A Second Helping of Gratitude
I was driving near my home the other day and I always make a point to glance over towards the wash that surrounds my neighborhood. As luck would have it, I spotted my favorite bird, a Snowy Egret. I walked over just in time to see him in graceful flight overhead. I then looked back to see that there was yet another Egret lingering in the shallow water, so I lingered as well. It felt great. No, actually it felt luxurious. Taking a moment like that to appreciate nature is one of life’s little luxuries. Louie Schwartzberg, the famous time lapse photographer, has devoted his life to showing us the beauty and fascination of nature and all that surrounds us. He says “Gratitude touches your heart” and he believes that Nature teaches us mindfulness. He encourages us to really look at things and take time to be in awe. I stood there in awe of my Egret and the gratitude took me to a place of great comfort and serenity. Gratitude not only affects us on an emotional level, but gives us a sense of purpose in a world that is often focused on having and doing rather than on being. Gratitude frees you to be more loving and accepting of people and of situations. Gratitude helps you to view life’s struggles as lessons to be learned and appreciated rather than as failures.
The added benefits of living with gratitude are improved health, reduced stress, better sleep and more fulfilling relationships.
Dr. Martin Seligman of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of Positive Psychology, a branch of psychology which focuses on the empirical study of such things as positive emotions, strengths-based character, and healthy institutions, says that satisfaction has a large correlation with gratitude and much smaller correlations with age, education, income, intelligence and attractiveness.
So, at the end of the day, when we truly count our blessings, it is the gratitude of who we are inside and who we love that fulfills us the most. Just how do we cultivate gratitude into our lives on a regular basis? Here are some wonderful steps you can take each day:
1) Keep a gratitude list. Start off each day with a list of what you are thankful for and reflect on it again before you go to bed at night. Try sharing it with a friend or loved one.
2) Express your love, thanks and appreciation to others often. Make sure to be mindful all throughout the day, finding ways you can thank someone for even the smallest courtesy or act of kindness.
3) Write a gratitude letter to someone who was or has been meaningful to you in your life. Let that person know how something they did or do for you has had a positive effect on your life. Send or give that letter to that person. This can be one of the most important ways to bring gratitude into your life.
4) Negativity and gratitude cannot exist simultaneously in your mind at the same time. When you are feeling anxious, worried, or stressed about something, immediately switch your thoughts to what you are grateful for. A feeling of calm replaces the anxiety.
Tips for Enjoying Your Thanksgiving Meal in a More Meaningful Way:
Fill your plate with all that you love, but add extra veggies this year! The original Thanksgiving feast was about celebrating the bounty of the Earth. Let’s get back to basics by eating whole, unprocessed foods. Savor each bite and chew well. When you feel like getting up for a second helping, stop and focus on the people you are sharing this wonderful meal with instead. After the meal is finished, have each person speak and say something they are grateful for. You can look up meaningful and inspirational quotes ahead of time and print them out like little “fortunes” for people to pick from a bowl. They can stand up and read their quote and express what that might mean to them. This is a beautiful way for people to express their love and gratitude. This just might be the best Thanksgiving ever!
Edie Ruge is a Health and Wellness Coach offering unique strategies in guiding people to achieve their wellness goals. She specializes in weight management, stress reduction, increased energy and overall improved health. Edie’s integrative and holistic approach helps people lead healthier, happier and more balanced lives.