One of the shortest and sweetest paths to a happy and fulfilled life is the daily practice of giving thanks. From one perspective, no other single spiritual practice is more universally accepted than the idea of being consistently grateful. Not only is gratitude a fundamental element in most spiritual traditions, it is also an ongoing, reoccurring theme in most self-help, inspirational and motivationally focused books on the market. Even science is jumping on the bandwagon and has begun to study the practice of gratitude as a way to increase the health and quality of a person’s life on many levels. Simply put, being thankful 365 is the most important activity anyone can practice, at any stage of life, to create a happy, healthy and contented life.
Not sure how to go about it? Here are three simple ways to help you make this Thanksgiving more special than ever:
#1 Make a list of five people in your life that you either have never thanked for something, or haven’t thanked in a while. Did someone go out of his or her way to help and encourage you when you were younger? What about a business or another professional who went above and beyond the call of duty to serve you? Or is there is someone in your family or friendship circle that you have never “formally” thanked for everything they’ve done for you? Spend time going through all the people in your life and come up with the top five.
Once you’ve got your list, write out a simple message of gratitude to each of them. You can write it out and mail it (preferred) or send an email. Your note doesn’t have to be long or even eloquent, just sincere. Mail the card or send the email as soon as possible, and then wait and see what happens. Naturally, the person receiving your note will be pleasantly surprised. But what will probably surprise you—is that you immediately feel good just having done the exercise. Just focusing on the gifts these people brought to your life will have a deep and happy effect on you. While Thanksgiving is a great time to do this exercise, you can actually do it more regularly and experience the many benefits that sharing appreciation and practicing gratitude brings to each of us.
#2 In a book entitled, The Way of the Mystic, written by Joan Broysenko, there is a practice described that is taught by Brother David Steindl-Rast. He suggests that each night before going to sleep we acknowledge one specific thing we are grateful for—and the trick is—it must be something we’ve never included before. Joan Broysenko says that even though this is fairly easy to do for the first month, it gradually becomes more challenging. As time goes by it forces us to pay attention and look for the good in our life in all the details that make up a day. As we become more aware, we become “mindful” about the good in our life. Best of all, as the saying goes, what you focus on grows—so when you focus on the good and how much you have to be grateful for—that grows exponentially. Before you know it, your life is one continuous stream of gratitude and good.
#3 Something we all do every day is eat. However, much of the time we do it with little or no awareness of the gift that food brings to our bodies, or the benefit we take for granted of just having food to eat. While traditional spiritual prayers or blessing can do this—as long as it doesn’t become mere routine, there is a simple alternative. Described in a book entitled, Wisdom Circles by co-author Cindy Spring, is a one-word blessing. That word is: etaydacemas (ee-taw-dau-key-mas) which is a condensed version of a grateful acknowledgement for every thing and every one who participated in bringing the food to your table. It effectively sends a blessing to Mother Earth for growing the food, the earthworms that enriched the soil, the plants that were a part of the experience, the farmers who grew the food, the truckers that brought the food to market, the cook who prepared the food and every person and thing in the chain of creation. If you’ve never been attracted to the more traditional food blessings, saying this one word can remind you of the gift every meal brings to your life. Again, as you become more mindful of the details involved, you experience gratitude in a deeper way.
Gratitude for just about everything in our life is a critical element to living SMART 365. Science is proving that practicing gratitude boosts our immune system and makes us healthier on many levels. Gratitude also helps us to stay in the present moment and focus on the good that we have right now in spite of any difficulties we might be experiencing. Focusing on gratitude instantly puts our attention and our wellbeing at the doorstep of happiness, proving that it is impossible to be grateful and unhappy at the same time. Or, as author Barry Neil Kaufman says in his book Happiness is a Choice…”…gratitude then becomes the shortest of short cuts to happiness.”
“If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is “thank you,” that would suffice.”–Meister Eckhart
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” –Oprah Winfrey