Four Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude and Mindfulness Daily
Incorporating behaviors to help ground you, free you and revitalize you
Let me be clear: It is not my intent to present myself as a “teacher” or “mentor” in this sector, nor is it my wish to pose as a thought leader in the realm of conversations covering gratitude and mindfulness. However, it is absolutely my intent to share with you what I have personally gained and experienced in recent years, journeying towards achievement of inner tranquility and emotional enlightenment all while balancing hectic social calendars, fitness goals, professional responsibilities, creative desires, personal growth, spiritual expansion, and the ability to answer to the callings of my soul.
My hope is that my words might form a connection for you, or that they may interest and inspire you, and most importantly, be of value to you.
In attempting to tame what initially appeared (and well, sometimes continues to appear) as a monstrous task in the name of financial, romantic and spiritual success, I have come to rely on these four immensely helpful habits and exercises. Through endless solo sojourns, intense journaling, hours-long conversations with both loved ones and strangers, flying through pages of inspirational literature and exploring an abundance of uncanny new activities, I’ve found myself returning to these four behaviors, time and again, as successful conduits to a higher state of being.
If you’ll allow me to, I would love to share them with you as the reader, with the hope that they have the same positive impact on your days, as well as your long-term outlook on life.
ONE: A Note of Thanks… Every. Day.
I am a firm believer in the power of transcription. I may not always understand my own thoughts at first but, when I lay my thoughts down on paper, I am able to “see” them more clearly, as if the lens into my own mind were adjusted finally for clarity. When we write things down, it gives us the opportunity to slow our thoughts and reflect on each item we are transcribing. For me, writing down a thought not only allows me to “see” more clearly but, I can “feel” it more concretely as well. Having my spontaneous, wild, runaway thoughts lassoed in and captured in symbols on paper creates a sense of evolution in thought: I think, I see, I feel, I understand. While this is an exercise that can be beneficial when applied to various endeavors, I always feel most rewarded when I use this exercise to speak my gratitude.
I can think, at any time during my day, “Wow, I had a great day!” But if I take the time to write this down, it causes me to reflect on all of the tiny factors that occurred in sequence, resulting in my successful day, and I am then acutely aware of how grateful I am for each of those small, seemingly insignificant things.
Most importantly, I found that if I routinely carved out but a mere three (3) minutes of my morning, every morning between the moment I wake up and the moment I begin my duties for the day, to write a brief one or two-sentence thank you note for ONE thing I am grateful for in that very moment without any forethought, I’m able to elevate my mood enough to fuel my entire morning. For example, I arrive at my office, I sit down at my desk, and before I do a single thing, I tear off a Post-It note and write a “thank you” for whatever strikes a note of gratitude in my heart. I tri-fold this small piece of paper, and stick it into a large mug on the corner of my desk which I have ordained my “Gratitude Mug”. I started doing this two days in a row, three days in a row, and soon it became my daily morning habit.
The act of committing to speak only gratitude, entirely in the present moment, on a daily basis, can serve as a powerful form of meditation which will set the course for your day. By developing a habit such as this one, you’ll see that at the end of your year, you’ll be able to empty out your own Gratitude Mug (and this can be any storage space that you deem safe and sacred), to revel in the abundance of gratitude that you have now made tangible throughout the year.
TWO: Sweat it Out — Plank in prayer!
People pray and say thanks at all times, in all forums, in all conditions and all languages. I love that gratitude, and hope, and love are all languages that can be spoken in any circumstance. I try to embrace this, and I try to remember to use any opportunity I receive to connect with my higher self and speak gratitude. One of the ways I have found to do this, is to incorporate gratitude into my fitness routines. While I am focusing on physical fitness, I am already in a “high performance space” so I find it even easier and more conducive to speaking gratitude.
I am of the belief that incorporating fitness (in any form, at any level) is the ultimate way to live out your gratitude. Through celebrating this vessel you were granted (without ever having asked for it) for your soul to live in and navigate this life with, you are proving your thankfulness for your greatest blessing in life: your health and your physical power, the shelter in which your greatness resides. We should never, ever forget this.
While the significance of the role that fitness plays in our path towards overall success warrants another individual posting altogether (forthcoming), I would still like to take this opportunity to remind you of what I remind myself of every day: It is obvious and well known that when you feel good (truly feel good inside) with your inner functions operating at the highest level, you will also perform at your highest level in all areas of life. To incorporate mental and physical fitness is to prolong and master our greatness. With that being said, try saying “thank you” WHILE you sweat!
As an example, a common time that I take up this practice is after I’ve finished my workout and before I’ve started my stretching session. During this cool down period, I will either jog for three (3) minutes or hold a plank for one (1) minute. As I’m doing either of these exercises, I use this time to list every single thing about my current circumstance that I am grateful for, all of the things that have allowed me to perform in this circumstance (that being an intense display of physical fitness), as well as everything in my days, weeks, months, years, life that I am grateful for. Only after I have said thanks for everything I can think of can I rest, even if the originally allotted cool down time has expired. Mine usually sounds like this: “Thank you for my power. Thank you for my endurance. Thank you for my agility. Thank you for my will. Thank you for my flexibility. Thank you for my resilience. Thank you for blessing me with longevity. Thank you for watching over me. Thank you for watching over my family. Thank you for watching over our homes. Thank you for granting us peace, safety, happiness and health…” so on and so forth as the seconds pass.
