“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” -Marcel Proust
We all need to keep gratitude in our lives, but gratitude is a slippery feeling. It doesn’t flare up, like anger; it doesn’t overwhelm us, like joy. Gratitude is something we need to keep track of, or we lose our grasp on it. There are times in our lives when it is especially slippery; I’ll be talking about those tough times in a future post.
This week, I’d like to challenge myself and you, my readers, to be more mindful of gratitude. We’ll start by taking three simple steps.
1. Thank a stranger. It’s often easier to thank strangers than family members. Did you thank your barista when she handed you your latte this morning? You probably did; it’s an automatic exchange for most people (as it should be). This week, take it a step further and express gratitude to someone you wouldn’t ordinarily thank. As you leave church, shake your pastor’s hand and thank him for a moving sermon. If your child goes to school, thank his teacher for all her hard work. If you’re working on a project with a colleague, thank him for his contributions. Yes, these people are just doing their jobs- but so was that barista, when she handed over your latte.
2. Thank a family member. When was the last time you thanked your husband for taking out the trash? Or told your mother you appreciated that she listened to you vent over the phone? What about thanking your toddler for not wasting time putting on his shoes? We tend to forget to say “thank you” to the people we spend the most time with, but it’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to nurture those relationships.
3. Thank God. If you already have a prayer or meditation time, be sure to express gratitude to God, to the universe, or to yourself during those times. If you don’t normally pray or meditate, choose a time when you’re not focusing on anything external. My gratitude time is each night as I nurse Edwin before bed; I make a list of about twenty things I appreciated that day. (You can also call this a “happy thoughts” list.) Taking a shower, washing the dishes and exercising are other good times to focus on gratitude.
Take these three steps today. Then take them again tomorrow, and I’ll bet by the next day, you’ll see such positive results that you’ll feel motivated to continue. At the top of this post, I said that gratitude is slippery, but it can also be contagious. By giving it to others, you increase your own supply. As J.M. Barrie said, “Those who spread sunshine to the hearts of others cannot keep it from themselves.”
In my Wednesday post, I’ll let you know how I’m doing with my three steps. Feel free to comment and let me know how you’re doing, too!
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