It’s snowing now and I’m sitting at my desk with a hot coffee in a Santa mug and I’m moved by gratitude. I feel it in my core, this deep appreciation for all that I have and for all that is.
It wasn’t so easy for me last week when I was stuffy and headachey and worn out. I didn’t feel gratitude either, when our furnace went out, when Mr. J was gone all day to help a friend, and my daughter was clingy and demanding and super sticky. By then, I was just done. All I wanted was to whine and crawl under the covers. Sucky, fussy moments like that though, are the best time of all to go looking for gratitude. Because, it just makes you feel better.
So, instead of pulling the covers over my head, I sat quietly, for just a second. Really, this gratitude stuff doesn’t have to take long, and I gave thanks. I gave thanks that I had this little girl here to clean up after and that my husband was such a good man, willing to help others. I gave thanks for my cold. A little, benign virus that would soon pass. I gave thanks for heat, and our ability to pay for it.
It didn’t come easy at first, but when I slowed down long enough to give thanks for the goodness in my life, I noticed all that there was to be grateful for and I felt a whole lot better.
That’s no surprise to psychologists like Robert Emmons who study this stuff. His research shows gratitude improves our moods, health, and overall well-being. People who practice daily gratitude also felt better about their lives overall and were more likely to reach their goals.
It’s also good for relationships. When I give thanks that Mr. J is doing the dishes, I’m also noticing him and his goodness and reflecting, for a moment, on all that he brings to my life. Reflecting on the positive is a good thing for a relationship.
And the great thing is, gratitude is not limited. It can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, anytime and it just takes a moment.
Looking for ways to count your blessings? Here are three quick gratitude habits.
1. Say 'Thank You.' This habit requires you to stop and take stock of what’s happening right now. Say Thank You regularly to yourself, to the conditions that surround you, to the people who help. Use it as a way to be present and as a reminder that even the challenges you face offer lessons and opportunity for gratitude.
2. Pick five. Make it a personal goal to find at least five different things to be grateful for every day. Lots of people list theirs in a daily gratitude journal – which is illuminating and helpful. Often I just name five things that I notice, to myself in the morning and before bed. But holding yourself accountable for at least five will keep you looking for things to be grateful for all day long. Don’t be afraid to start small. If life feels hard right now, you can still be grateful for your breath or your cat or a mug of hot soup or the beautiful tree outside your window.
3. See the gift in the garbage. It is an exercise in mindfulness and present-living, as well as gratitude to notice the goodness even when things are bleak. It may take a little effort, but it's worth it because there's a positive payoff at the end. Connecting to the goodness that remains in life, even when it's hard, is healing and it reminds you that darkness is never absolute.
From a little pinpoint of light there can be life again.
Use gratitude to find the light in your life today.