Gratitude is a lifejacket on a sinking ship. Gratitude is a door held by a stranger when you’re carrying lots of stuff. It’s a smile from your spouse after you’ve had one of those days at work. It’s a blanket when you’re cold. Soup when you’re sick. A call when you’re lonely.
Gratitude provides for us even when we think we have nothing or no one. Because we do have many things and people in our lives. Gratitude just lifts the opaque veil from our eyes so we can see that more clearly.
“People who are grateful about events and experiences from the past, who celebrate the triumphs instead of focusing on the losses or disappointments, tend to be more satisfied in the present,” write Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons in their book Living Life as a Thank You: My Journal.
In it, they feature practical exercises and inspiring stories and quotes to cultivate gratitude. Here are three exercises to try.
Use Gratitude Prompts
Use certain places, people or things to prompt your appreciation. As the authors say, “Each time you come across these visuals, remind yourself to halt your thoughts for a minute and say a prayer of intentional thanksgiving.”
For instance, if you see a fire truck or ambulance, say “’Thank you,’ for the men and women who are there to take care of the sick and hurting,” Lesowitz and Sammons suggest. If you see a school bus, “Give thanks for children everywhere. Pray for your children and pray for the children worldwide who will never have the opportunities you have had,” they write.
Use Your Nose
As the authors write, “Sometimes there is no more profound advice than ‘Stop and smell the roses.’” We forget that the simple and seemingly small things in life do bring joy. One of those simple things is scent.
Scents can lift a sinking mood and soothe us when we’re stressed. For instance, lavender is calming, while citrus scents are energizing.
Make a list of your favorite seven scents. “Put as many different flowers or herbs on your list as you can.” When gratitude is the last thing on your mind – or in your heart – seek out these scents, and savor them.
Create your own gratitude book. Cut out images of nature from magazines, and include quotes and prayers that inspire you. “Leafing through [your book] can remind you of what you are grateful for and remind you to give thanks in prayer,” write Lesowitz and Sammons.
Remember that gratitude is powerful. Connecting to it every day can bring you comfort, calm and joy. This doesn’t mean donning rose-colored glasses when you’d rather close the curtains and curl up in bed. It’s not about denial or burying your feelings.
Cultivating gratitude is about being thankful for the gifts in your life, everything from a supportive loved one to a tasty cup of coffee to the old weeping willow in your front yard to your favorite book to the movie that always makes you laugh.
“Gratitude can helps us transform our fears into courage, our anger into forgiveness, our isolation into belonging and another’s pain into healing,” write Lesowitz and Sammons. I couldn’t agree more.