As Thanksgiving approaches we are reminded to tap into an appreciation mindset but what about the rest of the year? How do we practice gratitude on a daily basis that shifts our lives from always striving for more and better, to being content and grateful for all that already is?
In my own life, I have come to redefine gratitude as a verb despite the dictionary’s insistence that it is a noun. To me, gratitude is an active practice, a way of life. Gratitude is the process of continually catching myself falling into accomplishment mindset and redirecting my attention to an appreciation mindset. The most powerful tool I have found is a simple, daily journal-based gratitude practice.
Each morning when I drink my coffee, I write down three things I am grateful for. This practice grounds me in a gratitude mindset. The journal becomes a living archive of the people, places and experiences that inspire and nourish me.
My dad who died of terminal cancer in July was and remains a regular on my daily gratitude list. He lived in gratitude better than anyone I know. Even in his last days on this earth he expressed gratitude for his family and his friends, but more than anything, he practiced gratitude for the natural world. He recognized the trees, birds, flowers, wind, and sun. He listened to the sound of rain on the tin roof and he breathed in the smell of North Carolina summer evenings after an afternoon thunderstorm. He always stopped to carry box turtles across the road. He picked up trash everywhere he went. He connected to the natural world in a way I witness less and less as we move our attention from the fragile spider webs glittering in the first rays of sunlight to the world wide web constantly lighting our world in an artificial blue.
Thanksgiving creates an opportunity for all of us to disconnect from our devices, to reconnect with each other and the natural world, the common ground that roots us together. The earth remains our most powerful tool for setting aside our differences and uniting in shared thanks because it gives indiscriminately to all of us. Have you noticed how nature inspires connection, how it models an interconnected support system of shared resources? Have you heard of the wood wide web, the complex communication and resource allocation trees use through root and fungal networks?
When I feel disconnected, I get outside. I go on a hike. I take our dog to the quarry swimming hole. I zoom down to the coast for a weekend and ride the wind on my kite. These experiences in nature remind me where gratitude starts. Go outside. Look around you. Take it in. Tell someone what you see and how it makes you feel.
The first step to living in gratitude is stopping long enough to recognize the abundance already surrounding you. Start on the ground you stand on and then look to the people who stand beside you. This is appreciation mindset. This is living your gratitude. This is connecting on the common ground.
I am grateful to all of you for your readership and support for the Glass Top Counter Blog. Thanks to Maia Dery, a local fine art photographer, for the photos that capture North Carolina. Find out more about her photography, podcast, blog, and retreats here. I feel lucky to call North Carolina home, a state of abundant natural beauty.
What are you grateful for? I would love to see your comments of gratitude grow below.