“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life” – Rumi
Last year, I stumbled upon a TED talk given by Brother David Steindl-Rast in which he suggests that happiness is born from gratitude. In this same vein, research is beginning to show that if we cultivate and practice gratitude, we can actually increase our happiness. Several months after watching this talk, I found myself navigating through a trying exchange with my determined three-year-old son. I later sat and reflected on why I felt such disappointment in the way I had reacted and handled the situation. After a few minutes of quiet, I grabbed a piece of scratch paper and wrote down three words describing how I hoped to interact with the people in my life: (with) tenderness, compassion and joy. Now, months later, that piece of scratch paper is still attached to our refrigerator door and serves as a continuous reminder of my intention. When I see those three simple yet powerful words, it causes me pause and I can feel my perspective begin to shift and my mood soften. In much the same way, we can cultivate practices and create reminders that encourage us to slow down, pause, open our senses to what is in front of us and, in those things, be grateful. If this practice of gratitude becomes part of our daily routine, we open ourselves up to seeing the beauty and abundance being offered to us from moment to moment. Consider incorporating these personal practices of gratitude into your life…
*Kate is a proud mama of three boys and lives with her husband and kiddos in her hometown of Austin. After living in New York and San Francisco for 12 years combined, Kate is thrilled to live in Austin, where she teaches yoga, writes and most importantly, does the mama thing.
Slow down and pay attention.
Practicing gratitude requires a level of mindfulness and simply being able to recognize those people and things in our lives for whom and which we are grateful. Slowing down through our physical movements can allow our mind to downshift into a more relaxed place. Try choosing one activity in your morning or evening routine (i.e. making coffee, taking a shower, brushing your teeth, etc.) to practice consciously slowing down and paying attention to your movements and what the experience has to offer. Take it one step further and verbally or mentally give thanks for some aspect of your experience.
Cultivate moments to pause.
In his TED Talk mentioned above, Steindl-Rast offers a practice of creating “stop signs” in our daily lives that remind us to slow down and pay attention to what is in front of us. These visual reminders help us to, again, slow down and recognize the abundance of seemingly subtle gifts being handed to us in each moment. When we are conscious of these things, we can more easily and genuinely practice gratitude. Try placing post-it notes (choose your favorite color!) around your home and/or office. On each note, write down one thing you are thankful for in your life. When you see the note, give yourself a few moments of pause to engage in the simple practice of gratitude and notice how your mood and energy shifts.
Open your senses.
One of my yoga teachers used to talk about “opening the eyes of our skin” in order to bring more awareness to our experience. In these moments of pause and reflection, try scanning through your five senses — take note of what you see, smell, taste, feel and hear. It is in this heightened sense of awareness and presence that the gifts in our life can be seen and experienced more deeply.
Say it out loud.
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom” – Marcel Proust. When you feel grateful for someone in your life, tell them.
So much of our lives are spent rushing from moment to moment, looking forward to what comes next. Through these practices, if you find yourself in a place of thanks and gratitude, allow yourself to linger for a few extra breaths and reflect on the shift in your perspective, attitude and overall feeling of contentment. It is in the stillness that we can more clearly see and experience the beauty of life in all its forms.