With the “Thanksgiving” holiday here and a tumultuous, anxiety fueled political season still in full force, it’s a good time to try and answer the question “how do we practice gratitude when we’re…well… just not feeling it?” And harder still…why bother?
Even for dedicated meditators, it’s easy to fall into a surly and decisively ungrateful mode, especially this time of year. We don’t need to look far for unpleasant triggers. They run the gamut from watching CNN with its repetitive blitz of divisive politics, local catastrophes and international crisis,’ to mundane stressors like traffic delays or not finding a parking space when you’re an hour late to the date or meeting that is supposed to turn your world upside down, in a good way. Sometimes, it’s genuinely hard to remember what is right in your world.
And that’s just about when it’s most important to stop and try to do so.
Remembering gratitude helps us strengthen our connection to what is good. @meditationsapp (Click to Tweet!)
It won’t make us forget the troublesome or distasteful things in and around us, but it just may help us have a bigger and more positive impact on those things over which we do have control. And that in turn makes us feel better, which ripples out to those around us. So gratitude has a triple whammy of good impact.
But how do we get there? And more important, how do we do this while the daily news, political antics, work challenges and other unfortunate dramas assault us?
For me, the answer is in my morning meditation practice where I try to include a dose of gratitude everyday. I’ve gotten into the habit of focusing on big and/or little things, depending on how I feel. For example, on a rough morning, I might start out just being grateful that my dog Oliver isn’t hiding in the laundry basket. That might be a warm-up to the bigger ones…like the fact that today I’m healthy and grateful for the love of friends and family. For some, it might be as simple as being grateful that a ladybug just landed on the desk – and you see it as a lovely harbinger of kindness and hope in a world that is quickly changing.
Elisha Goldstein, flagship instructor on the Meditation Studio App has some advice on how to get started with a gratitude practice. Elisha guides us through a meditation called Gratitude and Reflection in the Happiness Collection on the app. Here are his few simple, but powerfully effective steps:
- Actively reflect on what is good in your life. This could be your health, your family, friends or the simple fact that you are alive today.
- Reflect on three things that you genuinely like about yourself. This, he says, reminds us of what is good in us…whether it’s that you’re playful, loving, generous or another characteristic that is uniquely you.
- Reflect on all that is positive in your life…another reminder that even when things don’t feel good or right, there is always some good, somewhere.
- Reflect on the lessons that others have taught you and enjoy being grateful for their gifts, whether they are from a friend, teacher, author or some other force that has inspired you.
“Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have,” said a wise, anonymous soul.
It’s a lot more fulfilling to pause and notice all the precious things in our lives, than it is to be constantly dissatisfied and wishing for more.
By practicing gratitude a little bit every day, it will eventually become a habit. And the difference you’ll see in your life will be pretty darn amazing.
And, In the words of James De La Vega, “This moment is more precious than you think.”
Patricia Karpas is the co-founder and head of content for Meditation Studio LLC, the home of Meditationstudioapp.com. This 5-star app includes 200 meditations, 16 collections, 3 courses and 27 teachers. The app focuses on stress, anxiety, pain, sleep, happiness, confidence, performance and so much more, providing tools for beginners and experienced meditators. It’s a must have! She’s also the host of Untangle, the podcast that showcases the stories of experts, authors and real people whose lives have been transformed by meditation or mindfulness practices.
Image courtesy of Donald Tong.