The Goodness of Gratitude: More ways to practice mindfulness and cultivate gratitude and appreciation

By Vicki Flaherty and Megan Moyer

gratitude_capri flower_c

Image: From Monte Solaro, Capri, Italy (Photo by Vicki Flaherty)

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault

In our last post, Get Going with Mindful Mini-Habits, one of the practices we suggested was a ‘gratitude pause’, encouraging you to pause at any point in your day and think about something you are grateful for.  Grateful appreciation is cleansing. It’s like removing a film that has been covering the lens through which we see our life. Being thankful is, in fact, much more than that – it is good for you. Thank You Power by Debra Norville, for example, indicates that being thankful for what you have in your life can lead to greater optimism, acceptance, resilience, alertness, adventurousness, creativity, fitness, health, and longer life. In this post we offer more ways you can practice mindfulness to cultivate gratitude and appreciation.

What if a lasting sense of completion, an enduring feeling of contentment, was possible – simply by changing the lens through which we viewed daily life? Nothing dramatic, nothing painful – no calories expended: just a conscious alteration of the way we look at our own little corner of the world. ~Debra Norville (Thank You Power)

Awaken your appreciation

If you are following our blog series, you’ll recall we started with a technique called STOP, where you create small pauses to notice what you are thinking and feeling, physically and emotionally (Why Mindfulness Matters). These practices are about noticing.  Attention is foundational to mindfulness, so it is maintained on the present moment experience. The activities below can help awaken your appreciation by inviting you to focus intently on your experience of the moment.

  • Everyday Routines: Choose a routine activity that you do everyday(such as brushing your teeth, walking the dog, making the bed) and be awake for it; that is, pay attention to what you are doing and how you feel physically and emotionally while doing it. Notice your thoughts, feelings and sensations. Really observe yourself in the moment. You may not experience gratitude when doing this, and that is ok. The aim is to establish a solid base for appreciative attention.
  • Simple Objects:Hold an object in your hand, such as a rock, shell, egg, flower, apiece of grass or a leaf. Pick up anything that happens to be around. Notice its color, shape, texture. Notice how it feels in your hands, the thoughts it generates, and the feelings it invites. Is there anything about the object or your relationship to it that you appreciate? It’s ok if the answer is NO. Accept whatever comes without expectation or judgment.
  • Smiley Heart: Start by focusing on your breath. Then, gently bring a smile to your face. Then, put one of your hands over your heart (then maybe both). Notice any shifts in your sensations, feelings, and thoughts with each step. Sit quietly this way for as long as you wish, from a few seconds to an extended meditation practice. Notice any differences in your experience from before to after the practice.

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. ~William Arthur Ward

Grow Your Gratitude

This second set of suggested practices focuses on your orientation toward your experience in the present moment, specifically nurturing the attitude of gratitude. The practices are most impactful when done consistently, so if one of them seems like something you want to try, make a commitment and establish a system of support (a post-it with ‘PAUSE IN GRATITUDE’, do it with a partner and help each other remember, for example). You can combine these practices with breathing techniques (such as those we recommended in our previous post, Building Your Focus Muscle).

  • Grateful Beginnings & Endings: When you go to bed each night, name something from the day that you are grateful for. If you find this difficult, go beyond your experience of the day and include things you are generally appreciative of. You might identify people, places, things, feelings, activities, qualities such as friendship, home, flowers, joy, relaxing, or creativity, for example. Anything can be the object of your appreciation, even pain and mistakes that you grow from. You could also identify something you are grateful for when you awake each morning.
  • Count Your Blessings:Once a day, name 3 things that you are grateful for. Feel free to identify more than 3 things or to do it more than once a day!
  • Gratitude Journaling: Find a time each day (e.g., first thing in the morning, during lunch or another break during the day, right before bed) and write about something you are thankful for. Notice your feelings and sensations; then just start writing. Don’t worry about making it neat or getting the words right, just let the appreciation flow onto the page. You get the joy not only of the memory of the focus of your gratitude but also the experience of joy in the moment as you recall it. This mindfulness technique can help us shift how we perceive situations by shaping what we focus on.You might also consider responding to prompts such as those provided below.
 Gratitude Prompts

  • ·         What am I grateful for right now?
  • ·         In this moment, what do I love?
  • ·         What is precious to me?
  • ·         I feel good when…
  • ·         I appreciate…
  • ·         Today I enjoyed…

Deepen your understanding

As you practice gratitude, over time you may notice that your appreciation for the things you are grateful for is deeper and richer, that you are more in tune with how gratitude influences your thoughts, your feelings, and physically how you feel. We hope you experience some benefit from whichever of these practices you might choose to try.

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. ~Cicero

Content authored by Vicki Flaherty and Megan Moyer

Vicki Flahert

 

Vicki Flaherty is responsible for executive leadership development and leads the Mindfulness@IBM community. You’ll find her on LinkedIn and Twitter and over at her Leading with Intention blog.

 

 

Megan Moyer

 

 

Moyer is IBM Smarter Workforce marketing leader and corporate wellness, mindfulness and whole life yoga instructor.

 

 

We hope you find these suggested mindfulness approaches useful for creating greater awareness in your life and work. Please feel free to add a comment below to let us know how you have got on.

Find previous edition of the mindfulness blog series here

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