Gratitude is a Practice: Five Steps for Cultivating Your Heart

Many things will be different this Thanksgiving, because it’s 2020! The most unbelievable things have happened this year, and limiting the number of people we spend Thanksgiving with is really just a small part of it. And, staying tucked safely at home with a very few people seems like a more than reasonable response to the current rise in COVID cases nationwide.

However, this limitation can be seen as a something to be sad or even angry about, and the feeling of gratitude may be hard to muster. However, the circumstances could also be approached as an opportunity to be creative. Celebrating this holiday can be an invitation to reach deeper inside to the place which is eternally grateful and serene.  

Gratitude is not a given, but a practice that can be cultivated. It can start with being grateful for the first breath that you take in the morning when you wake up and proceed from there.

First of all, set your intention to be grateful. This could sound something like “I commit to finding three things to be grateful for everyday” or something as simple as my favorite phrase “I am joy-filled and grateful.” Take a moment and write down in your own words the intention you wish to make. Place the piece of paper by your computer, on your nightstand, on the refrigerator, or somewhere else where you can see it and read it daily.

Second, weave gratitude throughout your day. Consciously connect to gratitude and notice how it begins to permeate your day and gladden your heart. There are a number of touch points throughout the day when you can weave your intention more deeply. When you first wake up in the morning, as you’re being grateful for breathing,  remind yourself to say “thank you” for all the wonderful people, things, and events in your life that bring you joy.

Before you eat, pause to be grateful for all of the people that helped bring the food to your table, the forces of nature that made the food possible, and the means to have food on your plate. As you do your daily activities, notice all of the things that make your life easy and be grateful for things like your toothbrush, the bed you sleep in, the car you drive, the roof over your head, the couch that you it on. As you encounter the people in your life. Name them one by one and why you’re grateful. Have gratitude for the work you do and the ways it brings you meaning. And, of course, remember to be grateful for your miraculous body. No matter what judgments you might make about it, your body does amazing things every second to keep you alive.

Third, let gratitude lead the way. When unavoidable moments of stress arise, take a deep breath and remind yourself of the things in your life for which you are grateful. While some circumstances might not be what you would choose, the gratitude you create from within can connect you with a sense of peace and calm. In any situation, ask yourself, What would I do and how will I feel if I let the intention to be grateful lead the way?

Fourth, engage in 30 seconds of gratitude. Right now, take a moment to pause and bring to mind one thing that you are grateful for.  Close your eyes and place both hands over your heart center. Take a few deep breaths as you feel your connection to your gratitude and your heart. Let the gratitude and love be a healing balm that spreads throughout your body. Stay here for at least 30 seconds. You might feel a little more grounded, there might be a softening in the shoulders neck, and the breath might become a little deeper and easier.

When we have gratitude for what we have, we move into the energy of receiving even more! You can even practice saying “thank you” for the things you are calling into your life as if they are already here. Our minds and hearts are more powerful than we give them credit for.

Fifth, send your blessings to others. Take this time at Thanksgiving to cultivate your gratitude then send your blessings out to others. My favorite blessings is from the lovingkindness phrases.

May all beings be safe and protected from inner and outer harm.

May all beings be peaceful and content with things as they are.

May all beings be healthy and strong as they are capable of being.

May all beings live with joy and ease and in harmony with others.

Be safe this holiday season for yourself and others. There are so many people that are affected by our individual decisions. Despite the politicization of everything these days, it appears that wearing a mask is the most caring, ethical, thoughtful, and necessary thing you can do to help reduce the suffering in the world today. And, please, pull it up over your nose!

Happiest of holiday seasons to you. May you and yours truly be safe and grateful!