Yesterday I wrote about being present as a way to find a more nuanced fulfilment in life. I thought I would expand on that today by discussing our ability to find presence through gratitude.
I learned how to do this through a women’s group I attended. We were encouraged to notice small miracles and the many intricacies we see every day but take for granted. It can be a little unusual to do at first but once you start to make a habit of it, it comes more naturally. For example, I travel the Coquihalla connector once a week and used to drive there and back on autopilot. Now, I make an effort to notice the rock formations created when the glaciers slid across the mountains and left incredible cuts in the rock. I also look for all the different shades of green which appear innumerable. I love doing this because it leaves me in awe of the seemingly insignificant but all the while wonderfulness of what’s around me. Searching for opportunities to be grateful forces us to slow down and notice the good in our lives. It invites us to be present and take note of our environment and the situations we find ourselves in.
Trying to see things from an optimistic perspective can be beneficial to our outlook on life. However, it’s important not to minimize the hard times we find ourselves in either. For anyone who has been told, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” knows what I mean. It can be tough to find a positive in every situation, especially when we deal with tragedies, deaths, extreme betrayal, disease or devastating illness. For times like this, I remind myself that I have overcome the difficulty or, at least, endured it. I can also look at the support I receive from family or friends. Those are positives I can be grateful for. During my bleakest days, if I can come to a momentary place of gratitude, it helps me to catch my breath, slow things down and encourages me to press onward. When times are especially tough, finding anything (no matter how small) to be grateful for, can benefit us in making headway to better days.
Many people make lists or write in gratitude journals to encourage habitual practice of gratitude. I would like to point out that daily gratitude journaling can lead to falloff from the practice. I believe the reason for this is similar to what I discussed in my procrastination blog: resistance. When we think we have to do something, we can become resistant to it. It shouldn’t feel like a chore or another task you need to complete within the day. Noticing what you are grateful for and thinking about it in the moment is sufficient. If you are someone who likes to write it down every day and you can stick with it, great. If you cannot, don’t. We all have those moments where we want to tell others, maybe even post something on social media and that’s great too. Mostly, it’s the routine practice of intentionally looking for and mentally noting what we are grateful for that allows us to be more fully present in the moment. Whether it’s the smell of the air after it rains, the feeling of a warm embrace, the many colors of the forest or the taste of freshly baked cinnamon buns, identifying it and taking a moment to feel a sense of gratefulness helps to ground us in the present. Presence through gratitude can lead to a calmer mind and a happier heart. I invite you to search for the greatness and beauty in your day.