At this time of year, there is a lot of focus on gratitude. We are asked to search for things to be thankful for – even when the holiday season leaves some of us with a stronger sense of loss and grief. Finding gratitude during seemingly joyous times might feel like stepping on land mines for others.
With small practices, cultivating a mindset of gratitude is not impossible. Read on to find out some of the advice our practitioners give for those who are wanting to grow into a practice of gratitude and mindfulness for healthy moments in our lives throughout the year.
Being mindful, saying thank you, sharing a blessing, pausing for prayer; each of these are ways to show gratitude for the abundance we receive. Even in challenging times, traumatic times, acknowledging something positive can be a mental health strategy that helps in the healing process.
Liz Connor’s daughters learned this simple blessing at school and it reminds us to be grateful for the earth that sustains us – even when we feel like we are not enough, even when we are facing a hefty loss:
Blessings on the branches, blessings on the roots
Blessings on the leaves and stems and blessings on the fruit.
Liz tell us, “Gratitude can be as simple as honoring and being present to that which is in front of us, the warm sun, the ground that holds us, the rain clouds on the horizon. Teaching children to express gratitude is one of the greatest gifts we can offer them in a culture that tells them that what they have is not enough.
Joanna Macy says that gratitude is subversive. She says that “Thankfulness loosens the grip of the industrial growth society by contradicting its predominant message: that we are insufficient and inadequate… that we need more—more stuff, more money, more approval, more comfort, more entertainment.”
Martin Prectel, a teacher who studies Mayan traditions says that even when we are faced with great loss, there is an opportunity. He says simply “grief is praise”. We can honor the ones we have lost and the ways our lives have changed with our honest grief.
Taking a moment to appreciate the earth that we stand on, the people in our lives, the breath that moves through our bodies, and even that which we have lost can decrease stress this holiday season. And hopefully keep the holiday shopping in check! We already have enough. We already are enough.”
Another way to practice gratitude, Steve Forstner shares, is “connecting a daily practice of gratitude to eating through a short prayer, or grace. Religion does not need to enter the picture, however, if this does not feel aligned for you. Instead, before eating a meal try pausing and taking a deep, mindful breath while calling in gratitude.”
Here’s how to practice mindfulness at a meal:
- Pause for a moment and close your eyes if you feel comfortable.
- Cup one hand into the other and hold them towards your chest.
- Take a few deep, mindful breaths as you try to feel into your heart space.
- Think of at least one thing you have gratitude for.
“Research supports the mental health benefits of practicing gratitude, boosting mood and improving relationships, among other benefits. Gratitude journaling is an effective way to practice engaging with gratitude regularly,” Stephen Thomas says.
A basic gratitude journaling practice can involve:
- Thinking of 3 things each day that you feel grateful for. These can be large and significant, like a relationship with a loved one, or comparatively smaller and more prosaic, like a favorite pair of shoes or your morning coffee. The experience of gratitude is the same.
- Sitting with this feeling for a few minutes, ponder each of the 3 things you have chosen. Allow the feeling to permeate your body and notice the sensations. Take notes in your journal of the different ways you feel appreciation for each thing. Do this daily.
- Refer back to this journal if you are ever feeling discouraged or depressed and quickly call to mind the experience of gratitude.
Try incorporating a gratitude strategy like: acknowledging the natural elements in your environment (to remind yourself that you have enough right where you are), practicing mindfulness in connection with meals in the form or a prayer or meditation, and journaling to document your gratitude throughout your week, months and year.
Wholeness Center a variety of mental health tools to assist you. If you live in the Northern Colorado/ Ft. Collins area and would like to learn more about the innovative programs the Wholeness Center has to offer, please call 970-221-1106 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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