04 May Gratitude
For many of us, a conscious cultivation of gratitude has become a way of life. Recently I started to pause before eating. I take 5 conscious breaths and I notice that spontaneously gratitude is always here with me and I often begin offering simple statements of thanks. I might say, “thank you body,” “thank you for this sustenance,” “thanks to the gardeners,” often referring to my husband. These short prayers aren’t elaborate, they don’t necessarily hit every point, but I love that they are so immediate, so paired down and essential.
When I do this, I notice also my body relaxing. This is not necessarily my agenda but I do know it is vey beneficial to my health. Pausing like this before eating can help us shift out of our driven, sympathetic nervous system and into our parasympathetic nervous system. This is the optimal mode for resting and digesting and can contribute to our bodies being able to produce adequate digestive enzymes and bile. This, in turn, helps us get the most nutrition out of our food and also helps prevent digestive trouble that results when we don’t have enough enzymes to break down our food.
If undigested food lingers in the digestive tract it can begin to ferment and actually become food for the less savory bacteria (potentially harmful) that share our gut with the friendly bunch. This in turn could lead to the “bad” gut bacteria thriving and diminishing the space available for the beneficial bacteria. We really want our friendly bacteria to have lots of space and good conditions because they help so much with our digestion, make some of our vitamins, help fight pathogens, and more.
But back to gratitude!
Our brains evolved to not spend our precious energy noticing things that are not threats to us so that we can be available to notice those things that are threats and thereby maximize our chances for survival. A downside to this process is that we can become kind of numb to everyday experiences that are completely delicious and wonderful. By practicing noticing the small, inconsequential delights in our lives, we can see how many lovely moments there are to celebrate throughout our days. Gratitude can then arise for super simple pleasures like watching the steam rise off the just poured tea, or being present to smell the aroma of your food, or taking a moment to feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. There are so many of these precious experiences throughout our days, yet without deliberate attention, our programming will have us gloss right over so many opportunities to feel gratitude.
The more we notice, the more we will have a tendency to notice more often. This totally enhances how we experience our lives and we can spend less time hoping some grand satisfaction will come our way and rest within the beauty and joy already here.
Some simple practices to help us remember to notice what we are grateful for in our lives include beginning the day with a reflection of three things we easily feel grateful for and/or ending the day this same way. Some people keep a gratitude journal and use their writing time to focus on appreciating their life.
Finding ways throughout the day to make conscious contact with a sense of gratitude that really allows you to feel warmth within your heart will most certainly enhance your experience of your life.
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Thank and Grow Rich by Pam Grout which is a fun and easy read and very supportive of developing a daily gratitude practice. She goes into lots of details about t
he benefits of cultivating an appreciative life perspective and offers simple practices and exercises to help you playfully dive in.
With gratitude for you,