My mom had a set of Rita Davenport tapes on success and time management that I used to listen to in my late teens. There was a small but powerful section in her program about gratitude.
I forget what exactly she said that impressed me. Maybe it was the idea that gratitude changes everything or that whatever you are grateful for increases and attracts to you more things for which to be grateful. Whatever it was, her message deeply resonated with me.
For weeks I recall intensely playing with my gratitude consciousness to the point where I felt I was flying on a magic carpet. I made lists of things I was grateful for and I focused on these things throughout the day, every day for several weeks. During that time I was on a natural high. I met sweet people. It felt like anything was possible. I loved each day of my life, and I saw the good in life, in me and in everyone else.
I recall flying so high and feeling so good that one day I actually stopped and wondered, is this okay? Is this reality? Mostly though this several week-long gratitude practice showed me how deliberately I can change my attitude and my emotional state and get immediate results.
I mean no one was doing this for me or to me. I was doing this with-in me, and it was changing and affecting my every moment from my mood to my experience. It was a self-generated, natural high.
Fast forward years later, I actually wrote a book-length masters thesis on the topic of giving, receiving and gratitude. I’ve learned that the ways we give and receive and our ability to feel and express gratitude both impacts how we feel about life and how others treat us.
Gratitude is such a simple act.
It is free. It is available to anyone who wants to use it. I have found that it can be used in literally any situation to bring out the good. One day a friend and I were talking about our troubles, and even an issue we were focused on in our friendship, and she said, “Where do we start?”
I said, “Let’s start with gratitude. Let’s start with what is going well. Let’s start with what we most appreciate about our lives, ourselves, and each other.” Now that’s a thing with us: no matter what is going on, we call each other up and say, let’s start with gratitude. We laugh. And then we do.
Gratitude literally changes everything.
It elevates the mood. It elevates the energy. It brings a lightness to the situation. It gives us a place to start. It grounds things in what is good. It reminds us that no matter the situation there is always something that is going well. There is always hope. Gratitude opens the door for goodness to expand.
Have you ever made a gratitude list? Sure, you can simply do it in your mind and run through the things you are grateful for, but I’ve found that writing is best. When we write we focus. When we write and focus on gratitude, we settle in, we calm down and our breath finds a new rhythm. What are you grateful for? What is going well today?
Start with something simple.
I recall a story about someone who was in a terrible car crash. She was stuck in a hospital bed unable to move. The only part of her body she could move was her little pinky finger. She decided to put all of her focus on gratitude that she could move that one finger. Before long she could move more fingers, and her toes and then her arms and legs, until she had gained back all mobility with her entire body. And she did it all with gratitude, starting with just her pinky finger.
A gratitude list can include anything: It could be a spontaneous smile from a stranger or seeing a bright red bird sitting in a vibrant green evergreen tree or a satisfying phone call from a friend you haven’t heard from in a while. It could be a trait in yourself you appreciate such as kindness, intelligence or the fact you generally can show up to things on time. Whatever it is, all that matters is that it matters to you. Appreciate it. Savor the goodness of it.
No matter how big or small, your practice of gratitude vibrates out on the airwaves elevating you and those around you. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Try it out. Have your own experience with gratitude today. Notice how easy it can be to change your mood with it. Give yourself a natural high.