Gratitude Practice

It is that time of year again! A time when we are encouraged to reflect on our gifts … to contemplate on our lives — past, present and future — through the lens of thankfulness, appreciation, and gratitude. Taking stock of the good in our lives, even that goodness that has been ushered in on the arm of difficulty or pain. All the moments just as they are … and finding appreciation for the richness of this wild life. 

I have had a gratitude practice for a long time. It isn’t anything formal anymore … no gratitude journaling or lists or daily reflections, though I maintained those types of practices consistently for a good while in the beginning. It has evolved into more of a way that I see the world … some may call it making meaning, and others may say what I do is less about gratitude and more about a general attitude of acceptance or surrender. Whatever we want to call it, I know that this lens of gratitude colors everything I do, and it has brought with it many moments of joy and abundance. 

That’s what happens when we practice gratitude, you know. Things matter more, in a good way. And in a weird way they matter less in a good way, too. Like my gratitude for the mini-sized peanut butter cup that my daughter left on the counter for me post-Halloween … one small savored bite of pure joy and a feeling of being loved that made an enormous difference in an otherwise stressful day … a feeling that dwarfed the rest of the difficulties I faced that day and in some way made them all worth it. It mattered … I mattered … gratitude matters. 

So what does my gratitude practice actually look like? Like with the special sweet treat from my kiddo, it starts with noticing something ordinary … anything really … a conversation, an event, even something that is always there that you don’t often pay mind to (like that tree in your yard or the friendly cashier at your local market). And of course the next and most critical step is the sacred pause — it’s where I stop and notice the gifts of that moment, the feeling of connection or the reminder I am loved, and giving those gifts my full intentional attention. This requires some perspective taking — like an acknowledgment or awareness of the specialness of the experience in context. And then I usually smile, and I savor the physical sensations of gratitude for several seconds before letting the moment go. 

This month let’s make our intention be to practice this mindful awareness of the gifts in our lives — to bring this purposeful attention to moments of gratitude in real time. I invite you all to don this lens of appreciation and gratitude throughout your days, even share with us on social media or email, and see what you notice!

Nicole Davis is a licensed psychologist practicing at  Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches  Dr. Davis starts with the core belief that each person already has everything they need to live a life of joy and fulfillment, and that therapy is just a process of uncovering their inherent wholeness. Dr. Davis gently invites her clients to uncover their strengths in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Dr. Davis completed MBSR facilitator training through the Center for Mindfulness at UCSD. Dr. Davis is also a 200-hour trained yoga teacher registered with Yoga Alliance