How did you start your morning?
Did you say, wow! I’m happy to be alive?
Did it cross your mind that the sun, that incredible ball of hot gases, was yet again continuing its regular journey?
The ebb and flow of the tide and the plants and wildlife outside your door are all doing their own daily thing?
Were you amazed to still be alive?!
May be not – human beings tend to take it all for granted but mindful gratitude can open your eyes!
Mindful gratitude as a child
Miracles and amazing things are happening all the time. When did you stop noticing them?
As a child, you may have experienced a moment when you couldn’t believe how you were able to stand on the earth while it was spinning in space.
Or maybe you looked out of the window at snow and you were completely mesmerised by the magic of it?
As an adult, have you stopped being amazed and thankful? Many of us have.
‘Thousands of things go right for you every day, beginning the moment you wake up… You can drink a glass of water. You can spread butter on a slice of toast … the circulation of blood and the conversion of food into fuel are just two of the alchemical feats that the secret intelligence within you takes care of … language is another spectacular marvel … your imagination may be the best gift of all …’
How mindful gratitude opens your eyes
It’s easy to stop and notice the things you take for granted every day.
You can be thankful for your own body and the things you are capable of. Take a look at your hands that let you do so much. Those legs that take you to so many places. Your eyes that see so much. Your heart and lungs constantly working for your survival.
It’s more useful to be thankful than focussing on the body parts you don’t like or that are less than perfect. Or second-guessing what others might think of your appearance and getting hung up on your weight/hair-style/clothing.
When you get things into perspective it can help alleviate the stress of comparing and contrasting.
What do you value and what do you take for granted?
What do you find valuable or even invaluable?
Is the value you place on something connected to its monetary value or something money cannot buy? It’s easy to get caught up in negative thoughts and overlook what’s around you and what’s really important.
Here’s Wendell Berry’s reminder to get back on track and invite magic and mindful gratitude back into your life:
What has your body done for you lately?
- Be more aware, thankful and appreciative of all the working parts of your body. Your body is unique to you and yet structured in exactly the same way as everyone else on the planet! You wake up with it each day and it’s still fully functioning!
Let yourself be amazed!
- Say ‘wow’ and ‘thank you’ when you notice the sunset, the clouds, that gorgeous flower in bloom, a hedgehog.
- And awesome natural things like a waterfall, the Lake District, the Grand Canyon, the Amazon Rainforest, a coral reef.
- Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk, says, ‘From time to time, I let myself look at the full moon; I take a deep breath in and a deep breath out, and I practice: “I know you are there, and I am very glad about it.” I practice that with the full moon, with the cherry blossoms … We are surrounded by miracles, but we have to recognize them …’
Dear Auntie Maureen …
- Remember those thank-you letters you had to write to your aunties after Christmas? Saying thank you might feel like a chore or it can be an opportunity to really thank someone properly with love.
- I know parents who have expressed their boredom at having to say thank you and giving the message to their children that it’s a chore to be done, going through the motions rather than a heart-felt chance to connect with other humans.
- Whether it’s by old-fashioned post, email or a phone-call – saying thank you to someone is always appreciated by the recipient.
The whisper of sweet nothings
- Every day monitor your thoughts and the language you use. Let yourself feel fortunate, blessed, lucky, surrounded by gifts.
- This is instead of feeling scarcity, that you don’t deserve things, that there’s not enough, or you’re competing and you don’t think you’ll win. Watch the words that slip from your tongue – grumbling can be a bad habit.
Store your happinesses!
- Gratitude is for everyone because we all have things to be thankful for at any time and in any place. You could try writing these things down – in a gratitude or happiness journal or on scraps of paper stored in a jar.
- Every day, remember to jot down one or two things that you’ve noticed, and you’re thankful for. Some people might roll their eyes at this, but it’s easy to take things for granted, and only once we’ve lost them, do we truly realise their value. We might take for granted our health, our family, our job and our homes.
- Expressing gratitude for all these things as well as the tiniest of experiences, is part of a healthy mind-set. At the end of each year, you can have a little review, and be reminded of your store of blessings and happiness!
‘Treat em mean’
- Not sure where this phrase comes from, but it’s wrong!
- It’s easy to forget and overlook the things that other people do for us. We neglect to appreciate and express our thanks – we take so much for granted. As we juggle childcare, work, keep in touch with family members, care for an elderly relative and for young children – we are supported by so many who make it all possible.
- They’re often unrecognized or taken for granted, and in some instances, unpaid. Being kind and remembering to say a word of thanks, is essential.
- Growing plants and vegetables gives you the chance to be amazed and remember your connection to the earth. The journey between planting, nurturing and harvesting things like runner beans and strawberries can be hugely beneficial for wellbeing and our positivity.
- It’s a great feeling when you discover your first ripe raspberry or tomato. It can feel like a miracle! And if you can’t grow your own, you can still enjoy moments of thanks for the food you’re about to eat.
In the zone
- Any sport or activity that you enjoy doing – by being fully present to it, you can enjoy and see it as a gift. Sailing, playing golf or dancing. It’s a chance to relish the enjoyment, improve, have fun, be happy and appreciate the sheer joy of being alive doing something you love.
Savour your experiences
- Break out of your auto-pilot mode as often as you can:
Create new habits of gratitude
Mindfulness is a magnification of our everyday habits so if you have a tendency to be grumpy or pessimistic, this is a habit you may wish to shift.
Your brain has got used to you being this way. You can start by becoming aware of your attitude. Notice what your default setting is – your response in any given circumstance. It will reveal a lot to you.
You might decide that your downbeat negativity, that you thought was humorous, needs to be addressed a little. Maybe there’s room for a smile now and again!
And of course, being mindful is simply paying attention – being more alert and aware to what’s in front of you. Try it now – there may well be a dozen things around you right now that you could express thanks and gratitude for.
Have you read all the way through this piece? Thank you! I appreciate you doing so!
Do you have anything you’re especially thankful for today? I’d love to hear about it in the Comments box.
Yvette Jane – Mindfulness & Meditation Coach
This post first published 19 June 2015