Gratitude is a term I see thrown around as something we should feel more of or a practice we should embrace more often, especially this time of year. While gratitude is important and plays a significant role in optimizing our health and well-being, it’s often approached as an after thought and directed externally. If you’ve ever kept a gratitude journal or acknowledged your blessings, you’ll see that you’ve likely utilized these exercises at the end of the day. Additionally, you may notice that you almost exclusively express your gratitude for things and people external to you. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach to gratitude, I have two questions for you:
- When was the last time you BEGAN your day with a feeling of gratitude?
- When was the last time you expressed appreciation to YOUR BODY for the way it allows you to experience life?
I’ve used gratitude lists on and off over the years, and it wasn’t until last year that I noticed this trend in my own practice. Like many of you, I always ended my day with them, and I seldom included myself.
Earlier this year a mentor of mine shared the idea of “being gratitude instead of simply being grateful.” What she meant was that we can choose to embody gratitude as a state of being rather than having moments where we feel grateful. When we embody gratitude we allow it to sink into the core of who we are; it guides our interactions with ourselves, with our friends and family, and with strangers. It gives us a warmth that is present even when times are hard. The very definition of gratitude is, “the quality of being thankful; a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” When we embody gratitude as a way of being, it changes us from the inside out.
As a result of my mentor’s teaching that day, I shifted my gratitude practice, and with that shift I’ve noticed a deeper contentment with myself and my life. I began reflecting on a few things I’m grateful for while in the shower and/or while getting ready in the morning (typically before I have to deal with the kids), and I always include something specific about myself or my body.
What I’ve noticed is that by starting my day with gratitude I am more intentional with my energy and my interactions with others, I am happier throughout the day, I am more efficient with my time, and I am more connected to my purpose.
By including myself in my gratitude practice, I am more apt to honor my needs throughout the day and make choices that support a balanced, healthy lifestyle. I am also less likely to be critical of myself (and let’s admit it, we are often our own worst critics).
My hope is that by sharing this simple shift in how we typically practice gratitude, you will also see a greater benefit to your day, more meaningful interactions with others, and a deeper appreciation for your body.