I spotted this cardinal on a recent hike on our greenbelt. Being in nature is like a gratitude bath for me!
Growing up, our overachiever family placed a high value on competency. Often that translated into a critical mindset towards self and others, where we frequently saw the bad before the good.
This way of being, like all patterns, became habitual for many of my siblings. And as my father’s daughter and a champion of “let’s make it the best,” it’s a tendency I’ve been unraveling for years.
When you walk into a room and see your child working on a science project, greet your partner at the end of the day after a big presentation, or receive an email update about a work project, do you see what’s going “right” or immediately look for what’s going “wrong?”
Cultivating a gratitude practice has helped me to shift and see the gifts in any situation–even those that look horribly astray. An attitude of gratitude doesn’t come naturally to us. It was something I had to learn, to bring my attention and focus to and to practice, practice, practice. But I chose to do so because I know from my good friend/positive psychology researcher Dr. Christine Carter (and from first-hand experience), it’s one of the fastest ways to FEEL GOOD. And to help those around us feel good, too.
I witnessed this over the weekend while leading a women’s retreat for 60 at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. It was Saturday afternoon, the retreat was half over and I could sense some of the women experiencing a contrast between the amazing connection they were feeling at the retreat and how this compared to life at home. So we hit the pause button and took a few minutes for gratitude sharing. Within minutes the energy of the entire group had shifted. I could feel it, we all could. It was as if someone had poured liquid sunshine over our heads. We were smiling, connected, heart-centered and happy.
Three ways my family actively cultivates an attitude of gratitude include:
- Communicating from our hearts, rather than our heads: analytical criticism shuts others down, gratitude and loving kindness makes us feel more open and appreciative of one another.
- Faking it until we feel it: when we’re stuck, grumpy or feeling irritable, one of us challenges the others to share one thing we’re grateful for and we continue this “round robin” style until we’re freely sharing all the things we have to celebrate. It may feel corny at first, but try it. It works every time. I promise.
- Spreading the gratitude virus: expressing gratitude is contagious. We feed on one another. It’s like dropping a pebble in a pond. Being thankful begets thankfulness: at home, at work, at school, during carpool, on conference calls and waiting in line at the grocery store.
Voicing what we’re grateful for heightens our mood, shifts and broadens our perspective and supports us in remembering what really matters. It’s a gift that can be accessed anytime, anywhere. And it’s one I’m incredibly grateful for.
Interested in reading more about cultivating a gratitude practice? Here are two related posts from my Live Inside Out blog on this theme: A Grateful Heart and Can I Be Grateful When Things Aren’t Going My Way?
INVITE: Winter–a time of contemplation–is ideal for pausing, reflecting on what is and isn’t working in our lives and where we want to course-correct. Consider registering for one of my 2014 self-study telecourses. Powerful, inexpensive and packed with resources/tools, the audio downloads are available 24/7 for you to listen to at your convenience. Learn more: The Mother’s Guide Online Experience (available beginning Feb. 3) and New Way of Being: Learning to Go with the Flow (available beginning Feb. 10th). View all our offerings here.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by work/life balance coach/speaker, author and Career Strategists president Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal groups based on her award-winning curriculum. Her newest release is Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 11 year-old son. More on her background here.
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