G R A T I T U D E. 

Oh it's hard sometimes friends. Can anyone relate?

It's hard to quiet the comparisons. It's hard to focus on small,  good things when it seems like all of the big things are rebelling against our preferred timelines or expectations. It is hard to live with gratitude when we are conditioned to criticize and see through a lens of "lack" or deficit rather than abundance. 

I wonder about gratitude. 

I question it's impact in my life - in the lives of my family and friends. Would I see them differently if I saw myself in a more grateful light?
I wonder if we increased our gratitude practices, if we would flourish a little more. 

Read on, I know I needed these words more deeply and desperately than I thought. 
Sometimes joy and gratitude and hope bubble up easily, unhidden. And then sometimes you have to put yourself in the path of those good things, open-hearted, flailing a little, hoping to catch the edge of something you can hold onto, just enough to sustain you for a little while.

In those flailing seasons, keeping a gratitude list really helps me—when you decide to gather up all the tiny bits of goodness you can find & hold them together in your hand, you begin—slowly, slowly—to see that goodness prevails, even in the darkness.

Our brains are remarkably designed. They are memory keepers + creativity centers. They shift and adapt and help the rest of our body to move and act. They are the home of our emotional capacities, decision making, learning, and communication. They are remarkably designed. 

When we frequently practice gratitude, there are lasting changes made in the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain linked to to learning, making decisions, etc.) and it heightens our sensitivity to future experiences of gratitude. Even though the expression of gratitude is technically a spontaneous feeling, the practice of it creates social and personal benefits; deeper relationships rooted in appreciation , along with greater resilience as individuals. 

I have been thinking about the verse in the bible that talks about loving/treating others as you do yourself. I keep coming back to the realization that if I treated others or talked to others how I treat or talk to myself, it would be far from loving or encouraging. We are so critical of our bodies and personalities. We have limited self-compassion when we make mistakes. We forget to acknowledge the exquisite qualities we possess- the unique, beautiful, exceptional parts that make us who we are. 

If we don't first express gratitude for who we are, wherever we are, it is harder to embrace people with that same type of appreciation. 

The absence of what we are looking for is an enemy to the presence of what we can already see. 
Here are some practices of gratitude that I am trying to implement. 

Start each morning with one thought of gratitude. 
A thought about yourself, your warm bed, the fact that you have a body that moves, about your family, or the weather, etc. 

Focus on presence not absence
This will create more altitude in your life; ability to see a bigger picture

Start a gratitude journal 
Do this at night before you go to bed. Do it alone or with your family or both. Growing up my mom kept a gratitude jar and would fill it with big and small things that happened throughout the year. Then on New Year's Eve, as a family, we would take turns reading each slip of paper in the jar. 

Begin weekly meetings or end of week meals with the "what went well?" question. 
You can set the tone for your co-workers, friends, and family and intentionally get them thinking about the "appreciation deserving" aspects of their week. 

Savor receiving thanks
Don't brush off a thank-you or an act of gratitude. Receiving gratitude may help you to more readily respond with gratitude. 

Express gratitude frequently. 
Choose 20 minutes once a week to sit down and write a card to someone you are grateful for. Practicing the expression of gratitude frequently creates a habit of looking for things that deserve your thankfulness. 

We react sometimes without taking time to think- our bodies often work like that when threatened or for self-preservation. Sometimes it's really hard to be grateful and that's okay. When you find yourself here, just pause- even if it's after you've reacted. Take a brief time-out and a quick inventory of these two things: 

What do I have? 
Who have I become? 

Often times we can hold both the pain or suffering we are enduring + acknowledge what we still have and express appreciation for how our journey has shaped and molded us. 

I am grateful that you are here.
I am grateful that these words are shaping my life as much as they will shape yours. 
I am grateful to be alive. 

It's your turn friends. 

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