More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
The Power of Being Thankful
by Carl Phillips,
December 19, 2020

“Expect nothing. Appreciate everything.” ~ Zen Proverb

Of all the self-development habits I have tried to instill in my life, a gratitude practice has proved to be one of the most powerful.

As a fan of trying to keep life simple, my ‘practice’ is as informal as just thinking of 1 to 3 things I am grateful for today. Big or small, they all count. I try to think of different things through the week, without putting pressure on them needing to be different. The important concept is to spend some time thinking about being grateful for something, or often someone.

Why Gratitude is Powerful
Too often in life, our mind wants to dwell on the negative. What we are missing, what we did wrong, how far we are from our goals, how we dealt with a situation in a less than optimal way. This negative bias does not serve us well. We suffer.

This can certainly be true for me. Caught up in my own expectations, I can overlook what I have in pursuit of what I think I want. This can lead me to a cycle of never really being where I am. Striving for the next and the next. Planning and plotting ahead. Not always good at connecting with the now.

This pattern can lead to me being tough on myself, if I have not achieved something I believe I should have. Or have come up short in my own mind. To be clear, sometimes I need a good talking to (by me), so this has its place. More often, I need to be a little kinder to myself and detach from my own expectations of what could or should be.

What I have found is that when we feel gratitude, true appreciation and joy for something, it’s hard to stay in a negative space. It’s also hard to rush too far forward, as we are forced to think about the now. When I think about being grateful for something (or someone), my mind clears, it focuses purely and simply on the act of being grateful.

Is this practice a curer for all ills? No, but that does not exist. What it has proved to be is a positive addition to my life. It’s made me a little more Zen and better at managing my inner talk. I believe the same can be true for anyone that takes this practice seriously.

Setting Up Your Own Practice
If you want to get started with your own practice but are not sure where to start? I encourage you to try the following.

1. Think of one thing you are grateful for
Just one is a start. One gets us out of the blocks. No pressure. No judgement.

This could be related to anything. It could be that you are thankful for a beautiful sunrise or sunset today.

It could be related to a person in your life that has done something you appreciate, or just you celebrating them being in your life.

It could be that you are extra grateful for that first cup of coffee of the day today.

Big or Small, it all counts. Just think of your one thing.

2. Make this practice a daily habit
Every day. Don’t overthink it, just commit to the act.

Initially you may struggle (even with one), that’s okay. Start from where you are. Appreciate and respect your own journey.

Do not put pressure on the one thing needing to be something big or grand. Just go with what comes. That is your one thing to be grateful for today.

Try to make it different from yesterday’s if you can but don’t overthink this either. Be steered by what pulls at you most.

3. Add (or Not)
As you establish this practice, you may wish to up the ante and start to think of 2, 3 of more things you are grateful for each day. Or perhaps, weekdays continue to be one thing and the weekends become 3 things.

You may wish to play around with different times of the day to practice. A morning or evening routine. Or perhaps, you eventually work to a morning and evening practice. Bookending your day with positivity.

Experiment keep what works, leave what does not.

B]Move with Gratitude[/B]
As you commit to this practice fully, you may notice the mindset spilling over into your outlook for the rest of the day. Problems that seemed to have no end, start to be framed as challenges to work through instead. Frustrations you have long felt, may fade into the distance. You may even feel an increased sense of positive energy surging through you.

This is it! We are learning to move with gratitude.

Yes, gratitude can be that powerful a force. It can literally transform our outlook for the better.

Are you leveraging the power of gratitude in your life?

Daniel E.

The rewards of a gratitude habit may end up being likely much more than you may have anticipated. Savoring feelings of appreciation provide for happier memories and reflections. The next time you consider giving up on gratitude, remember it can be hard from time to time (for practically anyone!), but the effort is well worth it.
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