Spiritual Practices in Times of Crisis: Gratitude
"Gratitude is a healing balm, like the warmth of the sun.” - Tosha Silver
We could all use a healing balm and a few rays of hopeful sun today. So let's take a gentle moment together for these gifts of spirit. The gifts of healing and hope.
There is not a single one of us that has not been changed in a profound way by the dramatic shift in our world these past few months. We are bearing witness to the shared experience of this extraordinary moment in time; the twin spiritual opportunities of the pandemic and the movement for racial justice.
It's a lot to hold. It's a lot to learn and to unlearn. But don't worry, you can unrush yourself. Take a breath of light. Steady, small, loving actions are enough.
We are bound together at just this moment to awaken our loving spirits and to learn to lead our lives from a higher perspective. This is what our work has always been. What glorious opportunities we have to learn to love each other better. To take care of each other. To do small things with great love.
It's helpful to remember that our spiritual compass is not found on Instagram or on the news. It's within. It's not found on our Facebook feed or in our email. It's within. It's not found in a friend's opinion, or anyone else's for that matter. It's within. The spiritual journey is a very personal one.
So I thought it would be a perfect time to revisit our most essential spiritual tools. Together, we can commit to a daily spiritual practice and participate in the deliberate act of seeking more peace, more joy, more love, more kindness, and more connection to our highest selves and the Divine.
This offering is the first in a series: Spiritual Practices in Times of Crisis. Today's powerhouse practice is:
As you know, I view life with a glass-half-full perspective and I have long been a “gratitude person.”
Those of you who have the book, Every Day Spirit, know that gratitude is a recurring theme, and we have talked often about the practice of writing down 3 to 5 things that we are grateful for each day.
This does not mean we have to be grateful for everything that's happening in our world. But it does mean finding something to be grateful for - even in the midst of our challenges. Especially in our challenges.
Poet Maya Angelou put it this way: "The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising. Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow. Today I am blessed."
When we open our hearts in gratitude, the light of grace always follows.
And there's something else at play here.
While creating the Gratitude Journal last year for our daily practice, I discovered the depth of research revealing the extensive benefits of gratitude for mind, body and soul.
Here’s some good news about practicing gratitude.
Studies show that the list of benefits for gratitude journaling is truly compelling. For the time it takes to count our blessings, there is a proven return on our investment:
1 - Happiness. Study after study makes clear the link between practicing gratitude daily and the happiness, optimism, health, confidence and enthusiasm people feel in their lives.
Research found that men and women who define themselves as being able to lean fully into joy have one variable in common: they practice gratitude. (It's important to note this means they actually practice - as in write down gratitudes daily.)
Brother David Steindl-Rast reminds us: "It is not happiness that makes us grateful; it’s gratefulness that makes us happy.”
2 - Kindness toward partners and others. People who practiced gratitude offered more emotional support to those around them, uplifting other lives as well as their own.
3 - Better sleep. A number of studies link gratitude journaling before bed with increased hours of sleep, waking up feeling more refreshed, and more wakefulness during the day.
4 - Less depression. Several other studies have shown depression to be inversely correlated with gratitude practice, with an overall improvement in mental health.
WHY IT WORKS
* releases negative emotions by redirecting our focus from what is going wrong to what is going right,
* trains our hearts and minds to notice abundance instead of noticing what we lack,
* awakens our souls as we recognize the Divine source of the countless gifts in our lives,
* offers a new perspective - a way of seeing the world with an awareness of the magnificent blessings that surround us every day.
And it’s all right here, within our reach.
THE MAIN PRACTICE
1 - Grab your journal and a pen or pencil you love. There are lots of blank journals and gratitude journals around. Even a plain spiral notebook will do. The Every Day Spirit Gratitude Journal is here and it follows along with the Daybook. It doesn't matter what you write in - as long as the journal invites you to sit and write.
2 - Contemplate your blessings. Relax and take a deep breath. Maybe light a candle. If it's morning, think about how you feel and what you see around you. Think about the previous day and what happened since you last wrote. If it's evening, scan through the day in your heart for moments that shine.
3 - Write 3 to 5 things you are grateful for. Big things. Small things. Sincere thanks.
Pretty simple, right?
THOUGHTS AND TIPS
I checked in with some friends who keep gratitude journals and asked if they had any tips they'd like to share. I combined their journaling wisdom for you here:
* There is no right or wrong way to record your gratitudes. Allow your intuition and your heart to guide you. Relieve yourself of judgment and stress. This is only for you.
* Many write in the morning or just before bed. But if the journal is nearby during the day, you can record things as they arrive in your heart. Some write after work as part of their evening meditation. Your personal style will unfold.
* You can use bullet points, phrases separated by //, or complete sentences like an inner conversation.
* The practice is alive. It will change as you change. If you miss a few days, it's easy to pick up where you left off.
* You can repeat recurrent themes and mix them up with new gratitudes that you haven't noted before.
* It's enlightening to go back weekly, monthly or at the end of the year to read through the list. It's a sacred recording of your most precious, transcendent and treasured moments.
OTHER GRATITUDE PRACTICES
1 - Wake Up and Whisper Thank You. Do this every morning. Let it be the first thing you say. I leave a note on the nightstand, which I attached below. Feel free to pull it into your photos, print it out on a 4x6 card and leave it by the bed.
2 - Write Gratitude Notes. Express your gratitude to people in your life for small kindnesses, big favors or for their presence on the journey with you. You will both be lifted by the benefits of gratitude shared.
3 - Gratitude in Action. As you go about your day, give thanks for sights, sounds and feelings as they arise: the beautiful sky, the sweet smile, the infinite small gifts that we notice each day. Savor the moments. Make a habit of saying an internal, Thank You.
4 - Gratitude in Advance. This is the practice of writing down blessings that have not yet manifested in your life. Thank you for my new job. Thank you for my perfect health. You give thanks for the miracles that have yet to unfold. It's a powerful way to manifest your intentions and dreams for the future. (More about this on the May 14 page in the Daybook.)
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
Finding your spiritual connection, envisioning a hopeful future and ultimately being a force for good in the world doesn't magically happen because you're a good person.
It happens because you practice. And you choose what you practice. Do you want to count blessings or burdens?
Spiritual practices, like the practice of gratitude, forge new ways of looking at the world from a higher perspective and ultimately filter into everything we do and lift everyone around us.
So start today - and notice what is good, loving and kind. Recognize the beauty, the blessings and the gifts.
And give thanks.
It's simple. And it's a powerhouse practice.
Stop and wonder. What am I grateful for today?
With that one question you can lift your spirits and plant new seeds of hope.
I'm planting with you, sweet friends.
With so much love and many blessings,
The Every Day Spirit Gratitude Journal is available here. It has 5 lines for each day of the year plus sections for Word of the Month, intuitive prompts that go with the Daybook, and blank pages in the back for your hearts desires. Any blank journal or gratitude journal will be just fine. What's important is to move the practice up on your priority list! xo
Feel free to grab the printable below!