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Gratitude Is Not a Spectator Sport

February 28, 2017

 

We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart.”

– David Steindl-Rast

 

As I arrive at the first new moon of the New Year, I celebrate the moment in gratitude.

Even though life is not perfect and fear keeps popping up in my field, gratitude calms me and allows me to be present in my own life. 

 

In the words of Brother David, I, “Stop. Look. Go.”

 

Scientific research has proven that gratitude is good for us. Robert Emmons, PhD, reports that gratitude blocks toxic emotions such as regret, fear and depression. Grateful people are more resilient in the face of stress. Gratitude improves our self-esteem and strengthens our relationship with others. However, being grateful is not a passive activity like watching TV or reading posts on social media.

 

It must be actively pursued.

 

I have two resources that I highly value in my practice of gratitude. First, I regularly visit the website A Network of Grateful Living. There I can ponder a “Daily Question” such as, “How can I stretch myself to learn from someone different from me?” and read comments from others to get ideas of how to deepen my practice of gratitude. I receive the “Daily Word” in my inbox every morning. These quotes remind me to step into my day with gratitude. From this website I can send a beautiful ecard to someone I am thinking about in the moment. I don’t wait for birthdays or holidays. I celebrate my friends and family every day.

 

Secondly, I use a little Pockitudes journal to record my gratitude throughout the day. Its bright orange presence in my purse catches my eye and encourages me to “Stop. Look. Go.” Then I record my reflections in the moment.

 

For example, the other day I reached for my keys to start the car then paused for a moment, looked around the parking lot and thought how grateful I was that I had the money to purchase groceries for the week.

 

On another occasion, when I reached for my sunglasses, the flash of orange reminded me to stop for a moment to watch the people who were leaving the meeting I just attended. I watched them talking, laughing and walking into the rest of their day. In that moment, I was grateful to live in a community in which I could join with others to make a plan and reach a goal that would improve the lives of others.

 

I record these thoughts, not on my smart phone, but in my own handwriting in my Pockitudes journal.

 

The practice of gratitude is a participatory sport. Over the years, I have trained myself to be aware, to take a moment to reflect, and to record my gratitude for all that I experience. This practice is similar to exercising a muscle. In the beginning, it required discipline. When I practiced regularly, it became a habit.

 

Now, it is as simple as being appreciative for being alive with every breath.

 

A No Regrets bracelet from the non-profit Living & Dying Consciously Project will remind you to “Be Grateful Everyday.” Order your bracelet here.