This week I am filled with gratitude! For my beautiful new baby boy, for my amazingly strong wife, and for all of the people around us that have afforded us the space and the support to enjoy this magical time.
Beyond our little family bubble, the community around us are also filling up with gratitude. Whether you are Christian or not, Easter gifts us with time to share with our loved ones, we celebrate abundance and spring and maybe even get a little extra time off work.
Gratitude is the emotion of expressing appreciation for what one has, or has received. In its primary, and perhaps most familiar expression, it is a spontaneous reaction. A swelling emotion as we see our stars fall into place. Gratitude was the feeling (well, one of!) I felt when I was first handed my child, wrapped up and eyes wide open. It was the feeling I felt when the staff so diligently went about their work, and the feeling I felt for my sister-in-law as she stayed with us for the full 30 hour experience...calmy doing everything and more; sharing her own wisdom and supporting from a place that had experienced the same (not to mention routinely fetching me coffee!) It was the feeling I felt when the midwives told us my wife and child were both well and good enough to go home, albeit mixed with just the teeniest bit of apprehension!
Yet there is another dimension to gratitude that is often overlooked or underplayed. The role of gratitude as an active practice. A conscious choice to view life from a viewpoint of contentment. Increasingly, through the legwork of positive psychologists and the interest in research surrounding yoga and mindfulness based practices we are understanding the real time, and far reaching benefits of making gratitude a lifestyle choice. When we shift to this state of appreciating the present moment, of contentment, and of unattached joy, we increase the entire spectrum of our wellbeing and open up to new levels of happiness, optimism and an increased ability to relate, and share that gratefulness with others. Perhaps most wonderful of all, this active practice allows you to feel those spontaneous moments of wonder all the more deeply!
There are many many great resources about how to bring gratitude practice into your daily life, but one of our favourites is "Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier" by Robert Emmons, who simply, and skillfully opens up a world of practice that can be incorporated into every life situation.
So, how can you invite the energy of gratitude into your day?
Gratitude journalling is a popular and a powerful way to gradually, but deeply shift our focus to open up our understanding of exactly what we are grateful for. Of course, there are some obvious things that come to mind, families, friends, homes, jobs... but when you take the time to write this down it soon becomes apparent that you need to look a little deeper, and to be a little more specific about why you are grateful for those things.
Each day, make time to reflect and write down three things that you are grateful for. It can be anything, from the way your dog always comes bounding up to greet you after work, to the blend of coffee you just discovered that really hits the sweet spot... or even, the bus service that makes your day possible.
Deliberately stretch your focus, and challenge yourself to notice new things each day. And do write it down! The act of writing it creates a different kind of permanence to the emotion... plus... it opens up the wonderful opportunity to flick through your gratitude one evening when perhaps you are feeling a little low, or even just nostalgic!
Want to take it a little further?
As a social species our gratitude is often tied to our relationships. Written something you are grateful for about someone in particular? Have you ever told them that you are grateful?
Maybe now is the time to do so! Pass that gratitude on!
Not the journalling type?
Would it surprise you to hear there are actually some pretty amazing apps out there? Here is one of our personal favourites; just click HERE to sign up for your own Happify account for a whole wealth of resources on how to increase your overall wellbeing.