About a month ago, I went to a gathering for women where they offer support and advice about being a parent and balancing one’s life, among other things. During the discussion, one woman basically said, “I feel so much avarice when I see all of the ads coming into my e-mails. They just make me want more and more things. I don’t know how to handle it.” I knew just how she felt and from the advice given around the table, so did many others. For my part, I offered that cultivating gratitude could help with overcoming bouts of avarice experienced when one is inundated with advertisements for lovely, lovely things and/or when we hear about our neighbor or best friend getting something bright, shiny and new that we can’t afford on our budget. My new friend had never considered gratitude as an antidote to envy and avarice and while we all had suggestions on how to cultivate gratitude, it occurred to me that I hadn’t actively practiced gratitude on a daily basis to fully support my recommendation. Consequently, my three-week journey began.
After a little research, I settled upon a few tools of cultivating gratitude:
A gratitude APP (Gratitude Diary)
De-cluttering and more daily awareness of my home space
Listing things that happened during my day that I was grateful for (in case I didn’t get to my Gratitude Diary)
Focusing more on complimenting than complaining
Let me tell you – I had my work cut out for me. Here are 5 things I learned about gratitude over the last few weeks.
1. Cultivating Gratitude Brings More Abundance into your Life.
I started off strong in my gratitude awareness journey. Within a day of listing what I was grateful for, the universe seemed in sync with me, immediately rewarding me for my attention. For example, people were nicer to me. Store clerks gave me discounts out of the blue. I discovered a credit on an account I had long forgotten, yielding me some quite wonderful yoga goodies. And, one day after a yoga photo shoot, unexpectedly one of my fellow yoginis offered another friend and I jewelry that she had gotten from a friend who was moving and didn’t want to carry with her. That night, I walked away with several pairs of earrings, a 14 K white gold ring and a trendy chain bracelet. Obviously, I was quite happy with my results. But, all things come to an end, or at least slow down.
So, when the bounty of physical abundance didn’t come as easily anymore, I was a bit let down. However, this slow down gave me an opportunity to look at what I already had around me. As I de-cluttered my home several times a week and took the time to care for what I already owned, I felt value in it and I didn’t feel the need to draw more in. I felt the need to honor what I already have, which gave me a sense of pride and joy. Not only that, I could also better receive the non-tangible forms of abundance that I was receiving, which I list below.
2. Gratitude Leads to Giving More.
Every day that I listed the things I was grateful for - a colleague’s compliment, my sweet dog, Trevor, or the beautiful tree-abundant neighborhood I enjoying living in - I felt more and more that I had a lot to give to others. And it wasn’t about money. It was about my ability to freely give of myself to others. I could more easily let a colleague know that I had noticed her hard work or give a friend a listening ear even though I was exhausted from fighting allergies. Even though I’ve made the decision that I really need to save money now that I’m over 40, I was delighted to join my co-workers in collecting items for the Feds Feed Family drive. Some of these things I might have done anyway, some I might have done begrudgingly, but as I thought about how rich I was in my life, in all ways, I did them all with a big heart and a smile.
3. Focusing on Gratitude Brings a Sense of Equanimity.
Much like meditation, gratitude can bring a sense of calm. I suppose it is because all of the positive thoughts keep you on that same wave length. When difficulties arise, they must be dealt with for sure, yet the way you approach them will be different because positivity about what is right in your life gives you some perspective on how to handle things that go wrong. Yes, a bad work day could do anyone in, but it doesn’t have to and it doesn’t have to last into the next day or all week if you remember 1) it doesn’t last forever and 2) there are a lot more things in your world that go right than go wrong.
4. Gratitude Leads to Better Relationships.
I don’t know about you, but when my heart is full of what I have, I tend to smile a lot and approach colleagues and people I love with openness and genuine, deep-hearted love. People tend to return that love and like a cold you want to catch, they pass it on.
5. Cultivating Gratitude is a Daily Practice.
There were days during this 3-week period that I was inexplicably depressed about my life. Nothing happened and nothing went wrong; I simply didn’t feel good. I soon discovered that like prayer, this is when I needed to cultivate gratitude the most. It’s easy to get caught up in small irritations or sudden emotions. Remembering that you have all you need in and around you and being grateful for that can help lift you above the waves of everyday turbulence. If I forgot to write in my Gratitude Diary one day – no problem! I just picked it up the next day or listed what I was grateful for right before I went to bed. This led to a better rest and beginning to the next day, where step by step, that gratitude helped me to handle my negative emotions.
Because of the many tangible and intangible gifts I received during my gratitude practice, I wanted to share these benefits with you. Also, if you want to start your own gratitude practice, you could use some of the tools that I listed above or even add: journaling or enlisting a buddy so that you both can share your gratitude lists and hold each other accountable. I really enjoyed my journey; I hope you’ll enjoy yours as well!