How do you apply gratitude in real practice?
We hear personal development gurus talk about gratitude a lot. But what does it really mean? Is it enough to close our eyes and think about what we’re grateful for? What does it do? What actually happens when we do this apart from whatever effect it has on the universe which, whilst I do believe in, does not offer tangible outcomes, internal or external that we can attribute to it.
For me the keyword has been replacing the word ‘thinking’ with ‘feeling’.
Depending on the book that you read, they might suggest that you close your eyes and think of the stuff you’re grateful for or that you write it in a journal. For me these have been either useless or life-altering depending on whether I focused consciously on feeling it and not only thinking it or writing it down. This was at times easier said than done but practice makes perfect.
What does this mean and why does it make a difference?
It means stopping on one aspect we are ‘being grateful’ for and feeling the feelings that such aspect gives us. For example, if we are directing gratitude to the fact that we have a bed to sleep on, then I ‘stop’ thinking and start feeling the bed. I dig deep into it with my body, I touch it with my hand and I soak up all the beauty of that bed. If I am expressing gratitude for the fact that I am healthy, then I’d feel my legs, contract the muscles, touch them, feel them, perhaps pinch myself and remind myself that the pain I am feeling from the pinch is the only pain I have and I can stop it on demand. A smile always grow on my face.
If I am being grateful for something that I can’t physically feel, say my children, then I see them in my mind sleeping peacefully, or whatever they are doing. I imagine them vividly and perhaps remember a good time we recently had together, or a time when they were playing or being happy. This also makes me smile.
If I think of finances or personal belongings, I feel the feelings that these things allowed me to feel. I feel the happiness and sense of worth that donating money gives me. I try to imagine in my mind, knowing that I am making the details up, the faces of the people (if people is what I donated to) that my contribution helped.
What does it do?
It changes gratitude from a list of things to a series of emotions and feelings. It makes it more real. It gives me tangible, instant rewards for being grateful – it makes me want to be grateful more.
There’s also the concept of being grateful little and always. Many books suggest dedicating sessions to it. I do this, when journalling and in bed at night before sleeping. But it must not stop there. Gratitude is like smiling, it’s better when done often.
When I pay for my shopping at the supermarket, I try to consciously be grateful to the cashier. I think and feel about how good it is that he or she is helping me. Then I actually say it and when I say it. I try to be present with the words and not let the ‘thank you’ come out out of habit, with no real feelings attached. If I can read the name on their name badge, I thank them by name and they always love it. When I pay, I feel gratitude for the fact that I can afford it, no matter how small the amount.
When I drink my coffee in the morning, I try to feel the taste of the coffee, deeply. When I eat, I try to really feel the flavors and feel grateful for them. A smile always grows on my face, it does every time I remember to not just be, but feel grateful for everything we have.
Gratitude is wonderful, it truly is. It makes me feel better, it makes people at the receiving end of it feel better, it makes the world better. I realised a few years ago that thinking isn’t enough, we must feel it.
I feel (going to take a moment here to feel it) super grateful that I can feel it fully and that you took the time to read this.
A heartfelt thank you in advance 🙏
Love to you all ❤️