6 Gratitude Practices You’ve Got To Try Right Now

(And none of them require a journal!)

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When I first started practicing stillness and silence, it was like my soul stepped up to the task of sitting with who I really am; not who I am according to my inner critic, but the essence of who I am—who I always had been. The more I worked my mindfulness muscle, the more I could drop into a deeper level of consciousness.

Sure, I’d still mess up. I’d feel “enlightened” for a bit, and then I’d mess up. I’d feel even more “enlightened,” and then I’d mess up again. That’s how my journey went for years—how everyone’s mindfulness journey is, in fact. We’ll always grow and mess up again, forever.

At first, that might seem frustrating. Why bother doing all this intense, demanding, deep work if not to reach a state of constant calm and ultimate enlightenment? There’s a Zen kōan that sums up this feeling well: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

But when you introduce gratitude into your mindfulness practice, everything changes. For me, that included discovering an appreciation for suffering too. While I’m sorry I hurt people in the healing process, I appreciate the struggles and wounds—even those that started in utero—because they made me who I am. If anybody knows about inclusion, it’s me because I spent a lifetime being excluded. If anybody knows about healing, it’s me because I spent a lifetime being wounded. If anyone knows what it’s like to feel unlovable, unworthy, and not whole, I’ve lived all of that.

Ultimately, if we can just get to a place of gratitude, even when we’re walking through some of our lowest days, we’ll start to heal.

As research into the concepts of happiness and emotional well-being gains traction in many fields, research on the nature of gratitude is increasing and its causes and potential consequences for health and well-being.

Consider this research on people who possess joy, for example. It turns out that the common thread throughout each of their experiences is a mindset of gratitude. I’m not just talking about a general appreciation of “I love my house/car/dog/kids.” It’s learning to access profound gratitude for everything―even for the suffering—and finding gratitude for what you don’t have or what you don’t have yet. Gratitude isn’t something you feel just when things are going right. It appreciates the ups and downs of your journey.

One of the absolute best examples of the power of gratitude is in Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. In his book, he writes that the only way he survived his imprisonment in Auschwitz was to wake up and find gratitude for rotten fish heads in dirty water—because that’s what enabled him to live. He was in the middle of a concentration camp, and his entire family had been ripped apart and killed. Even though everything that defined his life had been stripped from him, he made an effort to find gratitude.

Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist, so he knew his stuff. He believed that he and his fellow prisoners were more likely to survive their experience if they could do two things: Find a purpose in life to feel optimistic about and imagine their future. And that’s what he did.

While gratitude journals are all the rage right now, there are many different ways to practice gratitude. Consider starting with some of my favorites:

  1. Build a gratitude board. (Like a mood board, but for gratitude!)
  2. Practice simple thanks for your next meal.
  3. Practice a gratitude breath prayer.
  4. Thank your body with a massage or bathing ritual.
  5. Make a gratitude playlist.
  6. Say thanks by committing a random act of kindness.

The truth is that no matter where you are or what you’re doing in life, when you’re able to tap into gratitude for what you have, what you have is enough. And if all you have is dirty water with rotten fish heads in it, then you might have to dig much, much deeper for that gratitude. But it makes all the difference.

Did this post inspire you to introduce a new gratitude practice into your life? If so, I want to know! Head over to Facebook to share any new insights, ideas, or questions you have!

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