It’s been said that gratitude is the beginning of all virtues, and there’s a reason. With a grateful heart we open our souls to what is and what can be, and embrace the best of what has been. But surprisingly, even small changes can create significant life shifts.
Feel the joy of simple things. Rabbi Harold Kushner shared, “Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted -- a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.”
A few years ago I made a “Simple Unusual Gratitude List” that did not include typical biggies like family, love and friendship. This list stated more daily delights such as Ziploc bags, baby wipes, a crock pot, downy soft duvet, new yellow writing pads and heavy-duty washing machine (my true BFF). On a given day, as the Bing Crosby song says, “I’ve got plenty to be thankful for.”
Daily practice it, your way. Find the way that works for you but start a simple practice today. Sarah Ban Breathnach shares, “You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.”
My friend Hilary Weeks uses the clicker method to track her positivity throughout the day, with many others experiencing the same great results. As a family, you can do a basic Gratitude Poster, especially on Thanksgiving. As you share grateful thoughts, have a scribe write them down or take turns writing on the poster throughout the week. We’ve done this as a family and have been thankful for everything from mashed potatoes and gravy to a home-built sled run.
One truly powerful tool is to write in a gratitude journal. Before you yawn, consider the findings of leading gratitude researcher Robert Emmons. In a series of studies over 10 years of 1,000 people, ages 8 to 80, he asked participants to do simple gratitude practices, including writing in a journal for as little as three weeks. Just a few of the benefits included stronger immune systems, increased exercise, longer and more refreshing sleep, as well as increased feelings of being alert and alive, joy and pleasure, forgiveness and being more outgoing and less lonely and isolated. Gratitude works.
Say the actual words, “Thank you” to someone. William A. Ward said, “God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you’?” If you and I don’t do another thing today, simply express a thank you -- to God, to a friend, to a family member, to someone. You will feel a lift in your soul — it just goes hand in hand.
I’m grateful to write about this life-changing practice, and feel to say “Thank you” for reading about it. And feel free to share with me your experience of a simple gratitude practice at email@example.com. I’ll pay it forward in sharing with others your happy findings.
(Connie Sokol is an author, presenter, TV contributor and mother of seven. Contact her at www.conniesokol.com.)