Oprah first introduced me to the idea of practicing gratitude.
I was in my early twenties, focused on work, bill paying, college classes and partying with friends. However, even then I desired to be a better me and at that time in my life Oprah was my life coach. When I first heard her speak about a gratitude journal and how important it was in her life, I thought, “Well, that’s a beautiful idea. I should try it.” I did…for about 5 days. I gave thanks for all the “blessings” in my life – my family (even though they drove me nuts sometimes), my ability to attend college, my friends, etc.
After giving thanks for the same things each day it became redundant and I didn’t feel like I needed to to it EVERY day, so I tried it weekly…for about two weeks, then I just stopped until the next time I heard about it and thought, “Yeah, that’s a good idea. I’m going to try doing it again.” Again, I would diligently carve time out of my day or week and write down at least 3-10 things (depending on my life circumstances at the time) for which I was grateful. Then the pressures of life would pull me away because…there wasn’t time, I’m being redundant, I wasn’t feeling grateful that day or some other reason that would keep me from taking the time to consciously BE grateful.
This is how it has gone for the last couple decades, on again, off again with some variations thrown in like comparison gratitude (something bad will happen, but I find a worse situation and “be thankful” that things aren’t as bad as they could be); or by defining problems by the ease with which they are fixed (If $5000 can fix this problem, then I really don’t have a problem), as if the lack of problems is the only reason for gratefulness; or even the “life lesson” (something goes wrong, but I give thanks for the learning opportunity). All of these are very good reasons to be thankful and my awareness of these perspectives has certainly helped me deal with the bumpy roads of life, but they didn’t necessarily help me move into a better place of being.
However, these part-time practices did allow me to understand the power of shifting my energetic focus.
I found that the real power of gratitude came from my own feelings. When I shift the focus from the aspects of a situation (working in the garden in the middle of summer) that I find difficult (it is 104 degree Fahrenheit at 11 am) to the aspects that are working smoothly (so thankful that we captured more than enough rain water through the winter to feed the garden for the entire season), then my perception of the situation shifts from one of frustration and unhappiness to a sense of peace and well being and the more peace and well-being I feel, the more gratitude I can feel and the more gratitude I feel, the more silver linings I can see. It becomes a beautiful circle of self-fulfilling perception, thought and action because I PRACTICE feeling grateful.
This practice takes practice and that is why so many leaders promote gratitude journals (Oprah Winfrey), meditating on gratitude (Deepak Chopra), or even just writing yourself a daily note (Richard Branson). While I have done all of these at one point or another, I have found that they can become “one more thing to do” in a life full of “things to do.” So, to make it easy, because gratitude should be easy, I created a “happy playlist” that I listen to, sing to and dance to, then when I begin to feel joyfulness in the doing, I will focus my thoughts on the “what is working for me right now” and very shortly my perception of my troubles begins to shift toward peace, manageability and deep thankfulness for almost everything in my life. Sometimes I forget and allow myself to get bogged down in “the struggle” but I have the experience of my past to remind me that I can move from struggle to joyful with a bit of music and mindful gratitude practice. It is truly powerful!
I asked to be the one to write this piece on gratitude was because I wanted to tell you, the person reading this right now, how very thankful I am for YOU. I am grateful that you have come to our website and taken the time to read this. I am thankful that by being here and receiving what we have to share, we may in some small or large way be a part of you creating WELL-BEING in your own life. That is no small honor and both Tamara and I treasure the opportunity. From the deepest part of our hearts, thank you so much for allowing us to join you on your health journey.
Co-creator of Heal Thyself Gardens