We can practice gratitude towards ourselves by having a positive attitude about what we’re doing in the world. We all have our mental or written “to do” lists. But we typically measure ourselves by what we haven’t done and feel lousy or behind. This pattern of thinking makes us feel small or inadequate. If at the end of the day, we instead look at what we have accomplished or the kindnesses we’ve extended and let ourselves feel good about it, we have a different feeling about ourselves. Life is no longer seen as a burden that is always demanding more of us, but rather as a series of activities that engage us. What have you done today that you feel good about?
Gratitude for Our Body, Mind and Heart
Once you get the knack of looking for things to be grateful for the list is endless. I start with the fact that I’m alive. I don’t know how it happened, but here I am. Thank you, Life. The fact that I have a body—even this 60+year-old model with its aches and pains—that generally works and has served me all this time is an amazing gift. It knows how to heal cuts and bruises all by itself. It’s constantly fighting an ongoing battle with viruses and bacteria and foreign invaders without me thinking about it at all. It digests food, pumps blood, extracts oxygen from the air and filters poisons. It can enjoy the taste of ripe peaches, delight in listening to Beethoven and the Beatles, take in the sweet smell of gardenias and bay trees, feel someone’s love through their hug. What’s more, it comes with a mind that can think creative thoughts, crack jokes, reflect on philosophical questions and be aware of itself. And in this mind-body process called James is the capacity to care for another’s pain, delight in their joy, feel and express my love and be touched by the world around me. Wow!
Gratitude towards ourselves can extend to acknowledging and appreciating our unique gifts—for example, your intelligence, your caring, your unique personality. This helps to more fully embody these qualities. If you overlook or take them for granted, the doubting mind is one thought away. I can’t do this. Then not only will we be limited by doubt, but the world will be deprived of what we have to offer. Growing up very shy, I didn’t think I had anything to say or if I did, that it wasn’t good enough. The thought of people’s eyes on me would expose me and all my flaws. Learning to trust my capacities was a long process. As I more appreciated what life had given me, I couldn’t deny that fact that I had everything I needed. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t have sufficient kindness or I lacked sincere dedication to wake up spiritually.
As part of your gratitude practice, you might consider writing a thank you letter to yourself. Reflect on how you’ve navigated all the dark passages and learned all the important lessons along the way that made you who you are. Extend gratitude towards life for giving you just the lessons you needed to learn. But also to yourself or that part of yourself which somehow through all the fear and confusion has been able to hear a pull towards goodness.
Having your gratitude radar out is the way to actively incline the mind to look for what’s good in your life. What would life would be without music? Or colors. Or books. Or good drinking water. Or earthworms to till the soil and help things grow. Once we start looking for blessings in our lives we begin to see them everywhere. M.J. Ryan says, “Gratitude is like a flashlight. It lights up what is already there. You don’t necessarily have anything more or different, but suddenly you can actually see what is. And because you can see, you no longer take it for granted.” Blessings come in all different flavors and expressions. It’s eye-opening to see all the things we can be grateful for once our radar is out for them. And it makes life richer by motivating us to be present for all the goodness inside and around us.