If you have watched my video on using Heart Energy Meditation for Collective Covid Stress, you might remember that I said that opening up heart energy helps to calm stress, anxiety and feelings of depression; helps you to think more positively and rationally, be happier, and make better decisions. I also mentioned that gratitude is one feeling that opens up your heart energy.
Focusing on the feeling of gratitude is a beneficial practice at all times, and even more so when you are feeling down, stressed or anxious. These feelings are, in essence, the opposite of gratitude. They cause you to close in on yourself, to narrow the scope of your thoughts, feelings and outlook, and to think more negatively. Gratitude helps you to open up and to feel better, as well as to open up in your thinking and your outlook. You are not just thinking positive thoughts when you focus on gratitude: you are stopping to acknowledge what is good in your life, all the things that you can be grateful for, and you are literally changing what you feel.
The less gratitude we feel, the more we feel dissatisfied; the more we feel as though we are lacking something we need to be happy. Gratitude is beneficial for your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. It fosters a feeling of peace and well-being that not only helps your state of mind and your outlook, but improves your relationships with others.
And there’s a whole other reason, a whole other level to think about why practicing gratitude is beneficial. Remember how I talked about how we’re affected by a collective stress energy? If you practice feeling gratitude, you are putting positive energy out in the world that is beneficial to others. Positive energy that combines with other people’s positive energy to create a collective, positive, heart energy. The real antidote to collective stress is collective, positive energy. (There is actually a lot of interesting research on the measurable impacts of prayer and positive intention. One writer at the forefront of this is Larry Dossey.)
Again, this is not about “positive thinking.” This is about genuinely feeling a heartfelt feeling. When you feel gratitude, genuinely feel it in your heart, in your body, you are spreading an energy within yourself and outside of yourself that is positive, beneficial and healing.
I mentioned in a previous post Covid Invites Conscious Living that this situation makes us aware of so many things that we take for granted in our daily lives. Practicing gratitude is also an antidote for taking things for granted, and for living more consciously. When we consciously practice and feel gratitude, we are doing the opposite of taking things for granted; we are more grateful, we are more appreciative of what we have, and we appreciate others more as well. We are also kinder to the earth, both because we are more appreciative of what she gives us, but also because we have less of a feeling of needing “more”.
So, here is my suggestion for practicing gratitude. It can be useful for you to write a list of things for which you feel grateful. Whether it’s a list of single words or phrases, or more detailed statements, this is a really useful exercise - especially if you feel resistance to doing it! Challenge yourself. That resistance is evidence of wanting to keep up walls, rather than to open up. It is contraction and constriction, rather than expansion. However many things you can come up with, once you’ve written that, challenge yourself to double the number of things on your list. See what else you can come up with if you really push yourself. It can be eye-opening, and it can change your perceptions about yourself and your life.
You can feel grateful for small, everyday things like having enough food to eat (if that applies to you), having people in your life who love you (if that applies to you), or having a place to live. You can feel grateful for what you have received in your life.
I would suggest that for me, writing this, and for many of you, reading this, there is a lot to be grateful for simply to be in the position right now of talking about the stresses of covid isolation and adjustments. Aside from frontline workers and other people who have had to keep working to meet our basic needs, there are millions of people in the world who cannot afford to stop working, or who don’t have the option of practicing self-isolation or physical distancing. That is something that I try to acknowledge and feel grateful for every day.
So, whether you physically write out a list or just sit and think of things, the practice is to take one thing for which you feel grateful at a time, and actually connect with a feeling of gratitude in your body, in your heart. Verbalizing it can help, but the essential piece is to feel the feeling. Sit with the feeling for a moment as you think about what it is you are grateful for. If you really want to experience the benefits of this practice, try starting and/or finishing your day with this practice. You can spend just 5 minutes doing this, or you can incorporate it into the heart energy meditation.
This can actually be a transformational practice, taking you out of your habitual ways of thinking and feeling. It can transform how you see yourself and your life, and what is important. It always brings you to what is good and sufficient, rather than what is “wrong” or lacking. It focuses you in the present, and in a reality of the present that is positive, rather than in revisiting negative thoughts about the past, or about the future. Gratitude anchors you in a reality in which you can be happy and move forward on a path of wellness.