If you’re stuck in a rut or are feeling overwhelmed by life’s daily challenges, or feel like your day resembles the movie Groundhog Day, where hours blur into days and weeks blur into months, gratitude and mindfulness can help to transport you into a much more joyful world.
Gratitude allows you to notice your blessings and create perspective about life’s challenges. Mindfulness helps you handle tough times with grace, acceptance and surrender. Together these practices allow us to function at an elevated level compared to people who don’t practise gratitude and mindfulness. The common description I hear from friends and colleagues who have no mindfulness practice is that they feel “stuck” and are going through the motions, like a hamster on a treadmill.
The benefits of practicing gratitude:
A few years ago, American author AJ Jacobs decided to thank everyone who was involved in making his morning cup of coffee. It became a task of thanking thousands of people across all walks of life from all over the world, over a series of months.
He discovered that his simple morning cup of coffee would not have been possible without the contribution of thousands of people. He started with the barista and owner of his favourite coffee shop, and the truck driver who delivered the beans. The delivery company couldn’t do their job if there were no roads, including those who built them and tarred them – people he took for granted when he picked up his cup of coffee every morning.
In his journey of thanking thousands of people, he also went on a journey of gratitude.
The most interesting thing about gratitude is that it’s more than just appreciation – it takes you one step further than just appreciating the goodness in your life.
Gratitude is acknowledging that the source of this goodness is not only down to our hard work or dedication, but also down other people’s contribution.
In thanking all the people who had contributed to his cup of coffee, AJ found that a combined effort from an enormous amount of people was required, just to make one delicious cup of coffee!
After he completed his gratitude journey, he realised the “astounding interconnectedness of our world,” while his journey also affected his self-admitted negative thinking tendency. He said that his gratitude project allowed him “to focus on the hundreds of things that go right every day, as opposed to the three or four that go wrong.”
This five-minute gratitude meditation can be focused on a person, place or even a meal. I especially like doing it when someone is annoying me, as it shifts my negative energy about that person.
- Take a seat. Relax your face, draw your shoulders down away from your ears, loosen your jaw, relax your gaze and close your eyes. Take five to ten deep breaths.
- Think of a person you’re grateful for and picture them in your mind. Let gratitude fill your heart and say thank you for that person (notice their facial expression). Observe what they’re wearing and watch their mannerisms. Think of all their positive qualities and feel deep gratitude for the impact they’ve had in your life.
- Think of a place that you loved visiting. For me, it’s always the bush and the silence there. Listen to the sounds in your head, imagine how it would smell and feel the weather on your skin.
- Think of a favourite meal and see it clearly in your mind. Mine is a pasta dish we had on the Italian island of Capri for my very good friend’s fortieth birthday. It was the most delicious meal I’ve ever tasted. I can still taste the basil, the al dente pasta and the perfect flavours melting in my mouth.
Excerpted from Mindfulness: How to Stay Sane in an Insane World by Helen Nicholson.
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