"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.