I’m really struck by the transforming power of gratitude. It’s a powerful tool in positive psychology because with its application, people experience more satisfaction and happiness even if their life circumstances haven’t changed. It teaches us that we can feel thankful for just how things are. We don’t need life to line up – that job, that partner, that house, for us to experience appreciation. And thankfulness. The more we practice gratitude, the more we develop the mind-set of gratitude.
I wanted to share these 4 aspects of gratitude, because there’s depths and layers that are really interesting.
1. Finding reasons to be grateful is a powerful re-frame in our lives even in the midst of really crappy days there’s always something to feel thankful for. The feeling of sun on your shoulders. The devotion of your dog. Daily gratitude observance is a practice because we are more geared toward noticing what’s not right, what’s annoying and what shouldn’t be. A popular exercise is to write down a few things every evening that you are grateful for. This can strengthen your ability to be present to what is truly wonderful and beautiful about being alive.
2. Gratitude for your past self. This is a powerful gratitude practice. None of us came fully formed, and sometimes we can look back on our younger self with criticism or embarrassment. Think of yourself in years past, and practice flowing loving feelings toward who you were, the decisions you made, and the way you navigated life’s complexities. Know that you did the very best you could have done. This gratitude practice is a great way of re-contextualizing regrets.
3. Gratitude from the perspective of your future self. I love this; it’s a bit time bending but very powerful: What can you do today that your future self will be grateful for? Imagine yourself in the future, looking back to today. What is your future self-grateful to your current self for? What can you do today that will make your future self appreciative and grateful? (“Awesome job Cathy!” says my future self to me as I lift weights to build my bone density!)
4. Express gratitude powerfully and completely to another. The power of thank you can unlock so much for you as well as the other person.A big example for me happened last year when I went to Mexico to do a leadership course by Werner Erhard. He had started The Hunger Project 40 years earlier, (and had also created the iconic 70’s personal development course called the EST training). I learned a lot during the nine day course, but the unexpected highlight for me, which proved transformative, was around this point of expressing gratitude.
I was waiting in line to ask him a question during the course. When it was my turn the question became irrelevant. What was there for me was profound appreciation for what this man had made possible in the world. So I movingly thanked him for starting The Hunger Project, and creating a space in the world for an idea as bold as ending hunger to live and take root. Werner hadn’t been involved in The Hunger Project for 30 years, so I acknowledged the legacy he had created, and shared with about the hundreds of millions of lives changed for the better, the healthy kids, the proud parents, the thriving villages, because he had bought this mission into being. I thanked him for the opportunity this had given me – a young woman from a remote city, to make a global impact that also changed my own life.
I had never met him before, and yet in acknowledging him (I was crying, he was very still and present), I experienced a profound sense of being part of the torch he had handed on to keep the fire burning. In expressing gratitude for him, I was granted the biggest gift of seeing who I had become.
So there you have it. Some thoughts on gratitude. It never fails to spin my head with its power to re-frame life.
Lastly, dear reader, Thanks for reading them when you do, for your comments and feedback, and for our many shared and diverse ways we work together to support ourselves and others lead and live differently.