This week is the one we set aside to give thanks for our blessings. If you’ve been unemployed for a while, you may have trouble summoning a sense of gratitude for your experience over the past few months (or years.)
Gratitude, like most feelings, can be both an experience and a practice. Many people practice gratitude each day to remind themselves of the abundance of good things in life, even if (maybe especially if)they are going through a difficult period.
You might, for example, be grateful for the clean, soft sheets you slip into each night. You might be grateful for the simpler, better food you’re now cooking at home in lieu of the fast food you used to purchase and consume without thinking.
I am grateful for the cooler weather that autumn brings, for my cat’s warmth and the comfort that I get from her purring on my lap. My parents are both alive and in good health. My brother has recently married a delightful, warm and generous woman we all adore.
Grumbling is easy; we humans are hard-wired to see weeds instead of flowers. If you look for hassles, you’ll see them everywhere. But you can train yourself to notice the good things that go on around you. And the deliberate practice of looking for them may make you happier.
Research indicates that happiness levels are very hard to move; you’ll eventually revert to your usual level, even after winning the lottery or going through a bad breakup. One study found that people who practiced and wrote about moments of gratitude reported being, on average, 25 percent happier than those who spent the study recording annoying incidents.
Here is how to start your gratitude practice. It’s a journaling practice; you can do it at a computer, but I prefer a notebook. Sit quietly somewhere and let your mind search for what you are grateful for in this moment. It may take you a few minutes to find something that feels right (or to find something at all.) Take your time. If you stay with it, you will feel a shift inside. Write down what you feel, no matter how small. “I am grateful to be inside, cuddled under this blanket, instead of outside in the cold drizzle.” “I am grateful that my daughter is doing well in her algebra course.” Whatever it is, write it down. Tomorrow, take up the journal again. In time, you’ll start to notice moments during the day when you recognize that you feel grateful and think, “I’ll write this down tonight.”
The practice is called mindfulness; staying in the moment long enough to recognize and acknowledge what you’re feeling. Soon, you’ll have pages filled with small blessings, and you’ll be able to go back when you’re having a bad day and read through them.
Neil Pasricha has been called the “guru of small joys.” He started his blog “1000 Awesome Things” in 2008, after a very bad year . He started very small; his “awesome things” included “thinking it’s Thursday when it’s really Friday” and “the other side of the pillow.” If you need to outsource your gratitude or find inspiration, his blog is a great place to start. And here’s a reason to start: according to TED.com, his tiny blog has resulted in “a readership of millions of people, two Webby Awards (“the Internet’s highest honor” according to The New York Times), and being named one of PC Magazine’s Top 100 Sites On the Internet. His just released first book, The Book of Awesome, has become a #1 International Bestseller and The Book of Awesome 2 came out in Spring, 2011.”
By the way, I am grateful for everyone who takes the time to read my posts. Thanks for your attention and thoughtful feedback.
“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.”
Johannes A. Gaertner