LET’S GET STARTED!
Thanks for joining the 30 Days of Gratitude group. Over the next 30 days we will be developing our gratitude muscles together with short assignments and group check-ins.
Here is an introductory article on why Gratitude is so important to us right now.
And, the story of a small miracle relating to our 30-Day project.
There is only a little bit of pre-work:
- First, get yourself a journal or notepad. Journaling and reflecting are the the cornerstones of the practice. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be handy.
- Read this short excerpt from an article written by Robert Emmons in USA today. Read it here.
- Commit the next 30 Days to this project. I know it’s the holidays — assignments will be simple and will only take a few minutes each day.
- If you’d like to take part in the private group check-ins. Sign up here.
- Get ready to experience some amazing results – Quote below is from the Robert Emmons article:
Consider these eye-popping statistics: when a person keeps a gratitude journal, that individual is 25% happier, sleeps one-half hour more per evening, and exercises 33% more each week compared to those not keeping these journals. Hypertensives can achieve up to a 10% reduction in systolic blood pressure and decrease their dietary fat intake by up to 20%. Experiencing gratitude leads to increased feelings of connectedness, improved relationships, and even altruism.
Day 1 – Awareness
One of the most important skills to hone as we grow our gratitude practice is our ability to come into awareness. Being aware of our surroundings, of our thoughts, of our reactions, and of our ability to recognize a kindness, are key.
According to Gratitude researchers there are four facets of a grateful disposition: Intensity, frequency, span and density. Take a look at the charts below and think about where you might be on the spectrum of these various facets.
………… The Four Facets of Gratitude …………..
- INTENSITY: When someone extends a kindness, or if you experience a positive event, how intensely do you feel your gratitude? Mark your score from 1 – 5.
2. FREQUENCY: How often do you feel actively grateful during your normal day? Mark your score from 1-5
3. SPAN: In any given moment, how many of your life’s circumstances are you actively feeling grateful for? Mark your score 1-4
4. DENSITY: For any given single positive outcome or specific life’s circumstance, how many people do you recognize as owing gratitude for their help in your success? Mark your score 1-4
Day one practice: For day one, observe yourself and be aware of your standard operating pattern. Are you someone who easily notices a kindness and reacts to it right away? Are you perhaps intense but infrequent? Be aware of yourself today.
Then, take an assessment of your current gratitude levels in each of the four facets. Document this in your journal.
Day Two – The List
Make your gratitude list. Decide whether you will write the list of things you’re grateful for in the morning when you first wake up, or the evening, or perhaps both.
Maybe you can take your journal with you throughout the day and jot things down as they happen.
The evening is a nice time, because you can reflect on the day and write about the good things that happened and the people you’re grateful for.
Make a list of things you’re grateful for – being as long or as short as you are currently feeling.
Day Three – Be specific
Today when you write your list, practice being specific.
If you write, “I’m thankful for my husband” – take time to elaborate on that… Because he works so hard so that I can be comfortable … And then elaborate some more. Write the very specific ways he helps: He feeds me and goes out of his way each day to drive me to bart. He cares for me when I’m sick. He knows my likes and dislikes, and takes extra time and is very careful to bring me the things I like the most.
Practice writing your list very specifically.
*If you are joining us in the App – join in the conversation and share your perceptions.*
Day 4 – Working With Awareness
Practice being aware today. Observe yourself in action. How are you speaking? How are you reacting? Are you using loving words or negative words? As you observe yourself, become more aware of the little ways people help you – especially those actions by others that you might otherwise have taken for granted. Go out of your way to actively thank those people, no matter how small their help might be.
:: Write about how it felt, or how you are growing in your awareness.
Day 5 – See Things as Gifts
Today, as you are becoming more aware, begin to see things as gifts. Although it might not be presented with bows and wrapping, many of the conveniences we enjoy are huge benefits in our lives.
It is such a gift that I am able to ride bart to my job. I avoid the traffic and gain valuable time to read and write.
:: Write about the gifts you are currently enjoying in your life.
Day 6 – Discover the Unnoticeable
Today you are a detective. What are the tiny beauties that are all around you that you never take the time notice? The key here is in taking the time to slow down. Is there a tiny wildflower just outside your doorstep? Perhaps there’s a family of birds in your backyard tree? Maybe the guy that bags your groceries has the cutest dimples.
:: Notice those things today. Make a list of the things you might have been overlooking.
