If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you’, that would suffice. — Meister Eckhart
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. November is a special time to dig deep within our hearts and express gratitude for all the blessings in our lives. To be grateful is to accept the “Great Fullness.” The more we are grateful, the more we have to be grateful for.
Recent research has shown gratitude to:
- Relieve Stress (and keep in mind that stress is the number one cause of illness in our culture)
- Boost the Immune System
- Increase Alertness, Enthusiasm, Optimism, and Energy
- Reduce Depression
- Improve Overall Health and Well-Being
- Increase Spiritual Awareness, Regardless of “Religion”
- Enhance Sleep Quality
- Improve the Quality of Relationships
And, the really good news is that further research has shown that it only takes 60 seconds a day for gratitude to improve our lives.
Despite my belief in the power of gratitude, unfortunately, there are days I neglect to express it. Needless to say, those are not my best days. Yet the days I do take a few minutes to express my gratitude, no matter what happens, I feel more content, peaceful and optimistic.
I am blessed to have a gratitude teacher (she doesn’t know she’s my teacher). Most mornings, I begin my day along the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. While sitting on the sand, I watch my teacher as she and her yellow lab move down the beach. They move very, very slowly. The woman appears to have had a stroke. Yet every day she rides her electric wheelchair down to the beach, while carefully holding onto the leash of her beloved dog. Then, with great effort, she lifts herself out of the wheelchair and forces herself to take one itty-bitty step at a time. It sometimes takes her an hour just to walk a few yards.
One particularly dreary morning, which matched my mood, I began observing my gratitude teacher walking with her dog. I watched closely as the woman made a herculean effort down the sand. Her dog, unlike most dogs that sprint and chase after the gulls, waited ever so patiently as the woman painstakingly took baby-steps. About thirty minutes later, noticing they had only covered a few feet, I realized I had never witnessed such loving patience. My heart swelled with profound gratitude for the dog’s love for his owner and for the woman’s persistence and tenacity. Suddenly there wasn’t room in my heart for both gratitude and gloom. Something had to give. So I took out my phone and snapped a photo of the amazing couple. Although they were hard to see from where I was sitting, their silhouettes stood proud and strong. To this day, the picture reminds me that gratitude is all encompassing and is a state of grace.
Here are some ways to allow gratitude to become a state of grace:
- Keep a gratitude journal. I know you’ve heard this advice before, but it really does work. At the beginning of each day, write down 3-5 things you are grateful for. Then “book end” the day by writing 3-5 things you are thankful for from that same day. Simplicity is key; your baby’s smile, a gentle breeze, a colorful sunset or your best friend’s laughter. Relish the feeling you get when remembering and writing it down.
- Express your gratitude. Take the time to share your feelings. Not the simple, polite “thank you,” but the heartfelt emotions. Tell your friend how her support and sense of humor helps you get through tough times, how much it means to you. Don’t take your loved ones for granted. Let them know how much you love them and why.
- Look for what is right about a situation, not what’s wrong. You may be frustrated by your spouse’s clothes on the floor, but thankfully you have a lot of love in your life. The environment is being over developed at alarming rates, but there is still beauty in every living tree, flower and bird.
- Practice gratitude with your family and friends. At dinner, encourage each family member to report one thing that happened that day, something they feel grateful for. Send a “gratitude text” to a friend, and while you’re at it, send one to yourself—writing what you appreciate about yourself will give you an immediate and positive boost!