Practicing gratitude cultivates happy and healthy lives in us.
But what if we could improve our practice by improving the things we are grateful for? Could we be happier and healthier and more abundant?
I think so. Let me explain.
A lot of the things we are grateful for can be fickle like our families, wealth, weather, job. All of them are wonderful and should be appreciated, but they can and do change all too easily, and quicker than we’d like to think.
As much as I love my family and am utterly grateful to be with them, but when we disagree and argue, it puts a damper on my gratitude, if you know what I’m saying.
And we all know that our wallets get skinnier, storms brew, and work can be work.
There are, however, things that are more constant and elemental to life that we often forget, but shouldn’t.
And if we were grateful for them, we would improve our practice, even our lives.
Interested? Good thing I came up with a list of them.
Here it is.
When was the last time you said, “Man, I am so grateful I can breathe; thank God for oxygen.” Probably hasn’t been a part of your practice. Our bodies just draw in the air automatically, and we don’t even need to heed the act one bit. But it is a gift. Our lungs work. Our body can process the oxygen as it should. And we get to draw life from the air we breathe, moment by moment, breath by breath. Give thanks for that.
Speaking of breathing, we are alive. Today we get to live, play, grow, read, hug your loved ones, eat a donut, pizza, ice cream. Ah, life! It is glorious. But if I stop to think about my practice of gratitude, I don’t think I really give thanks for it as I should. We all should. Life is a gift.
We drink and use water all of the time without a moment’s notice, even though it is something we would die without. We also get it for free from a water fountain, a tap, a hose. It’s incredible. The taste of it from the tap may vary, depending on where you live, but my point is that we have plenty of it to drink. Give thanks every time you take a sip.
Whenever our eyes flutter open each morning, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t, “Holy crap! I can still see.” But shouldn’t it be? We get to soak in the beauty of nature, art, movies, words, people, architecture, etc. Wherever we set our gaze, we can see and enjoy what we see. When we behold a beautiful vista from a hilltop to a small sky blue robin’s eggshell from a hatchling, we ought to be thankful—not just for what we see but that we can see.
Most of us get to walk, which is amazing, but we can forget that it is a blessing. Because hopping up on feet and experiencing the power of bipedal locomotion is so commonplace for us, it is easy for us to take that for granted. There are, though, too many who would love to be able to but can’t. And those of us who can walk should be immensely grateful and enjoy the fact that we get to take life one step at a time.
This might sound gross but think about it. Would you really want to go back to an outhouse? Maybe you don’t know what that is. An outhouse is a shack far from your home, before plumbing existed, where people would do their business. It’s an unheated unair-conditioned wooden box with a hole that opens to a hole in the ground. Yeah, not ideal. So the next time you sit on the porcelain throne be grateful you’re not outside in a little shack freezing your buns off.
It’s hard to be grateful for this. I know. But it is one of the most powerful agents in our life. Of course, some wrongs are so grievous we would be hard-pressed to include them here. But many of them can be (and should be) objects of our gratitude. Without our wounds, we wouldn’t be who we are today. And pain is often our greatest teacher. That is cause for being grateful for it.
Now I know that not all of us believe in God, and I’m not trying to force you one way or the other. But I do say this because it is what I believe to be true and is my greatest source in life. God is the most just, good, true, beautiful, loving person there is. His love is pure and unending. It’s unconditional. He proved it by sending his son to sacrifice himself for our guilt, shame, and wrongdoing. He was punished so that we can be healed. That is unchanging. And if there is such a person who exists and loves us so, gratitude is the only natural response.
Practicing gratitude does improve your life. And incorporating those things will better your practice.
By giving thanks for things that don’t change, you will cultivate gratitude that will be unchangeable.
It can even change your life.