“The single most important philosophical question we can ask in life is: why aren’t we dancing in gratitude right now?”
~~~~~~~~~~ Days 7-9 ~~~~~~~~~~
Day 7 – Thinking About Absence
Think about some of the positive events in your life. Now, imagine what your life would be like if they had never happened. Thinking about the absence of our blessings makes us more aware of their presence — and helps us avoid the tendency to take them for granted. Take a moment to look back and imagine the moment where the fates conspired to bring you this goodness. What if you were sick that day and had stayed home? What if you had turned left instead of right? What if you’d made a different decision, something that would have altered your course? What would your life be like? Like George Bailey finding out what life would have been like if he had never been born — realize your blessings by thinking about the absence of them.
Day 8 – Surprises are the Key
According to emotion researchers Andrew Ortony and Jerry Clore, the element of surprise is one of the primary drivers of emotional intensity. When an event has an element of surprise included it is much more intense than one that has an outcome that we were expecting. Part of the reason that we don’t feel as intensely as we did when we were children is because we have come to expect certain outcomes. Our expectations are high and most times we can have them met — so where is the element of surprise? It is missing, along with the intensity. If we lower our expectations, and expect nothing, every little bit that we receive will be a surprise, and it will feel so great!
Think about this the next time someone holds a door open for you, or waits to walk you to your car, or offers to buy you coffee. Wow! He/she didn’t have to do this, but they did and it is so special that a bit of extra effort was extended your way. If we stop “expecting” common courtesies, and started allowing that they are kindnesses extended, we can look at them as surprises and reclaim some of our childlike wonder. We can again enjoy the intensity of a joyful emotion.
Day 9 – Letter Writing
Perhaps one of the most powerful exercises for the gratitude journey is the Gratitude Letter. Feeling gratitude towards a person who was very instrumental in your life, and not expressing that gratitude to him or her is like wrapping a present but not giving it. Today, think about the important people in your life, those that really had an impact on shaping who you are. It might be a teacher, a coach, a counselor. Take a moment to write them a letter — it is most effective if it is a long letter, like a full page worth of details on how this person had an effect, and how you are who you are because of them. Maybe you mail this letter and maybe you don’t. Maybe the person who you are writing to has since died. Write the letter anyway. It is a wonderful exercise and helps you realize just how much you have been helped by others. Make a list of other special people that you can write letters to. Over the 30 days, or as you are able, write more gratitude letters.
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
Day 10 – The Gratitude Visit
This might be one of the most meaningful exercises of the entire 30 Days. If you’ve written a letter or two, now think of someone who is still living, that you would be able to visit fairly easily. Write that person a letter, but then plan a date to visit them and present the letter in person. Robert Emmons, the gratitude author, suggests that you laminate your letter and then read it out loud to your recipient. From his book he says, “One of the most effective ways to deepen your own gratefulness is to write a letter of gratitude to an important person in your life whom you’ve never properly taken the time to thank and then visit that person to present him or her with the letter. Studies published in the most rigorous scientific publications show that the gratitude visit can increase happiness and decrease depression in the letter writer for as long as three months after the visit.”
Give it a try!
Day 11 – The Sad Movie
This is a great assignment for a Sunday. It’s a great day for a movie! Researchers set out to discover why we humans enjoy tragic tales in books and movies. It seems we can’t get enough. They conducted several studies on movie-goers and concluded that “Vicarious exposure to tragedy can awaken dormant feelings of gratitude.” Try this out and do a little reflection. Do you feel more grateful for the blessings in your life after viewing a sad or tragic movie?
Day 12 – Remember the Hard Times
It is important to reflect on your life to realize how much you’ve been able to overcome. Taking a moment to think about the bad things that have happened is a way to find gratitude in the present moment. Robert Emmons writes, think about the bad times, then remember that you “made it through the worst times of your life, you got through the trauma, you got through the trial, you endured the temptation, you survived the bad relationship, you’re making your way out of the dark.” Contrasting the bad with the good, or the past with the present, is a great way to realize the actual goodness in our lives right now. Remembering when it was bad allows us to see the good.
The lessons of Scrooge are the lessons that help us find an exquisite kind of Gratitude:
“He went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and for, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed of any walk, that anything, could give him so much happiness.
