Step 1 - Create an Attitude of Gratitude...and the Practice to Support It!
We love the expression “Even when my head is in the tiger’s mouth, my heart is as still as the lotus blossom.” What this means to us is that there is always good and joy in life no matter how heavy, dreary, scary, worrisome, dramatic, or tragic our experiences may be. We can still find ways to uplift ourselves, strengthen ourselves, and bolster not only our resilience, but our ability to enjoy life.
As we stated in our introduction to this section, there are 7 steps in order to live a fulfilling life. Step 1 is to Create a Gratitude List. By noticing what you already have in your life that brings you joy - that you may not have given any attention to before - you can ramp up your sense of fulfillment.
Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to answer the question, what does gratitude mean to you? For this, you may want to pause, close your eyes, or grab pen and paper, and let the answer come from inside you.
For us, it means many things. It’s the feeling of appreciation or thankfulness. It’s expressing thanks to another person for an act of kindness or support. It’s “paying it forward” or “giving back” to people and organizations that have helped. It’s taking a moment, and being mindful of your surroundings and all that you have in your life. And it’s saying a prayer of thanks to whatever spiritual being you believe in.
Why have a gratitude list and practice?
We find it grounding to regularly stop for a moment and become mindful and appreciative of all the blessings that are in our lives. That is why we like the idea of copying every wish that comes true to a gratitude list; it strengthens the sense of appreciation for what comes into our lives through our wish work.
It doesn’t have to be a daunting task to develop and keep up a gratitude list and practice. Some people like to write gratitudes every day. Other people prefer to write their list periodically like every week, every two weeks, or every month. You can choose what is right for you. However frequently you choose to write down your list of gratitudes, make it a practice that you commit to and follow through. A gratitude could take the form of “I am grateful for all this in my life, and more:” and then add each thing that belongs on that list.
Forming a habit is often easier with a partner. Barbara has a “gratitude buddy” with whom she exchanges emails with almost every day. There are so many “goodies” to this: someone is reading her list, she feels a nice sort of accountability, and whenever she receives her list, it’s a memory aide. They stay connected in their daily lives even though they live across a continent. Most important, this sharing of the blessings in their lives adds up to more than 1 + 1 = 2. They are reminded almost daily of not only what they list, but all the other goodness in their lives.
Template for a Gratitude List
A gratitude can take the form of “I am grateful for all this in my life, and more:” and then you begin adding each thing that belongs on that list. We made this template that we like a lot for a gratitude list. You can copy it into a notebook, an online document, or an email if you have a buddy and please, share it freely.
Margie’s “Tail” of Gratitude
Margie waits until the evening to go through her day, reflect on all that happened, and write down what she is grateful for, capturing the surprises, large and small. For example, the other day a neighbor texted a picture to Margie of her dog, Sandy, as a tiny puppy three years ago. This made Margie immediately grateful for the friends and neighbors that she has who are sensitive to how much she loves Sandy, and would send along a picture like that some years later. It also made her aware of how a small act on her part can bring joy to others.
Next time, we will discuss Step 2 - Identify your “Buckets”. These are the areas of your life where you not only derive joy, but from which you develop your heart’s desires and your wish list.
The photo featured in this post was taken by (and is copyrighted by) Barbara J. Dickinson.