On Gratitude: 4 Ways to Bring it Into Everyday Life

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Now that you've getting a hefty dose of tryptophan and starches in your diet (and more than a small serving of my counternarrative argument from yesterday's post), I want to introduce some levity into the idea of Thanksgiving.

I think it's a great holiday because it highlights - however strangely - the need for community and the need for gratitude in the American way of life. Gratitude and being thankful can often be overlooked or overshadowed as we go about wielding our extreme individualism and slaying the demon of time management. In our culture, gratitude often only makes a holiday appearance, but today I want to tell you how you can carry it into the rest of your year. Here are some ideas:

1. Daily gratitude.
Incorporate into your daily routine a moment of gratitude, whether that means performing an act of kindness, writing out a sentence about what you're grateful for, or just visualizing. It takes only a moment and is nourishing to the soul.

2. Visualizing gratitude (in meditation or at any other time).
During meditation, envisioning what you are most grateful for draws its energy into your body. If you are breathing in the light and energy from the world around you, breathe in gratitude for that person/object/experience as well. And this does not have to remain in meditation alone! Make a mental note of the things you are grateful for, and make sure to take in that positive energy each time you interact with them.

3. Acknowledging privilege without guilt.
We all hold a measure of privilege in our lives - most of the time without even recognizing it! Focusing on what you have is the first step of acknowledging privilege, but rather than falling into the trap of feeling guilty for that privilege, which often causes a person not to utilize their privilege for the greater good. Why not employ some daily gratitude practices and acknowledge what you have? Then you can make step two and figure out how best to use it.

4. Providing for others.
Giving to others and sharing the benefits that we ourselves hold is the penultimate form of gratitude. While it can't always happen immediately, take time as you are practicing gratitude to really invest yourself in action. Ask what you can give to others so that, at the very least, they can be grateful to you for all the love and positive energy you're putting out into the world.

I've probably written the word "gratitude" enough times in this piece to make it look like it's spelled funny, which indicates that I should turn it over to you! What are you grateful for and how do you express your gratitude? Tell me your stories in the comments.