WHAT IS MINDFUL GRATITUDE
Mindful Gratitude is the practice of looking up close at our sometimes messy, imperfect, busy, burdened, ordinary lives to see with fresh eyes the beauty, texture, depth, and color of our individual landscapes and the enormous contributions of humanity to our personal knowledge, progress, and well-being. It is the practice of finding, noticing, and, most importantly, deeply appreciating the unique meaning and magic that are intrinsic in our everyday experiences.
Mindfulness and Gratitude are popular buzzwords these days, and for good reason. We are living at a pace that is faster, and potentially more stressful, than ever before in human history. Constant connectivity, 24/7 work weeks, and global competition have put us on high alert professionally and personally. With access to information from endless sources – including friends, family members, and passing acquaintances who are forever sharing their delicious brunches, fabulous vacations, political viewpoints, and everything in between through our social media newsfeeds – taking it all in can be completely overwhelming.
How do we filter it all? How do we turn off the resulting “mind chatter” so that we can prioritize and concentrate on what’s important? How do we find clarity and meaning at work, at home, and in our relationships with ourselves and others?
Scientists are now telling us what the great spiritual teachers have known for millennia, that practicing quiet mindfulness and authentic gratitude can have huge benefits for our mental and physical health, relationships, and emotional well-being.
BENEFITS OF MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness is defined by Miriam-Webster as: the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.
Sounds so easy! Actually, for most of us, being mindful takes lots of practice.
You can start your mindful practice right now, wherever you are. Just turn off your devices and quiet the noise for a few minutes. Sit up straight. Close your eyes or lower your gaze. Now just focus on the rhythm of your breath, or the sound of the birds in your backyard, or the refrigerator humming in your kitchen, or the murmur of your colleagues as work - and notice how you really feel. Just notice, listen, feel, and directly experience your breath, or a sound, or the air. Directly experience what it’s like to be a living, sentient creature on this earth.
Whether you notice the tenderness of your breathing body, the peacefulness of the quiet, a low-grade sadness, or a cramp in your leg – you will have discovered something. You will have paused long enough to attend to something real, something beyond the stream of outer and inner “chatter” that can be so destructive to our wellbeing.
Occasionally, you might find something truly amazing by paying closer attention to what is going on in the present moment. Click here for an excerpt from Mindful Gratitude: Practicing the Art of Appreciation and a present-moment story that includes a long earthworm, a diamond ring, and a mysterious happening.
Scientists across the globe have studied the effects of an ongoing practice of mindfulness and discovered that they can be extremely powerful, improving your emotional and physical health, your relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and yourself, and even your brain function.
BENEFITS OF PRACTICING GRATITUDE
Feeling gratitude helps us to increase contentment, cultivate compassion, improve relationships, and feel better physically and emotionally. Expressing gratitude to others does the same AND it invites them to share in these benefits. When we say thank you to someone, whether for a lavish birthday gift or something as simple as holding a door, we are conveying Respect, Recognition, and Reverence:
Respect: I value what you have done for me or given me.
Recognition: I acknowledge that you did it. You took an action, however small, to support me.
Reverence: I believe you are a valuable human being. Your actions matter.
Take that in. All that DEPTH is contained in a simple thank you. And the opportunities to say thank you are endless. Even on our worst days, if we look closely, we can find a reason to say thank you to someone or to be thankful for something. From toothbrushes to major appliances, from movies to milkshakes, from our favorite sweaters to our favorite songs – there are an unlimited number of human inventions and creations that make our lives easier or prettier or more comfortable.
Consider this passage from Mindful Gratitude: Practicing the Art of Appreciation:
Look around at the things that surround you. How many human hands did it take to create whatever you are looking at? How much human thought, creativity, planning, decision-making, skill, talent and investment did it take to manifest each item within your sight?
At every step, from new idea to product on a store shelf, our favorite things are touched by the hands of individual people, each with his or her own story. People who got up for work on innumerable unmarked mornings and despite their personal challenges - feeling tired, sick kids, an argument at home – went to work and did their bit to produce the items that we love and rely upon.
When I really stop to absorb this concept - the realization that I am NEVER alone – truly takes my breath away. My entire reality is covered with the miraculously distinctive fingerprints of millions of people whom I will never see, but whose daily work is visible, audible, and tangible in my home, my office, and throughout my whole community.
In every moment of every day, there is an endless chain of individuals across the globe and all over my community, working to meet my needs.
If we started looking closely for all the reasons we could say thank you to one another, we could generate some seriously positive feelings on this planet. Simply saying THANK YOU more often would immediately elevate the tone of our public and private discourse – allowing us to bring more Respect, Recognition, and Reverence into our workplaces, homes, public squares, and relationships.
Even on a day when you can’t think of a single reason to feel and express gratitude for humanity, there are always the mountains, and the trees, and the lakes, and the oceans, and the sun and moon and stars for which we can express our awe and wonder and gratitude.