Let's do an honesty check right out of the gate: how many of you have rolled your eyes at #gratitude? I know I have. And then I catch myself, because it's a shame to miss out on the true power of gratitude. There's a reason that gratitude has moved into mainstream vernacular, and it's because we know that it contributes to greater happiness. So why are some of us so quick to judge the practice of gratitude?
I suspect why so many of us are or have been jaded by gratitude is because we're experiencing it purely intellectually. We look at our world and identify the things for which we believe we should be grateful. Our health. Our home. Our family. We dutifully jot these things down in a gratitude journal and move on with our day, and we wonder why we aren't happier. It's not that we aren't grateful for these things, but rather that we aren't pausing to appreciate them at a deeper level.
Truthfully, the reason I rolled my eyes for years was because I wasn't actually experiencing gratitude. I was stuck in the mechanical documentation of gratitude. Gratitude is at its most powerful when we go beyond intellectually identifying what we are grateful for. In fact, you might argue that when gratitude remains intellectual, you are not truly experiencing it. True gratitude is a feeling, emotionally, energetically and physically.
When was the last time you felt gratitude, and do you know what it feels like for you? Is it a flush of warmth in your heart, a flooding of energy throughout your entire being, the release of muscle tension in your chest space, or something else entirely? Learning to seek inner gratitude cues can change your gratitude practice forever.
Here's an exercise to connect with the feeling of gratitude: First, find a quiet space and a few minutes of free time. Think of something for which you feel incredibly grateful, something that you never doubt and often think about. Now that you've got in mind, focus your attention intently on whatever it is. Really hold it in your awareness. Some will find it helpful to visualize it or replay an experience of it. As you do this, notice what's happening inside you. What physical sensations do you notice? Where are they and what is their intensity? What is your emotional response? What happens to your energy?
Once you're clearer on what gratitude feels like within you, seek out some or all of these feelings and sensations again and again whenever you are practicing gratitude. Focus on the feeling response versus your intellectual response, for it is staying in this emotional, energetic and physical state that will allow you to reap the benefits of gratitude.
Go forth and practice #gratitude.