This ONE Mindset Shift Is the Secret to Revamping Your Gratitude Practice

And it’s not just a fancy new journal…

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In my work, I often discuss that many people who could benefit from mindfulness aren’t ever able to commit to a practice in the first place. Not only can mindfulness meditation exacerbate psychological trauma, but the approach also requires you to sit with your pain and walk alone through your trauma to get to the other side. There’s an immense amount of uncertainty, self-judgment, anxiety, discomfort, and grieving to go through.

At the same time, there’s also a tremendous amount of courage, acceptance, release, calm, and healing waiting for you on the other side of that journey.

One of the elements distinguishing a healthy mindfulness practice from one that isn’t sustainable over the long term is gratitude. Often, when folks hear “gratitude practice,” they think of a performative journaling exercise rushed through at the end of each day (i.e., “I’m thankful for my dog/house/car/food/friends/shoes, goodnight.) But that barely scratches the surface of gratitude. By finding gratitude not just for the good in life but also for the challenging, terrifying, exhausting, and woundedness, you can get to a place of true freedom.

That level of gratitude doesn’t just require awareness; it requires learning not to self-judge, not to let the voice of the inner critic take over, and not allowing a lifetime of unhealthy thoughts and beliefs to define the present moment. It’s about embracing yourself and your unique journey—wounds, mistakes, and all. It’s being grateful for the uncertainty of the things that aren’t serving you well and building the belief that all that suffering is there to help you grow and heal.

It’s sitting with discomfort long enough to discover your wounds can become your most incredible wisdom.

Consider one client’s story (in my book, Shut Up and Sit: Finding Silence and All the Life-Changing Magic that Comes with It, I call him Robert).

When I first met Robert, I thought he was one of the nicest people I’d ever encountered. We met at a local gym (the kind where you flip tires and swing sledgehammers), and one day, he asked me what I did for work. For weeks we exercised together without asking one another anything—both just focused on performing the commands yelled into our ears by the trainer. I replied vaguely, assuming he was the last person on earth who’d be interested in mindfulness.
I mean, why would he? This guy walked into the gym and was greeted with a chorus of everyone yelling his name. What did he need to know about limiting beliefs or how to rewire the brain in silence and solitude?

As it turned out, everything.

As a young African American man living in the American South, he was born poor and raised by a single mom. He grew from those circumstances into one of the top scientists in his field and is now the Vice President of a global company. But despite his professional success, he struggled with reactivity. In conflict, he was sure the other person needed to change. He felt trapped in an antagonizing, toxic work environment detrimental to his physical and mental wellbeing.

Through our work together, he realized that he contributed to some of the things he took issue with. He awakened to the idea that when you’re not getting along with someone or you dislike something about a person, you need to hold up a mirror because maybe what you dislike in them is something that is also within you. That mindset shift helped him to become more accepting of other people.

He understood the science of beliefs and began to see another way to heal the victimization surrounding him, stepping into his true power—a power he now uses to teach others the value of all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. He assists young minorities in achieving success simply by being who he is rather than operating from a place of anger.

Finding gratitude for everything requires great courage. It requires extreme patience and taking the risk of showing up in a new way without knowing the results. It requires emotional vulnerability and a willingness to face uncertainty.

You just sit in the present moment, with whatever it is you’re facing, allowing your authentic self to hold space and then inviting gratitude to join you. The minute you discover gratitude, not only does it shift your inner landscape, but it will lift your spirit as well.

At the end of the day, I believe gratitude is just love—love for self and for everyone and everything else in the universe. It’s a readiness to show up with appreciation, receive abundance, and return kindness. It’s a long game of reciprocity, allowing yourself to be moved by the world—because when you allow yourself to be that moved―you cannot help but generate gratitude, create connection, and become fully engaged in life.

In the words of my client, Robert, “If I can’t change the past and I can’t control the future, then I’m going to stay present. I will always be a thoughtful person, but only now am I not as intensely worried about stuff as I was before. It’s so freeing to discover the influence that I have over my own destiny.”

Did this post make you reconsider your own experience of gratitude? If so, I want to know! Head over to Facebook to share any new insights, ideas, or questions you have!

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