3 Essential Practices for Gratitude
Experience more fullness of heart with these gratitude exercises.
Experiencing gratitude is one of the most effective ways of getting in touch with your soul. When you’re in touch with your soul, you eavesdrop on the thoughts of the universe. You feel connected to everything in creation. You embrace the wisdom of uncertainty and you sense yourself as a field of infinite possibilities.
Gratitude is a fullness of heart that moves you from limitation and fear to expansion and love. When you’re appreciating something, your ego moves out of the way. You can’t have your attention on ego and gratitude at the same time.
Just for a few moments, consider the things you have in your life that you could be grateful for: all the nurturing relationships, the material comforts, your body, and the mind that allows you to really understand yourself and everything around you. Just breathe and be grateful for the air that is filling your lungs and making your life possible. Simply feel your body and your aliveness, and acknowledge what a miracle it is just to be alive right now. Allow your awareness to appreciate what you are seeing, smelling, and touching just at this moment and you will find yourself in the middle of the stream of life without trying at all.
Feel the love, compassion, and understanding that gratitude brings into your heart. Notice how gratitude brings your attention into the present time, which is the moment in which miracles can unfold. The deeper your appreciation, the more you see with the eyes of the soul and the more your life flows in harmony with the creative power of the universe.
Here are a few more gratitude practices for you to try:
Keep a gratitude journal.
Since ancient times, philosophers and sages from every spiritual tradition have taught that cultivating gratitude is a key to experiencing deeper levels of happiness, fulfillment, and well-being.
One of the earliest advocates of a daily gratitude practice was Dutch philosopher Rabbi Baruch Spinoza. In the seventeenth century, he suggested that each day for a month, we ask ourselves the following three questions:
Who or what inspired me today?
What brought me happiness today?
What brought me comfort and deep peace today?
This practice can help us find more meaning and joy in our lives and lead us to experience profound inner transformation.
As you write in your journal, challenge yourself by not repeating items from the previous days, for this will make you look more deeply at all the “little” things that enhance your life and give you joy: waking in a warm bed; your favorite song; a phone call from a friend; the ability to touch, see, or hear; electricity; the beating of your heart; a hug.
You can write in your journal just before bed, when you wake up in the morning or just before you meditate. The time of day isn’t important; what is important is that you consistently take a few moments to consciously focus your mind on your blessings. Commit to keeping the journal for a month. What we put our attention on expands in our life. By offering gratitude for all the goodness we experience, we’re inviting the universe to give us more and more of what we want.
Write a thank you letter.
Make a list of at least five people who have had a profound impact on your life. Choose one and write a thank you letter expressing gratitude for all the gifts you’ve received from that person. If possible, deliver your gratitude letter in person.
In studies of people who have practiced this form of gratitude, the results have been amazing. Often the recipient of the letter had no idea what an impact he or she had had on another person and were deeply touched by the expression of such authentic gratitude.
While we may often thank people verbally, the written word can often be even more powerful because someone has taken the time to write their appreciation. A letter can also be re-read and treasured, creating joy and love that will continue to ripple out into the universe.
Take a gratitude walk
This is a particularly useful practice when you’re feeling down or filled with stress and worry. Set aside 20 minutes (or longer if you can) and walk in your neighborhood, through a park, around your office, or somewhere in nature.
As you walk, consider the many things for which you are grateful: loving relationships, material comforts, the body that allows you to experience the world, the mind that allows you to really understand yourself, and your essential spiritual nature. Breathe, pause, and be grateful for the air that is filling your lungs and making your life possible.
Pay attention to your senses—everything you’re seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and maybe even tasting—and see how many things you can find to feel grateful for. This is a powerful way to shift your mood and open to the flow of abundance that always surrounds you.