As we move into the month of October and when we traditionally join together to celebrate Thanksgiving; I have been contemplating ways that I could shift my idea of practicing gratitude beyond this one tradition and expand my feelings of gratitude especially during these challenging times. Just a thought… if we could all practice gratitude in a more consistent way, how could the benefits extend beyond our own lives and into our communities?
Here are a few simple gratitude practices that I have considered…
Do you keep a gratitude journal? This is a simple book just to record your thoughts and feelings of gratitude. It can be elaborate as a daily journal with journal prompts for writing. Or, an ongoing list to record single thought or items of gratitude. I have a gratitude journal that I write a few lines into after or before meditation. My journal has been ongoing for years at varied consistency. It is, however, a journal that I cherish and I love to flip through the pages and see what stayed consistent and what has changed over the years.
Here are a few gratitude journals prompts if you would like a few suggestions…
What have you been given that you’re grateful for?
What’s something or someone that makes you feel safe?
What mistake or failure are you grateful for?
Who made you smile in the past 24 hours and why?
What is your favorite part of your daily routine?
Describe a recent time when you truly felt at peace.
Giving Thanks Before Meals
The practice of giving thanks in the form of grace before meals is still a strong foundation in many homes. Our family has not practiced a formal grace before meals but we have incorporated a shared gratitude practice before we eat together. This has been a tradition that we started when our children were quite young and we still practice today. Before we eat, we go around the table and share something that we are grateful for in our day. It has been such a lovely tradition to hear from our children as they grew into teens and now adults, how gratitude has shaped each of their days. Some families practice a similar tradition called Rose, Thorn, and Bud. The “Rose” is a highlight, success, or small win of the day. The “Thorn” is a challenge or something we could use more support with. And the “Bud” are new ideas or something that you are looking forward to in the coming days or weeks.
I love these practices either for yourself in your journal or shared among family and friends before each meal.
Writing Thank You Letters
An old fashioned thank you note is still a touching way to connect and express gratitude. When is the last time you sat down and penned a handwritten note of thanks to a friend, family member, teacher, or stranger? Expressing how their kindness impacted your life is a gift we should not keep to ourselves!
For another twist on the idea, try writing yourself a letter. Write words of encouragement, appreciation, and hope for the future. Notice how it feels to write and receive these special notes.
Uplift Your Community
We receive so much support from our community, town, province, and country (whether we realize or not). Here are some ways that we can offer thanks and reciprocate the support.
- Volunteer to help in our schools and hospitals
- Donate funds to a local charity
- Help a neighbor with yard work, delivering groceries, or sharing meals
- Smile as you pass people on the street, waiting in line, or while you are out and about
Appreciate your body
When we practice shivasana or a mindful body scan we move through our body with our awareness to experience our body and breath at the moment. Sometimes we expand this scan to invite softness into the body. I love the idea of practicing a body scan of appreciation!
Next time you practice shivasana, try thanking each part of your body.
“Thank you eyes for allowing me to see the beautiful fall colours today.”
“Thank you lungs for taking each new breath. You work hard for me and I appreciate you.”
“Thank you heart for every beat that you take. You are my life source!”. Try it out!
Loving Kindness Meditation
This is a meditation of care, concern, tenderness, loving kindness, friendship–a feeling of warmth for oneself and others. The practice is the softening of the mind and heart, an opening to deeper and deeper levels of the feeling of kindness, of pure love.
When times are difficult, this practice can be challenging but it is often the type of meditation that we need. It does take time to build a loving-kindness muscle. If you are interested in learning more, I would suggest this book by Sharon Salzberg.
Our own CSY teacher, Natalie Suhanic has shared a Metta (Loving Kindness) Meditation in our CSY On-Demand video library.
Gratitude for our Earth and our World Wide Community
Living our days on this shared earth without gratitude for its bounty is a shame and a mistake.
We are interconnected and this is a strength and resource for all to share. If there was ever a time to work on our interconnectedness, it is now. Consider the African philosophy of “ubuntu” — a concept in which your sense of self is shaped by your relationships with other people. It’s a way of living that begins with the premise that “I am” only because “we are.”
Ubuntu is a beautiful way of living that is filled with gratitude, appreciation, acceptance, and empathy.