Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude to boost happiness

The reptilian (or caveman) mind is conditioned to be alert for danger. In that respect we haven’t changed much over millennia. This explains why our minds are like Velcro (clinging tight) for the unpleasant, mulling over and over difficulties, disputes and fears for the future, while the same mind is like Teflon (sliding off) for the pleasant, the joyous moment, a kind word. One way to increase your happiness is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

IMG_1474Here’s a mindfulness practice which can be quite soothing and which you can practice anywhere – in the doctor surgery, waiting in line at supermarket, on the bus, in a traffic jam etc.

Find 10 things to be grateful for. Using your hands as a meditative tool, use the index finger on one hand to touch the base of the outside of the thumb on the other. Trace the finger up the thumb while calling to mind the first thing to feel grateful for. Really make this come alive for you. Bring the image or situation into sharp focus and feel the gratitude/happiness or joy. Then as you slide your finger down the other side and as you transition to the index finger let go consciously of that experience, and call to mind the next reason to feel gratitude. Again fully relive and immerse yourself in the experience and notice what feelings and sensations in the body arise.

You may notice a tingling in your body elsewhere, or change in temperature of the body, or feel a smile on your face. Occasionally tears can come to the eyes. Try not to engage with thinking about any of this but merely acknowledge this is happening. As you trace you finger down to the base of each finger on that hand let go and move onto the next experience. When you have reflected on 5 reasons to be grateful, and have finished by tracing down your little finger, then swap hands and repeat on the other hand until you reach 10.

Some people find it a challenge to find 10 reasons, but persist. Consider your day, your work and the people around you. Even if your life is challenging there will be some reasons to be grateful. A kind word from a stranger, a change in the weather, the easing of some pain, a good book, film or piece of music, bird song, the air on your face, watching a child play or laugh, noticing some new shoots or blossoms, the presence of a friend or loved one.

Start small or big. Whatever you like. But find 10. (If this is really a challenge, find 5 and grow to 10)

Here’s a snapshot of mine

  1. Woke up to sunshine and no wind. Actually could feel faint warmth of sun. Spring is in the air. Lovely.
  2. Shower. Very warm and nurturing, warming my skin. New herbal shower gel felt and smelt heavenly. Felt truly blessed to feel warm and cleansed.
  3. Grateful so grateful that I live in a safe country. Said silent words of compassion and hope for refugees in Syria, Calais and everywhere.
  4. Having a wise loving caring and beautiful mother. I’m very fortunate. And must remember to tell her more often.
  5. Blessed by my 3 gorgeous girls. What wonderful strong loving independent wise young women they’ve turned out to be.
  6. My health – despite the abuses heaped on my body over the years, it’s still holding me together. Time I took more compassionate care of my only body.
  7. On that note losing 6Ibs after 5 days of mindful eating. Amazing how mindfulness attention to eating can help loose weight. (more of this in another item).
  8. My loving husband (this list in no particular order) who is patient with my eccentric ways, my different ways of being. He masks the frustration well.
  9. Our available bountiful choice of food – so healthy if we choose what’s right for our bodies. Again mindful response to food rather than reactive. Surf the urge!
  10. Music. And to those who give it to us in all it’s wonderful amazing creative and moving forms. Thank you David in particular. You were an inspiration to me.

There. Obviously not an exhaustive list, but if each day, you practice an attitude of gratitude, especially for the small stuff even if you don’t feel very happy or grateful, there is the possibility of transforming in that moment. Breath in the good. Start small and build.

As an extension exercise (you can tell I used to be a teacher can’t you) Find 5 things to commend your self for. Start with the fact you are taking the time for yourself to do this exercise. Compassion starts with self.

Live Well Love Life.