going through a difficult time about 12 years ago. I had moved from Colorado Springs to Vermont in the middle of winter, and was at home all day with an infant and toddler, and the isolation and other difficulties brewing left me battling depression. At the recommendation of the therapist I was seeing, I started digging into Thich Nhat Hanh’s books. I wanted to deepen my mindfulness practices and find something–ANYTHING–that would help me get out of that funk.*
One of those things became a practice of finding five things I was thankful for when I woke up, and five more before I went to sleep. And some days…finding those 10 things was a stretch. There were a LOT of repeats (and coffee made the list nearly every day).
But after awhile, it became like a game…like playing that children’s game, “I Spy.” It became a way to see more of what was extraordinary than what was difficult.
Practicing gratitude makes you able to see more of what’s good in your world.
When we’re stuck in default mode….we tend to run the same shitty thoughts over and over, and most of them lend themselves to fault-finding. While ignoring true problems helps no one, if we are always in fault-finding mode and don’t feel gratitude for the simple everyday joys, we dull our ability to appreciate even the big wins and magnificent experiences in life. A gratitude practice gives us back our balance, so we are fueled up with the joy in life to weather both the highs and the lows.
This November, I want to invite you to play a little game with me on Instagram. When you find yourself appreciating something simple and wonderful, tag me @kate_bartolotta & tag your post #gratitudeismagical. On November 30th, I will be giving a way a special holiday surprise to everyone who participates.
*Mindset practices & mental health care are two totally different beasts. If you are finding that your funk is interfering with your life, please ask for help in addition to your self-care practices. 7cups.com is a great free place to start.