Last week I tackled cultivating peace with five daily practices that I use to feel more peaceful. When I do these daily practices I am less frustrated and calmer. In this state I see all the crazy chaos in my life for what it is – two adults and three young children doing the best they can with what they know to create this cohesive unit, bonded by love, called family.
This week it’s all about gratitude. How can I learn to be thankful for even the unpleasant stuff, the 2 am wake up calls from a distressed baby, the three year old whose bed is wet, the six year old who’s crying because I didn’t buy him a toy at the grocery store? It’s easy to be grateful for the good stuff. It’s the tantrums and the exhaustion I need help with. To make it easier, I came up with a gratitude formula. It’s made all the difference in my life and I hope it makes a difference in yours:
G: Grow it a little every day by asking my kids what they are thankful for and telling them often what I am thankful for.
R: Recognize in my life what I have to be grateful for by literally counting my blessings and writing them down.
A: All that I have is a blessing. I take the time to look for the positive in any situation.
T: Thoughts are important. I train myself to think more positively. I choose positive thoughts over negative thoughts. I take the time to deal with negative emotions and notice how my thoughts change. I recognize that each thought makes a difference to how I perceive my life.
I: Ignoring negative emotions won’t make them go away. I acknowledge whatever it is I am feeling. I deal with my emotions appropriately and I talk to people I trust when I need extra support.
T: Teach appreciation of beauty. Beauty leads to gratitude. If I have more of one, I have more of the other. Even in the mess of my kitchen, I find and focus my attention on one thing that is pleasing to me. I expose my children to beauty in many different forms and talk to them about why those things are beautiful to me. In doing so, I learn to appreciate the many gifts of life. My children will benefit from this deepened appreciation within myself.
U: Understanding self is a gift I give to my family and being grateful for myself is the first and only place to start. I journal, pray, meditate and exercise as a means of spending time with my inner self, which leads to a greater understanding of my talents, passions and interests. With this understanding, gratitude comes naturally and easily.
D: Don’t let the negativity of others influence my “gratitude cultivation.” I see the good wherever possible and respectfully choose to ignore the negativity of others. Just because I have negative people in my life (who are related to me, so I can’t cut them off completely) does not mean I have to think like them.
E: Everyone deserves to know that he or she is a blessing – and that includes ME!
With these nine principles in place, I am set to deepen and grow the amount of gratitude I feel for all the aspects of my life. Even when I have 2am crying babies, wet sheets to change and a completely beside himself with sadness six year old, I can find the silver lining to it all. Waking up in the middle of the night gives me the excuse to sit down for five minutes and enjoy a cup of coffee. Changing the sheets is an opportunity to spend some time in sheet changing meditation on a day when there was no other time to fit in meditation. Six year old sadness is a chance for me to take a deep breath and practice being calm in the midst of a storm. It’s all good stuff and I’m grateful for it. Without gratitude the lights dim on life. With my nine steps to cultivating gratitude, the lights of my life are set to full beam.