We aren’t hardwired to be grateful, but gratefulness is something that we can cultivate. My teacher Raghunath Cappo says “if you don’t like something, change your mind.” If you are thinking of something or someone with a negative trait, switch your perspective to something positive about the situation. Begin to notice how much energy you were spending on negative thoughts and actions… And then make a decision to stop! What can you learn from the situation? When you look back, what will you begrateful for? You’ll begin to notice how you create your reality.
Like anything else, you have to find a way that works for you to make gratitude a habit, and eventually your natural state of mind. Keep a gratitude journal. When keeping a daily gratitude journal, people begin to feel a greater sense of connectedness to the world. Thankfulness may launch a positive cycle in which friendships bring joy, which gives you more to be grateful for, which fortifies your friendships once again. Meditate. If journaling isn’t your style, spend 5-10 minutes thinking about what you are grateful for. Get comfortable, close your eyes and take a moment to reflect, and send thanks and love to:
- 3 family members
- 3 friends
- 3 teachers
- Someone you’ve had a difficult relationship with. What have you learned about yourself from this relationship? How has this experience made you a better person?
What has someone done for you recently that you’re grateful for? What have you done for someone else recently that they are grateful for? You can send gratefulness to pets, plants, a delicious plate of food, the sun, or anything that inspires you! Breathe into the sensation that results, helping it expand. Feel your body relax into that sensation. If these sound hokey or silly, do something concrete and specific for someone else. College students who received money to spend on someone else reported being in a better mood throughout the day than those who spent it on themselves. Give to charity, whether it’s your time, talent, or money. It will make you feel more connected to the causes that speak to you.
If all of this isn’t working, like my dance teacher used to say, fake it till you make it! Think of the kindest person you know. What can you learn from them? Channel them next time you’re in a difficult situation. Smile with your whole face when you see someone and say hello, even when you don’t feel like it. Just the action of smiling tricks your body into thinking it’s happy. Give a compliment. Make it genuine and specific, and even thinking about what to say in that moment will cultivate gratitude. As we cultivate gratitude within ourselves and share it with others, over time our perspective shifts. What are you thankful for in this moment?
AUTHOR: Melini Seri Jesudason