Gratitude. It's a practice that is the foundation of a happy life. Science has shown that it improves self-esteem, makes you more empathetic, helps you to be more resilient, and gives you an overall better sense of well-being.
I've always considered myself to be a pretty grateful person. My parents were strict proponents of saying "please" and "thank you" for everything. And, as I've matured and evolved, I now have come to the point at which I actually always mean it when I say it. I meditate on things for which I'm grateful, keep a gratitude journal, and write notes of thanks to show my appreciation to others.
However, recently, I had an inspiration that has taken my feelings of gratitude to the next level while also making me feel more connected to everyone around me.
What is it? I like to think of it as gratitude on steroids. It simply involves really reflecting on absolutely everything that went into contributing to the awesomeness of your life. It might seem glaringly obvious, but at least for me, it's something that I had previously overlooked.
Let me give you a couple of examples:
I feel appreciation for the relaxing sensation of sitting on my meditation pillow, as I rest into quiet reflection. It just feels so calm, and I'm grateful to have that positive experience on a daily basis.
I still feel grateful for that sensation, but I also reflect on the many factors that helped to bring it to fruition—the person who designed the pillow, sewed it (or designed the machinery to sew it), and delivered the pillow to my door. I'm also grateful for the person who built the sturdy floor on which I'm sitting, the guy who fixed my air conditioning the week before so I could sit in comfort, and the woman who introduced me to meditation altogether.
As I sit on my deck, I feel appreciation for the beauty of the trees that are in my view as I'm journaling.
I appreciate the trees, and how they are swaying in the wind, seeming like they are dancing just for me. I appreciate that it's a comfortable temperature for me to actually sit outside (I live in Atlanta, so that's not always a given). I appreciate the people who built my deck and the chair that I'm sitting on. I'm grateful for our landscapers who keep the common areas of my neighborhood so well-manicured. I'm thankful for the birds that are providing the beautiful soundtrack for my experience. I'm grateful for the journal I'm writing in, the technology that created the pen that allows me to write, and, come to think of it, my mom and dad for teaching me how to write in the first place.
You can see how approaching things in this way could take you down a rabbit hole of gratitude of sorts, and how this sort of exercise could go on forever. But isn't that the point?
When you think of all of the people and experiences and factors that have unknowingly conspired to get you to exactly where you are right now, it's pretty awe-inspiring. It causes you to look at the world and the people around you in an entirely new way and to have a heightened sense of appreciation for this amazing universe in which we live.
Writer William Arthur Ward wrote, "Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." If you want to transform your common days, try this simple shift, and appreciate a new sense of wonderment and excitement about life.