Today I get to write about one of my favorite topics of all time. It also happens to be one the best ways I know to get out of your head and into your heart. If you’re wanting to quiet the critical voice in your head, the fastest, easiest and most powerful way I know to do that is to enter a state of gratitude.
Gratitude is written about a lot, especially this time of year. We all know we should be thankful for our lives, and most of us can come up with a list of the most important people and things we love. But to actually live your days with the feeling of gratitude in your heart is what is truly transformational.
How do you do this? Try this exercise. Close your eyes. (Read this first and then try it, silly.) Place both hands over your heart and breathe into your heart a few times, focusing on feeling your heart beating. After a few breaths, think of a memory that you’re truly grateful for, a time when you felt that all was right with your life. Enter that memory and relive it as if you were there in first person. Use your five senses to really experience the memory as if it were happening now. See all the details of the memory in color. Notice your surroundings. Where were you? Who was there with you? What can you hear? What do you smell? Was there any taste involved in this memory? What do you feel? Warm? Cold? The feeling of wind on your skin? The touch of someone’s skin? Really experience the memory as if you were there. Feel the gratitude in your heart for this experience in your life. If you pay attention to your body, you may feel yourself relaxing and the energy around your heart expanding.
Can you notice how experiencing gratitude is different from just thinking about it? When you feel gratitude regularly, it can have profound effects on your body, your mind and your spirit. One of the best effects is that it helps to quiet the critical voice. You can't criticize yourself or others while you're feeling grateful! Being in this state of appreciation grounds you into your body and into the present moment. It also helps regulate negative emotions. You can’t be angry or scared and feel grateful at the same time. They just don’t coexist.
I’ve shared about my personal journey with gratitude as a part of my free gift on my website. If you’d like to read about it, you can find it by signing up for my newsletter. Simply put, gratitude has transformed every area of my life. It has changed the course of my marriage more times than I can count; it sets the tone for my relationships with my kids; it deeply affects my relationship with my body, and I know it helps my overall well-being and satisfaction with my life. When I get stuck in any facet of my life, I know that gratitude is the way out.
If there’s only one experiment you try as a result of reading my newsletter, let it be this: keep a gratitude journal. Here’s what I like to do: Each day, write 5 things that you’re grateful for. Don’t repeat anything on your list. If you have a relationship that’s struggling, be sure to include gratitude for that person every single day. Just look for anything you can appreciate and write it down.
When I write my daily list, I focus on what’s happening in my life now. I look for things that happen in each day that I can appreciate. It’s also good to look at the past and be thankful for the things that led you to where you are now. If you get stuck, you might think of categories. My family and I made a Thanksgiving poster a couple of years ago that included these categories: people, places, things, nature and activities. We easily made a list of over 300 things! If you think of only being thankful for your eyes, you can feel grateful for the infinite number of beautiful things that you've seen with those eyes.
Commit to this practice for a month, or better yet, a year. Then, sit back and be amazed at how quickly your relationships and your life evolve. As you write each day, remember to focus on feeling gratitude in your heart.
In closing, I am feeling grateful for you. Thank you for choosing to be on this journey with me and for your courage to take what resonates with you and apply it to your life. My heart is full. I hope your experiment with gratitude leaves you feeling the same.
With love and gratitude,