Several months ago I wrote about the one prayer to say if you’re saying only one. I call it the prayer of thanks. And it’s so important, I’m now writing about it again with some fresh, new insights to offer.
The fact is as much as we may obsess about what’s not right in our lives, most of us have a lot to be thankful for. And by expressing gratitude for all the good things in our life, something magical happens—we open our lives to receiving additional blessings.
For me this gratitude comes out as an interior monologue or prayer each morning. I start with the words, “I give thanks (to God) for all the good in my life. I am thankful for…” and the mental check-list begins. It always starts with my family, my home, my health, my work and continues on to my friends, business associates, the sunshine, the first signs of spring, the peaceful solitude of my morning bus commute.
As it turns out, it seems I’m not the only one who has found the power and importance of a daily gratitude practice. My Patheos colleague Rick Hanson recently stressed the same theme in a story titled Developing a “Buddha Brain” Through Gratitude. Hanson believes that:
Gratitude shifts your attention away from resentment, regret, and guilt…and focuses your awareness on positive things, simple good facts such as having enough water to drink, the laughter of children, the kindness of others, or the smell of an orange.
I should also tell you that Hanson’s practice of gratitude extends beyond a morning prayer. He recommends taking the time to express gratitude throughout each day, something I often try to do, but can sometimes forget in the midst of a busy workday. Hanson offers the following practical advice:
To reap the rewards of gratitude, rest your attention on a good fact, noticing details about it, staying with it for at least a few seconds in a row. Then allow a natural emotional response of gratitude to arise. Continue to pay attention to this feeling of gratitude for another few seconds – or even longer: it’s delicious!
One of my favorite bloggers is the self-deprecatingly humorous and inspirational James Altucher. James has had more than his share of tough times in life, losing his home, his wife and business, as well as a small fortune. But he rebuilt his life, mentally and physically, spiritually and emotionally, through a regimen he calls a Simple Daily Practice. A vital part of that practice is what he refers to as ABG, which stands for Always Be Grateful.
According to Altucher there are a ton of benefits to always being grateful and practicing ABG on a regular basis. For starters, he points out that when you’re feeling grateful for all the good things in your life:
- You actually release dopamine into your brain. This makes you feel uplifted and acts as an anti-depressant.
- You get creative energy. Being grateful for what you have, this second, allows you to start planning the next step in a more creative way.
- You’ll treat with better respect the positive things you do have.
Like Hanson, Altucher also advises being grateful for more than just a few minutes in the morning. He recommends that we “try to do it all day”. It’s something he calls a “Grateful Diet” and it works like this:
Be grateful non-stop for the next 21 days. What could it hurt? Be grateful for every object, person, thought, situation, that enters your mind. All of these are deserving of your gratitude. Do all of the above things for 21 days. Your life will be completely transformed.
Could gratefulness really help us live a better life? It surely can’t hurt and I for one can vouch for its effectiveness. And the best thing is, unlike all the fad diets out there, it’s super easy, requires a minimum of effort, and you can see the results virtually immediately. All good reasons to try it today.
This post previously appeared on my Patheos column Wake Up Call, April 2, 2014.