We live in a world of abundance, where the desire for more surrounds us like the sea around an island, and our greed has become insatiable. I upgraded my car three times in a year, from a battered Polo to a Mercedes Benz, but found little in joy bar the fleeting feeling of momentary pleasure. The nature of the ego, to compare, soon gave energy to thoughts of what the car lacked as opposed to what it gave me. Soon I realised the joy of driving the Polo wasn’t rivalled.
This small example is a metaphor for life. The constant need to look for better blinds our ability to appreciate the present. The present, however, is all we have and all we shall ever have. The worries, stresses, and problems all rest in our past, or live within the anxiety of the future.
Through any given day we may experience many feelings, altering our innate emotional state due to our attachment to the mind and our ego. Many of those feelings may be positive, some may be negative, but there is no single practice greater than that of gratitude that can change your perspective on what you feel. Nothing will allow you to bring your focus to the present more than giving time to all that you are grateful for in that very same moment.
Fleeting sensations of pleasure occur throughout life via the mediums of food, sex, drugs or human connection. These all are fleeting; when the sensation ends you are left with a desire for more, a desire that quickly overwhelms the feeling of pleasure. These stages repeat, creating the cycle of addiction. Nevertheless, that cycle can be easily broken when you start appreciating what you have in any given moment.
Gratitude is simple to practice but, as with anything, it takes discipline and commitment to manage, and practice to embed into the psyche. On the contrary, however, the impact of the shift it can bring in your state of mind – even as you do it – is profound. We are all grateful for different things in our life, but the shift in our energy when we realise what these are – what we are grateful for, everything that we take for granted on a daily basis – and repeat them to ourselves in a moment of negativity or a moment where we feel down, that shift can be truly profound. We refocus to the now, change our mindset to the positive, break the negative thoughts which cloud our mind and only create further issues for us.
Below are a few ways I practice gratitude which you could easily incorporate into day-to-day life:
- Wake up and smile. Force it. If nothing else, the thought of having to force yourself to smile will make you smile. Start your day positively and if no other reason suffices to smile, the fact you’re alive and can make an impact is one.
2. If you woke up in a bed, under a roof, warm or maybe with a glass of water next to you, be grateful, appreciate what you have.
3. You can simply state 5 things that you are grateful for – this can be anything from friends or family in your life, to any of the reasons mentioned above, to the things you have changed within yourself. This is something you can also do before you go to bed.
4. Whenever you catch yourself being negative or thinking any negative thoughts,practice repeating these five things back to you. Re-engineer your mind to focus on the now, focus on the positive and watch the shift in your mindset.
5. Struggling on that last set of squats whilst at the gym saying #F***LegDay? Flip it, you’re at the gym pushing yourself, you have access to a gym, you’re ahead of where you were yesterday – all of which are great reasons to be grateful.
There isn’t any evolutionary science behind the practice of gratitude. The benefits are obvious: a positive mind is a healthier mind, a mind focusing on the wider picture, one that is not giving the problem any energy and is instead expanding all possibilities. Focusing on the negative shrinks the mind, gives the problem more energy and removes the ability and strength to deal with it.
As I mentioned, this practice, as with meditation, is one to be practiced daily or hourly. Start by simply beginning and ending your day with Gratitude and watch how it shifts your psyche. Being grateful for what you have does not inhibit the ability to strive for more, it simply gives the ability to strive for what you want, whilst appreciating all that have.
Be grateful, appreciate what you have fully, appreciate everyone completely and be present to what is good in your life in this current moment!