Gratitude changes your brain chemistry. Proven. Happy brain chemicals mean that you’ve got more clarity and courage. Proven. There are zero downsides to making gratitude part of your wellness practice.
As with all “inner world” practices, we need to apply some intelligence to this. Because sometimes, that How-to or 7-Steps, or “I’m so thankful” process, can create even more illusions and stuckness.
This is an exercise in CONSCIOUS GRATITUDE. Smart gratitude. Discerning gratitude. We’re not going to sugarcoat the tough stuff and automatically say “There’s a gift in the pain.”
Pain is only a gift if you do the emotional and mental work to transform the pain into power. @DanielleLaPorte (Click to Tweet!)
That’s the discerning, conscientious part.
Conscious gratitude has been one of the most healing and creative practices in my life. It gets me out of my funk EVERY TIME. And it’s the source of a lot of my productivity. Conscious gratitude is incredibly empowering — it heals you, and it’s generative — it creates additional positive emotions.
The intention with this Free & Clear exercise is to transform gratitude from a sweet and moderately useful practice, to a life elixir. We’re going to get alchemical. Download your CONSCIOUS GRATITUDE worksheet HERE. Or get out your journal to do the exercises below.
You can skip the following short read and go straight to the worksheet, but here’s an excerpt from my last book, White Hot Truth, that’s about examining and refining our gratitude.
What exactly to be grateful for…
I am not grateful for being ousted from a company that I co-founded. I am not grateful for losing $90,000 on a business idea gone south. I am not thankful for the Spirit-crushing ramifications of one particular relationship. And I really could have done without that two-year bout of a mystery illness. There have been losses. And trials that wore me down until I begged for a break.
But holy hell, am I profoundly grateful for everything that I learned from those challenges. I’m with Maya Angelou: “Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.” I would not turn back the clock, or take back one tear, tremor, or dollar. All those moments that I had to quell the adrenaline with the power of my mind, or carry buckets of integrity back from the well when I thought it might be dry — that was some serious training. All those revelations of responsibility! So many illusions that got burned down! The flames that scarred me are the flames that purified and lifted me up — because I gave myself over to the fire, willing to learn, wanting to know. I got down on my knees, peered under the clouds of smoke and fear, and said, “Let me see what’s really going on here.”
And when I thank Life for what those challenges provided me with, I say, Thank you for helping me see clearly. For helping me see where I can grow and how I can get there. Thank you for helping me see where Love is and where fear lurks, and where the Truth has always been.
There’s no need to be grateful for your hardships and for the perpetrators themselves. Because, remember: the Universe brings you more of what you are grateful for. So be grateful for the Faith and the friends that held you when it all fell apart.
Be grateful that you have the capacity to transform suffering into learning, and brokenness into resilience. Be grateful for your strength to handle the challenge.
Here are a few principles for conscious gratitude. The idea here is to shake up the New Age default attitude of “it’s all good”, so that we can feel experiences more deeply, and then, be clear on exactly why and what we’re grateful for. And then… we can really absorb that thankfulness and let it expand and strengthen us — and light the way for people around us. We get real, we get specific, we expand.
1. Only express gratitude if it’s genuine.
Name a few things/situations that you “think” you should be incredibly grateful for — but they’re actually not that important or thrilling to you.
You may feel pressured to be grateful because it would be “very spiritual of you” to be that way. Or someone expects you to be grateful for it, or because your situation is enviable by a lot of people.
2. Don’t take the “basics” for granted.
So many of us have systems of privilege and care that underpin our lives. We all have infrastructures and people, known and unknown, who keep our life running. (Teachers, caregivers, clean water and transit systems, community leaders…)
What are 5 or more really “seemingly basic” things you’re immensely grateful for?
3. When you specify what you’re grateful for, it gives it a more sensual, and visceral power.
And when you feel appreciation more deeply you will become more emotive — and what you emote, you attract. Gratitude creates more gratitude.
Name 3 things you’re really grateful for. And next to each one, describe WHY you’re grateful for it. For example: I’m thankful for my home. Because…It’s where I’m creative. It’s where I experience safety. It’s where the people I love the most in the world are with me.
4. Pain is only a gift if you do the emotional and mental work to transform the pain into power.
Take a breather and really think about (and write about) what moved you the most, lit you up, felt like forward progress, delighted you, made you proud, thrilled, and really mattered the most in terms of your joy and growth in your past year or season.
We’ll shake up the New Age default attitude of “it’s all good”, so that we can feel experiences more deeply, and then, be clear on exactly why and what we’re grateful for.
Gratitude. It’s sweet and uplifting and it’s proven to be good for our brain chemistry.
Book recos: Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.
More to say on the topic: My post: When gratitude is harmful.
Tunes: Crank it. And sing your Thank Yous.
- Thank You, Alanis Morrisette
- Just Like Heaven, Kate Melua
- Lovely Day, Bill Withers
- The Luckiest, Ben Folds
- Love Is Here Where I Live, Everything But The Girl
- Gratitude, Earth Wind & Fire
- Ain’t Nobody, Chaka Khan
- We Found Love, Rhianna
- Thank You, Michael Franti
LISTEN ON SPOTIFY HERE: SERIOUSLY THANKFUL.
Danielle LaPorte is an invited member of Oprah’s SuperSoul 100, a group who, in Oprah Winfrey’s words, “is uniquely connecting the world together with a spiritual energy that matters.” She is author of White Hot Truth: Clarity for keeping it real on your spiritual path—from one seeker to another. The Fire Starter Sessions, and The Desire Map: A Guide To Creating Goals With Soul—the book that has been translated into 8 languages, evolved into a yearly day planner system, a top 10 iTunes app, and an international workshop program with licensed facilitators in 15 countries.
Named one of the “Top 100 Websites for Women” by Forbes, millions of visitors go to DanielleLaPorte.com every month for her daily #Truthbombs and what’s been called “the best place online for kickass spirituality.” A speaker, a poet, a painter, and a former business strategist and Washington-DC think tank exec, Entrepreneur Magazine calls Danielle, “equal parts poet and entrepreneurial badass…edgy, contrarian…loving and inspired.” Her charities of choice are Eve Ensler’s VDay: a global movement to end violence against women and girls, and charity: water, setting out to bring safe drinking water to everyone in the world. She lives in Vancouver, BC with her favourite philosopher, her son. You can find her @daniellelaporte and just about everywhere on social media.