As the snow comes pouring down today, I am grateful to have a warm place to watch as it forms a white blanket over my surroundings. I am grateful to have hot and delicious tea to drink and five senses that allow me to experience it all.
I think anyone who has received a thank you note can agree that gratitude can have a major impact on how we feel about our lives and ourselves. I started my gratitude practice several years ago in an attempt to address a constant sense of lack in my life. I often felt like things weren’t enough – my actions, my ideas, the food on the table, the money in my bank account or the birthday gift I received. At times, my feelings of scarcity may have been more legitimate than others but I was failing to appreciate things that I knew I should and even wanted to. So I started to write in a gratitude journal regularly before bed. Some days I would write what I was grateful for and other days I would list things that went well in my day and why they went well. As I wrote, I would let the emotions – gratitude, joy, hope – wash over me as I held a clear image of the inspiration in my mind. This practice has helped me to make gratitude a regular part of my life and its impact continues to grow.
I truly believe in the power of gratitude to transform how we perceive our lives and this is why I started the “GratiTUBE” page on Shameless Inspiration. GratiTUBE is a place where you can declare your gratitude for others, moments, ideas or any other inspiration.
To help motivate us to use this space, I’d like to introduce you to the work of Dr. Robert Emmons, the leading gratitude research in the world. Emmons has found that gratitude positively impacts our physical, emotional and social well-being. Gratitude brings us into the present moment and affirms everything that is going right in our lives. As Emmons writes, gratitude also acknowledges “the humble dependence” that we all have on each other in this life. This reminds me of the collective humanity that Kristin Neff describes in her definition of self-compassion. It’s so important to recognize that so many of these empowering states of being (self-compassion, shamelessness, gratitude, etc) require a recognition of our connection to others rather than a comparison. I think this is a critical thing to highlight in our culture where competition and self-comparison is rampant.
Gratitude and self-compassion actually have a lot in common. For example, I think it’s easier to be grateful for help when you are self-compassionate. Have you ever resented someone for helping you when you should have been grateful? I have. I was ashamed of myself for needing help and I felt hostile rather than appreciative that the other person was able to help me. If this has happened for you, then you know this feels awful and is a useless attitude that comes from perfectionism.
Self-compassion also requires gratitude for the self. For me this has been powerful. I have used gratitude to honor everything that is going well including my resilience when faced with mistakes and challenges. I find that the thing I am most grateful for lately is, in fact, my growing self-compassion.
So join me in developing an attitude of gratitude. I believe it is an essential step on our journey to cultivating compassion (for self or others) and, ultimately, shamelessness.
Emmons has a bunch of great resources on his website.