Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude
A dear friend of our CEO spent her twenties being unhappy. Early in her thirties, she was diagnosed with cancer, an adverse event over which she had no control. She is now in her late thirties and she describes herself as being 90 percent happy 90 percent of the time. He asked her what had changed. How did she move from being unhappy for more than a decade, to being diagnosed with cancer, to now being happy? She did not know. As they continued to talk he noticed she mentioned small things for which she was thankful for throughout the night; a full moon, the perfect temperature, her dog, the wine she was enjoying. He started counting. Within the next 30 minutes, she mentioned four things she was thankful for. Outside of her conscious awareness, the adverse event of “cancer” lead to the cultivation of “an attitude of gratitude” that now permeates her being. Cultivating this attitude of gratitude has become an essential key to her happiness.
As evidenced in the literature:
1. Gratitude produces joy
2. Gratitude helps us feel good by releasing endorphins into the blood stream, producing feelings of well being and improving our immune response.
3. Gratitude eradicates worry.
4. Gratitude draws people to us.
5. Gratitude cures bitterness and resentment
6. Gratitude cures perfectionism.
7. Gratitude focuses us in the present moment.
8. Gratitude opens our hearts.
We can try a simple practice of gratitude now. Please think of five things that you can express thankfulness for today. Please say them out loud. We can also become increasingly mindful and thankful for the small miracles of life that are pre-existing conditions of happiness.
Thankfulness is every Breath
“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
We can practice this belief system throughout the day in everything we do. When brushing our teeth in the morning, for example, we can focus, really focus on brushing our teeth, the feel of the brush, the taste of the toothpaste, the feel of freshened breath, etc. We can be thankful right now and aware of the fact we have teeth, and can chew, and can swallow. Practices such as these focus the mind on the here and now and the miraculous around us, the gifts we so often take for granted. By waking up many times a day to what is happening right now, breathing in and out, the blue sky, the warmth or coolness of the air, the miracles of existence, we become aware of the infinite available to us this moment.
Most of the time we are “asleep” to the miracles in our lives. But each time we “wake up” to this and the countless miracles around and within us, we can return to the present moment, express our gratitude, and reunite our mind and body. Within these “awakenings” we begin to cultivate the practices that will transform us into a happier more peaceful person. The capacity to be mindful and happier exists in everyone. The difference between happy and unhappy, success and failure, lies primarily in the focus and practices we choose on a day by day, moment by moment basis. Line upon line. Practice upon practice. Belief upon belief. A little here. A little there. Inch by inch it’s a cinch. Yard by yard it gets hard.
In the video below, Rick leads you through this gratitude practice, which he calls “Thankfulness is every breath.”