Yes… it is that time of year again! Thanksgiving!
I remember my Mom telling me that I should feel grateful for all that God had provided. This really kinda messed with my head. As a young child I was focusing on my needs that were not being met. I felt empty and lonely. It was hard for me to see the abundance. And to be punished for not feeling grateful created a resistance to seeing the bounty as well as guilt.
One year ago, I started a gratitude journal for the first time in my life. Every morning I sit and write my intention for the day and 10 things that I am grateful for. I am so pleased to report that I have found this to be tremendously transformative. It sets the tone for my entire day. Rather than focusing on how tired I am or how I was rudely awakened by the garbage men or the long list things I have to do that day, I focus on the beauty that is surrounding me or my connections with my awesome friends, students and colleagues.
When we are focusing on the things that are not going well, our energy field closes down. The lens through which we view life is narrowed. And it is more challenging to see the solutions to the things that are not working.
Focusing on the things that are working in your life begins to change the chemistry in your brain. It stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine. You begin to feel more peaceful, more joyful, and creative.
So, what do you do when you are not feeling so grateful? When things are not going the way you want them and all you see are the obstacles?
I suggest “Fake it til you make it”.
Start your own Gratitude Journal. Begin with one or two things that are working in your life or that you appreciate – a beautiful sunset, the smell of good food, a song that you like. Start with the small things. I like to express gratitude for the air coming in and out of my lungs – without which I would die.
When you think about it, it really is a miracle that your cells know how to utilize the oxygen that you breath in, that your heart knows how to pump, that your cerebrospinal fluid knows how to replenish itself and feed your brain all the time.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Set the intention to be more happy and more thankful. Make it a conscious decision. Trust me. You will feel the benefit.
- Start with once or twice a week. Don’t make it a chore to be grateful. (I know it sounds silly, but some people do). Consciously invite your energetic field to open to life.
- You don’t have to list 10 things. Focus on the details of the thing for which you are grateful. Better to have a small handful of things that you can explore in detail than many superficial things.
- Focus on people in your life more than on the things. This will produce more oxytocin in your brain and help you feel more connected.
- Focus on the benefit of someone or something that you are grateful for. How is it serving you? What would your life be without this person or experience?
- Be curious. Take note of your body sensations before and after.
You don’t need to have a beautiful fancy journal to start this process. You could use a plain notebook or post-it notes. You could speak them out loud or have a silent prayer of thanks. It is really is about making an intentional change in your life.