How Gratitude for Five Things Changed My Life

Written by Kate Shipp, The Window Within

“What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you thanked God for today?”- unknown

I will never forget the first time I heard this quote. It was a few years ago and I was in yoga teacher training.

The instructor read us this quote as something to ponder for our practice that day. It was like someone took a huge bat and hit me upside the head. I think my breath stopped for a bit and I was taken back in my mind through all the times during that day that I silently complained about all the things wrong in my life. I was pretty sure I had not once said thank you for any of the incredible blessings I get to experience every day. If I kept going in this manner, I was going to wake up with pretty much nothing.

I remember thinking about how mad I got that sunset joy gratitudemorning over little things, like lights being left on all over the house and spilled juice on the floor. I thought, ‘Oh, how I wish I could take a vacation from this life and get away from it all for a little while’. We all go through those times and have those moments. Well, I tell you, hearing this quote created a shift in my life that I will never forget. I remember as fast as I could rattling off in my mind more ‘thank you's’ than I had probably said in months. Quickly thanking God, Universe, Mother Earth, etc for all the amazing blessings and gifts in my life. For the people, the memories, the materials things, the stuff…I mean down to the paper I was writing on and the pen I was holding in my hand. It was as if my eyes had opened to a new way of living and there was no way I was going to wake up the next day without God knowing how grateful I was for everything in my life. Clearly I had not learned the yogic practice of non-attachment yet but that’s another article.

So right then and there I decided I was going to start a gratitude practice. I began it that night. Every night I started writing in a journal at least 5 things I was grateful for from that day. Often times the list was much longer and it turned into pages of writing and I found myself going to sleep much easier and waking up the next morning with a new sense of peace and calm. I woke up looking forward to the busy day ahead and knowing I was gifted with all of it. My life began to shift and my ability to manage stress changed in beautiful ways. I learned I may need to take a pause and turn inward to connect in times of struggle and remind myself of the things I have to be thankful for at that time. I saw the positive sides of what I would have otherwise labeled as negative and found the light in what could be experienced as dark. My internal perspectives shifted and I began looking at my life with a new set of eyes.

We talk about gratitude as a feeling, as an emotion. I will suggest that our lives will truly start to shift and change when we approach gratitude as a verb, as an action.

While it is a wonderful and I will suggest a necessary practice to turn inward and feel grateful, in order to then create the positive shifts in our lives, we need to take the inward feeling and begin to share it out with the world. 

Gratitude-1aThat was the next step I knew I needed to take and one that I am continuously working on daily. Expressing gratitude out into the world through small acts of kindness and appreciation. How can we create an experience for someone else to feel the gratitude and love that we have cultivated within our hearts? A kind word to a stranger, direct eye contact and a smile as you walk by,  a sincere “thank you”,  a just because I care card written by hand and sent in the mail, a bouquet of flowers,  listening to a friend talk without needing to give advice, a warm meal dropped off next door, a long hug,  holding a door open for a mom carrying a car seat, or for a man because they, too, deserve it.

Every day we are gifted with the opportunities to create a beautiful life through experiencing the blessings and abundance that surround us always. It is when we choose to share that beauty with those around us and live in the joy of the present moment and express sincere gratitude for the gifts of each day that we truly begin to live in peace and love. Giving thanks and showing love to all those we interact with daily will slowly begin to create a ripple that will change the way we experience life. My daughter, who is now 5, said this to me when she was 3. We were lying in bed one morning and she looked at me and said, “Mom, I have a heart filled with love and I am going to splatter it all over the world.” I believe that is the best way to express gratitude daily. Fill your heart with love and go out there and in the words of Makena Shipp, splatter it all over the world.

A simple gratitude practice to get you started:

  • Every night before bed, make of list of 8 things that you are grateful for. It could be people, experiences, material things, emotions, places – anything goes. Challenge yourself to notice even the really small things.
  • After making this list, choose one item from your list and decide on how you can express gratitude to that person, situation, etc.. the next day. Take time to pause and notice how you feel after and the shifts it creates in your daily life. Reflect on that experience nightly.
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