Gratitude means having an appreciation for life in the present moment. It’s counting our blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging the abundance already here. When we are truly thankful for what we already have and content with what is – this is enough. We tend to take for granted all the good that is already in our lives. All too often, we hold out for the big achievements before allowing ourselves to be truly happy. It can be all too easy to fall into the trap of always wanting more and never allowing ourselves to be satisfied and content with what is. It’s as if we believe that life owes us something other than the greatest gift of the present. This mindset of lack and never enough can be a painful way to live, and is a surefire way to keep oneself just short of real contentment. This limited mindset is not in service to us and living in this way is a superficial form of happiness.
Most of us have a story about how our lives “should” be unfolding, and when this story clashes with reality, this creates discontentment. This discontentment is the outcome of placing our own mental projections onto how we believe life should be. There is a beauty in being able to recognize that life is simply unfolding and when we resist what is by placing our own demands on life, we create our own unhappiness. This type of denial and resistance of life as it’s happening in the now creates suffering. This may take the form of denying a reality that one feels afraid to face or may even look like an avoidance of feeling certain emotions. When we habitually focus on what’s not going right, we miss out on the good in our lives. On the most simplistic and basic level, the good is where life is, in the here and now.
The more we shift out of a mindset of never enough and a resistance to life and instead begin to adopt an attitude of thanksgiving, the “more” we find that we receive. Gratitude is often a mental acknowledgement of everything that is going well in our lives, and certainly this is important and valid on its own. However, there is a thankfulness that runs much deeper. This type of gratitude is a deep sense of our very presence and our sense of “being-ness” or aliveness. This is simply just the natural feeling ‘I am’, the sense of existence that is always present when we are not entangled with thinking about the past and future. We can access our natural being-ness anytime, because it’s always here, underneath the noise of the mind. When we are able to find the space between thoughts, there is a natural peace and contentment flowing within. As we become more attuned to this sense of aliveness, true gratitude starts to emerge automatically. Through being fully present with life as it’s unfolding now and recognizing our very presence, there is a felt sense of appreciation for all that is.
So in this way, true gratitude is powerful and transformative. We miss the natural wonderful-ness of life when we are arguing with the present or resisting what is. Being present with life and having a deep acceptance, allows us to find peace even in the midst of difficult situations and allows our choices to be guided from an honest and grounded place. In fact, when we have the maturity to accept the present moment with a heart of gratitude, we discover that peace naturally arises.
Each day it’s important to appreciate this gift of being alive. There are many ways to practice gratitude and acceptance. You might start with keeping a daily gratitude journal and write in it throughout the day or as you go through the day. You can become more aware of all the gifts, joyful moments and love in your life. You might notice the good that has come out of painful events in your life and start to see the grace and blessings in even the deeply challenging experiences.
One of my favorite ways to practice gratitude is to get into the habit of saying “thank you”. This is a very simple practice and can even be a form of prayer for some. On a basic level, one can even acknowledge and give thanks to God or life for their senses and being able to appreciate life so fully, for the breath and for the joy of family and friendship. We can offer thanks for the beautiful things, and, even the ugly things. We can feel gratitude for the small acts of kindness given or received, for the warmth of the sun, the sound of rain and the beauty of a flower. We can say thank you to existence and to the creative power of the universe, to the deeper sense of being that is always here. All of this provides a simple but powerful way to add so much beauty, strength and joy to your life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Article by Stacy Hall, LPC