This past weekend, I hosted an early Thanksgiving celebration for my family. Thirteen family members were able to attend and we shared some good food, wine, laughter, and much conversation (some of it around the upcoming federal election and our hopes for change). We also shared a Thanksgiving ritual of going around the table and sharing “what we are grateful for”. There were some predictable responses: health, family, friends and a good standard of living. What also came up more than once was a deep gratitude for living in a country which is a at peace. When you have never experienced something (like living in a country at war), it’s easy to take another something (like peace) for granted. Part of my regular practice of gratitude, is not taking what I have (large & small) for granted. Studies show that practicing gratitude in your daily life makes a person more resilient. By starting your day with a practice of gratitude, Amit Sood, M.D., author of The May Clinic’s Handbook for Happiness, suggests that you also wake up to what is most important in your life, learn to positively focus your thoughts, and cultivate feelings of being loved. He suggests that, first thing in the morning, you begin by taking a few deep breaths and thinking about 5 people (or gifts) in your life for which you are grateful. Breathe in slowly and deeply as you focus on each person’s face in front of your closed eyes, trying to see them as clearly as possible wherever they are in the world. Send each person (or gift) your silent gratitude as you breathe slowly and deeply, grounding yourself in the present. Move into your day feeling grateful for what you have and part of something greater than yourself.
It’s small daily practices, such the gratitude exercise above, that can make a big difference in how we experience our day. There are so many small things we can regularly be grateful for: clean water, fresh air, warm soup, music on the radio…. Learning to be grateful for the “small things” and telling yourself “the story of what is right in your life” has the potential to bring about big changes. So, slow down, be present, notice, give thanks, and see what happens.