Join me on my 21-day experiment to road-test a felt experience of gratitude.
Gratitude has been attributed with some pretty powerful guns in the world of personal and professional transformation, and once again I find myself curious about the veracity of these claims. Is it really the magic bullet of happiness?
The underlying philosophy of Gratitude’s power is that when we focus on our lack, that’s what we notice and hence that’s what we attract, consequently we are always left wanting which leads to consuming more to fill up the perceived deficit. Conversely, when we feel grateful for what we have our focus becomes one of abundance and that’s what we attract, and because we are already abundant we consume less because there is no deficit.
So, that’s the theory but does it really work? Can practicing gratitude really reduce our consumption of stuff, food, spirituality and religion, and relationships? Can gratitude increase our contentment with our life? Perhaps even with ourselves? Can it really attract success? And if gratitude is a powerful tool for happiness, can it be learnt and practiced.
These are the sorts of questions I started to ask when I finished my experiment with love. I felt incredibly grateful for the lessons I had learnt and the practice I had established, while becoming acutely aware of the times I didn’t respond with love and I the times I didn’t feel content. Simultaneously I started to see “gratitude” everywhere. I couldn’t open my Facebook feed without one modern day guru or another blogging the importance of gratitude, my own yoga tradition sprewking gratitude and a recurring memory of an NLP teacher selling fridge magnets that said “attitude of gratitude”.
It was Christmas – a time of the year when consumerism and gluttony spreads their wings and go wild in a duet of massive proportions. At the same time I was preparing the second edition of my book for publishing as an eBook.
21-Days of Love had created an incredible level of resilience and tolerance to the vagaries of life and Christmas, and my usual Christmas depression was surprisingly somnolent. A good time to put the book out into the world again. A fevered weekend before Christmas with my partner putting the final pieces together and finally pressing “Publish” late on Sunday afternoon. Waves of relief, gratitude, happiness, jubilation and more than slight disbelief flowed with the bubbles of a bottle of Moet we had been saving for a special occasion.
What followed was an even more fevered three days of Facebooking, emailing and texting everyone I knew, had ever known, might one day know or have not yet heard of to invite them to download a free copy of my eBook to register it as a thing on Amazon. Initially it was so exciting and fun, as I started to watch the figures rise and moved to the top of my free categories in the US, UK and Australia.
And then it shifted. All the focus on figures and subscription rates etc. changed my attitude from a game to comparison, competition and stress and anxiety. Abundance and celebration became lack, and I began to think about the people who didn’t download or unsubscribed to my newsletter.
Fortunately I had my 21-Days of Love behind me and I noticed the difference. Fortunately I looked around my life and ‘saw’ it all again, with the sensation of love.
I made a decision to stop watching the figures, stop sending emails and texts and Facebook posts, and feel thankful for each copy downloaded and each message of encouragement.
Do you know what happened? My mind instantly relaxed, it felt like a physical opening in the cortex of my brain – literally. My breathing slowed and deepened, a smile slowly spread across my face and I enjoyed a beautiful Christmas with my family, once again feeling grateful for the abundance of love in my life.
Since then I have ‘played’ with gratitude and noticed that even random acts of gratitude have an impact on my life. So, let’s have a more rigorous test of the power of an Attitude of Gratitude.
Stage 1 Daily Random Acts of Gratitude.
- Get comfortable in your favourite place (you might like to light a candle but this is optional).
- Do some movement to open your chest (even rolling your shoulders is enough, first one at a time, then both together, slowly and mindfully).
- Take a few moments to become aware of your breath, allow the breath in and allow it to leave.
- Invite the out breath to lengthen.
- So, what does gratitude feel like? Take a moment to remember something for which you already feel gratitude then let the sensation of gratitude flow through your mind and body.
- When you are ready, create the intention to feel gratitude for at least one thing in your day.
- Allow the events of your day to play across the screen of your mind with this intention of gratitude in your awareness. Remember that is what you here for, not mulling over particular events or interactions, you are here to find something to thank.
- If you have had a particularly stressful day or you are dealing with difficult life circumstances it might initially be difficult to find something but stick with the intention and something will arise, even if it is as mundane as having clothes on your body.
- You may find you start a flood of gratitude or you may find that a drop is all you can manage – whatever you manage is enough.
- Gratitude practice is great to do every night before going to bed because it puts your mind into a more positive space before sleep and is very relaxing, even after a stressful day.
Stage 2 Attitude of Gratitude practice.
Another gratitude practice that I have yet to road-test consistently is to appreciate what is working in the different aspects of my life, so once I have established my Daily Random Acts of Gratitude practice, I will start a more systematic approach to gratitude. I will find something in every aspect of my life that is working.
- Gratitude for existing – each day I continue to breathe brings more opportunity live and love (“I breathe in and feel life, I breathe out and feel grateful”).
- Gratitude for the food I have eaten today – even if it wasn’t the healthiest or the most delicious or even not enough, it was food that sustained me through the day.
- Gratitude for your shelter – whatever shelter I have is still shelter.
- Gratitude for my friends and family – every interaction with another person is an opportunity for me to feel connection.
- Gratitude for my financials – this is a tricky one for me and I will focus on gratitude for the tasks that are compensated for with money and every cent that comes through my hands.
- Gratitude for my jobs – I feel grateful that each job I do is an opportunity to express my purpose and contribute to my financials.
- Gratitude for my purpose – this is another tricky one for me because sometimes my ego feels a little embarrassed by my purpose and sometimes hide from it, so I will practice feeling grateful for my purpose.
- Gratitude for the resources to fulfil my purpose – again tricky because I have a background of scarcity so I will consciously look for the moments I have expressed my purpose in my day and let flow the golden bubbles of gratitude (which me luck here, folks).
- Gratitude for success – the hardest one of all for me as biggest cloud over my parade is the belief in my own failure, so I will root through each day and find my successes! (I will, I promise).
Once again I will carry out my practice every day for 21 days, an attempt to embed the habit of a felt experience of gratitude.
Following on from the personal success of writing everyday during my 21 Days of Love, I am committing to writing every day and publishing on my website, then sharing on Facebook.
Today is Day 1, I will write tomorrow.
Thank you with love,