I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”
Day 13 – Grateful for Your Breath
Have you ever seen a person who had to use an oxygen tube and needed to go everywhere with a tank of oxygen? Many people have diminished lung capacity which restricts their movement. Today, as you take breaths in your healthy lungs, really concentrate on the fact that you are alive and breathing. Give thanks for each breath that fills your lungs and feeds each blood-cell with the life-sustaining energy you need to move freely and be alive. Each breath is a miracle of life. Focus on that today.
Day 14 – Walking Gratitude
This weekend I met a woman who broke a small, but important bone in her foot. For more than two months she had not been able to put any pressure on it. She said, “When I finally have this cast off, I am going to be so grateful for the fact that I can walk. I have never understood how important the gift of walking actually is, until this happened to me.”
Today, as you walk freely in your life, feel gratitude toward your healthy legs and feet. They are true blessings. Imagine that you have just gotten a cast off after a long convalescence. How grateful for the gift of mobility and ease!
15th Day — The halfway mark!
Day 15 -Waking after Death
Today, it is the lesson of Scrooge. Imagine you had died in your sleep. Imagine everything you’ve known being taken from you, everything – your friends and family, your earthly body, your possessions, your ability to taste and love and touch, your ability to see the sunrise and sunset and hear the birds and feel the sun on your skin and hear music.
Today, as you wake, imagine that you had died, but woke to find you’ve been given another chance. Imagine your gratitude that every little thing is such a gift.
Day 16 – Silence
The practice of gratitude is the practice of becoming more acutely aware of our many gifts. Therefore, the practice of awareness goes hand in hand with gratitude. Awareness is an interior pursuit, and we have a very hard time cultivating an interior life without silence. Meditation, yoga, and silent retreats, are all aimed at slowing our mind chatter, and giving us a break for a few moments or hours. For today’s practice, let’s try silence in the form of mouth chatter. What if for today, we didn’t feel pressured to talk as much? What if, we decided to retreat inward just a little? What if we decided to listen more? We can take the time to just sit with our feelings silently and without judgement. We can also sit with others, deeply, without the need to chat. Today, let’s be with others, and with ourselves, just quietly.
Day 17 – Solitude
Solitude and silence are two practices that enhance our awareness and help us live more spiritually. The theologian Hernri Nouwen wrote, “without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.”
It’s not always easy to find the time and space to be solitary, but it is well worth the efforts. According to Robert Emmons, “Among the benefits linked to solitude are a sense of freedom, enhanced creativity, deepened spirituality, and … a greater capacity for intimacy.”
Today, find small ways to be solitary. Maybe you could take a walk (without your phone distracting you.) when you’re driving in your car, don’t turn on any music; keep it quiet.
Choose to have lunch by yourself, schedule some time to meditate.
Day 18 – Simplicity
Today, let’s think about how we can add more simplicity to our lives. Generally, this can be accomplished by reducing the number of material things we have. “A number of recent studies have found that materialism can put people in an emotional debt in that the greater they place a value on material pursuits, the more at risk they are for depression and other distressing emotional states including envy and hostility.”
Some of the ways to find simplicity and reduce materialism could include: clearing your clutter, getting rid of things you no longer use by donating them. Try to be aware of your shopping habits. Ask yourself if the thing is truly necessary. Buy something for someone less fortunate. Maybe use your coffee money for others instead of yourself. Loan something of value to another person and don’t expect to get it back. Be okay with letting it go.
Day 19 – Self-reflection
Self-reflection is one of the most important ways to touch what is good within yourself and to understand your own spiritual nature. There are many methods and traditions of self-reflection, including the Jesuit Examen, which includes a twice daily personal review. Another effective practice is that of Naikan, which is a Buddhist meditation technique. These practices are important to help us see the reciprocal quality of our personal relationships and provide a structure for self-reflection.
The discipline of Naikan uses our relationships with others as the mirror in which we can see ourselves and how we are sustained by the thoughts and deeds of others.
Naikan uses three questions to help aid our reflection. The first question is a focus on those gifts or services that we receive from others. For Day 19, we will reflect on the following question:
What have I received from others today?
No matter how routine or ordinary, make a list of the gifts you’ve received, such as: The person who held the door open for you. The person who took your order at lunch, the one that created your sandwich, the one who cleaned the public restroom where you visit, etc. etc.
Day 20 – Giving Back
The second step in the practice of Naikan is the focus on what we give to others. This helps us realize how connected we are to others and helps remove a sense of entitlement that might come from feeling that we deserve to receive without giving back.
Today ask yourself the following question:
In what way might I be giving back to others as an appropriate response for the gratitude I feel?
Day 21 – