Gratitude: “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
Mindfulness: “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
It seems these two terms have been fluttering around the therapeutic community a lot recently. They’re both pretty simple and well-known concepts that have the power to make positive adjustments in one’s mental state, yet they’re often overlooked. Many people assume they need to make drastic life changes in order to better themselves or their lifestyles. In reality, however, it’s the little things that add up.
So, what does it mean to embrace gratitude with mindfulness and intention?
We’ve already established gratitude as the “quality of being thankful”, and mindfulness as the “quality of being aware of conscious or aware of something.” To cultivate gratitude with mindfulness, you must combine the two.
For example, it’s easy to get impatient when a doctor is running late for an appointment and you’re stuck waiting longer than expected. A good way to avoid this frustration is not to hyper-focus on your annoyance; especially because there is nothing that you can personally do to change the situation. Instead, take a second to become aware of your surroundings.
You might notice that you enjoy the music playing in the background, or that there’s a magazine you’ve been wanting to read sitting in the waiting room. While easier said than done, these eight ways can help you to embrace gratitude and mindfulness:
1. Start a gratitude journal
Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the most well-known tools for embracing gratitude because it’s also the most effective. Use a journal to document even the simplest things you’re grateful for. For instance, you might write, “I’m thankful for summertime, as it’s my favorite season.” Taking the time to think, jot down, and see how what you’re grateful for will allow you to become more in tune with yourself.
2. Realize that gratitude is not dependent on “stuff”
When you think about gratitude, what are the first thoughts that pop into your head? In our modern society, many people mistakenly believe that money or artificial items will make them happiest. However, it’s usually the opposite. While there is nothing wrong with being thankful for our material possessions and our good fortune, our gratitude levels shouldn’t depend on them. When you’re intentional about what you’re grateful for (i.e. relationships with family and friends), gratitude becomes much more valuable.
3. Clear your mind
A clear mind allows more room for appreciation. When practicing mindfulness, you’re given the opportunity to focus on the present and all the good that the present moment brings.
4. Focus on the positive
As humans, it’s easy to focus on life’s negatives. However, when we use intention and encourage gratitude with mindfulness, we have the option to focus on life’s many positives. These tools can guide our intention towards what’s good in life, allowing us to become more grateful.
5. Be intentional with appreciation
Let’s say a co-worker recently helped you out with a big assignment. Try showing appreciation with more than a simple “thank you.” Bring them a gift, a sweet treat, or a simple thank you note to let them know how much you value them. By doing this, you’ll feel better about yourself with the knowledge of how you impacted others. Think about how much you would appreciate it if someone did that for you. Again, it’s all about the little things!
6. Make gratitude a lifestyle
“It takes 21 days to change a habit and 40 days to change a lifetime.” Like anything in life, gratitude mindfulness takes time and patience. To incorporate gratitude into your daily life, it needs to be practiced regularly. Start from the moment you wake up and express your gratitude for a good night’s sleep, the prospect of a great day ahead, or for the cup of coffee you’re drinking.
7. Live in the now
Mindfulness allows you to live in the present moment and to see life exactly as it currently stands. When you appreciate life for what it is, you can cultivate acceptance of what’s going on in your world, both internally and externally. You’re then able to observe, wonder, and feel awe in the present moment.
8. Be grateful for life’s hardships
While it’s important to focus on life’s positives, it is also important to know and accept that life does have negatives. The purpose of gratitude with mindfulness is not to ignore that fact, but rather to recognize it and not let it affect you too much.
When life has you down and out, see it as a learning opportunity. Seek out and find the positives that can come from the negative situation you experience intentionally. Allow them to shape you for good.