I’ve found that when I combine fitness with gratitude, I am truly operating at a peak state of mindfulness. I challenge you to sweat out your gratitude. I challenge you to a plank-and-pray.
THREE: CHERISH your TROUBLES.
People often forget that darkness is also a gift. With all of the obstacles I have seen, I have tried to embrace and count each as my blessings because ultimately, that is what they are, only dressed in disguise. We can, and should, allow ourselves to get into the habit of considering all of our troubles (all trips and downfalls along the way), to be the necessary scraps of tinder needed to fuel our fires.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed or outnumbered by things going wrong in the moment, I’ve turned to recalling my past troubles up until the present moment. This includes how that particular trouble caused me to question myself (my beliefs and my actions) and what I learned from those troubles regardless of whether or not I triumphed. By either talking through it out loud, or writing it down, I start noting my gratitude for my troubles in list format. An example of a recent “trouble” of mine recalled in the exercise sounds like this: “Thank you, Universe, for bringing this relationship to an end. You tested my patience, you tested my emotional strength, you tested the lengths I would go to prove my loyalty, and you made me question my dignity. You have taught me that denying self-worth is a crime. I have learned that I deserve to be loved for my independence, rather than shamed for forgetting my place.”
When I’m facing tough decisions that need to be made, and I find I’m stunted due to either self-pity or avoidance of pain, I like to go through a quick mental exercise to rid my self-pity, and prep myself for forward momentum. I like to imagine myself donning a full suit of armor (helmet, sword and all), and open myself (my mental state, really) to receive the onslaught of arrows (or whatever deadly purveyors of pain) are aimed at me by my enemies (enemies being whichever current difficulties are causing me the most grief at the time). I then imagine pain, all kinds of pain, how it will feel, and how I will cringe. Then I actually physically take in three quick but deep breaths, and imagine drawing my sword from its sheath and step heart-first into battle.
This may not work for you. Perhaps this imagery is too violent. But the message can remain the same: The troubles that come are a challenge to step forward. As we know, we always either win or we learn. By itemizing each of your troubles and appreciating them for what they are and what they’ve taught you, you’ll come to see that you are more much more prepared and equipped than you thought you were to make that tough decision, or communicate your pain, or acknowledge confusing emotions; whatever it is that is debilitating you in the moment.
I have grown to cherish each and every one of my troubles because my most powerful lessons have come wrapped in these troubles. I’ve come to realize how important it is to declare thanks even for the negativity present in life. These are behaviors that can be the winds which will fan your flames. For each obstacle we have endured, we have either triumphed over it, or earned a valuable new lesson that now serves as a new tool in our tool box. Say thank you, and pray that the Universe continues to send more lessons your way.
FOUR: Your Sunday Success List
Celebration in life is sorely underestimated. It is of paramount importance that we celebrate ourselves and our progress/achievements in a consistent manner. We know we should embrace our downfalls in order to continuously evolve, but we should document and recall our successes along the way as well. This way, we can a) remember why we are doing what we’re doing in the first place, and b) serve ourselves healthy doses of much needed self-affirmation.
An easy way to get into the habit of routinely celebrating our achievements — no matter how small — is to sit down every Sunday evening and list all of the goals you have reached throughout the week, or any other accomplishments achieved. Remember, no achievement is too small to make it on to your Sunday Success List. If an endeavor was successfully achieved, write it on your list.
Once you have your accomplishments for the week down on paper, you’ll 1) realize how you have spent your time during the week, 2) where your focus lies, and 3) that you most likely have accomplished much more than you thought you did. Remember, even (and perhaps most importantly) our small successes must be celebrated. These small successes, when achieved and celebrated in succession, will lead us right to our great and powerful triumphs. Try it out. “I avoided eating refined sugar for an entire 24 hours.” Boom. One successful accomplishment down on the list.
After identifying, acknowledging and investigating certain emotions, I’ve found that if and when I fall into a place of feeling sorely misunderstood, lonely, or resenting all things external, it’s because I am not in a mindful state. These negative feelings blossom when I am being mindless. And by mindless, I mean when I have lost my mind to all the places it should not be, because they are places of decay.
These activities and behaviors have helped me re-shape any feelings of being “lost”, and redirect them to a place that is calm, comforting, and ultimately powerful. These are the behaviors that have allowed me to act from a place of strength rather than default to feeding my neuroses. Tiny changes. Huge impact.
When I sit down and speak thanks for everything in my life that is already available to me (people, experiences, resources, etc.), I find that my greatest joy in this exercise is saying a special thank you specifically for possessing the ability to improve upon any of these factors at any moment. I hope that within these suggestions, you’ve found something that you can relate to, that you can connect with, and hopefully offers strength and comfort to you. And most of all, I hope that in these actionable recommendations, you find some value. As we do in the solo travelers community, when I stumble upon something valuable, I share it, with the hope that every traveler makes it to their destinations safe and happy. After all, we’re all in this together, right?