A Grateful Heart
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough."
— Melody Beattie
In this article we'll use our mindfulness practcie to explore the effects of gratitude. Join me!
Do you ever stop amidst a busy day to tune into what's happening in your body? What do you notice?
Perhaps a little (or a lot of) tension in your jaw, neck, shoulders or back? Likely you're barely breathing. Are you running on adrenaline? Did you forget to eat or eat so fast that you barely recall the act of putting food into your mouth?
If you were to extend your awareness to your thoughts and emotions, what do you observe?
Maybe there's a mix of overwhelm, fear, judgment and frustration. Often when we're stressed, we're likely to give more attention to the negative events of our day over the positive ones. The compliment given to you about your work rolls off you like rain meanwhile, you worry obsessively about your presentation next week.
Taking a moment to pause when you are stressed out often reveals a lack of space. The body, mind and heart contract in an effort to push through the day. Often we resist stopping because it can be hard to know what to do with all of this discomfort.
This is where gratitude comes in.
Gratitude creates space. Try it right now. Think of the person who makes you laugh the most in your life.
Did a hint of a smile find its way to your lips? Are you breathing a little deeper?
Take a moment to stay with these feelings for another 30 seconds.
Without even needing to stretch, the body relaxes and releases. This is the gift of gratitude.
The best part is that it is available to us all. Even in times of deep struggle and heartbreak, if we look around, there is always something or someone to be grateful for.
I advise starting simple, especially when you're in a difficult place.
- What song makes you happy?
- What are inspires you?
- What's your favorite food?
- Who has been kind to you?
- What teacher are you thankful for?
Of course, gratitude doesn't cancel out what's hard in our lives, but it does invite a sense of balance and reminds us of what we have.
When I was in my twenties, I lived in a house with 11 other young people as part of an experiential education program. Our mission was to make all of our food from scratch, volunteer in the community, live on a small budget and educate ourselves about culture, the environment, and healthy living. Every Sunday night, we gathered together to sort out the logistics in our house meeting. We aimed to make decisions based on group consensus and as you might imagine this was no easy task with 12 different opinions. It was common for this weekly gathering to feel tense and exhausting, but no matter what happened we never ended a meeting without doing a gratitude circle. It always amazed me to feel the energy shift as we went around in a circle and shared the things we were grateful for. It often helped me reconnect with the humanity of a person I was just moments ago in conflict with.
One of the most important lessons I carry with me is that at the end of those meetings, everyone just wanted to get on with their evening and no one felt like doing a gratitude circle. People even rolled their eyes and said come on, this is a waste of time. And, yet, within a couple of minutes, the rolling eyes stopped and hearts began to open. Just like on a busy day, when gratitude seems like a useless task on my expanding to-do list, it ends up making all the difference.
If you're looking to kick-start your gratitude practice you can:
- Join us on social media this week. Every day I'll invite you to share something that you are grateful for. In addition to taking the time to consider what you're grateful for, it's also lovely to read what other people say.
- Check out our 7 Days of Gratitude in the Calm App.
- Watch the video below where Tamara Levitt, Calm's meditation instructor, shares a few of her efforts to connect with life.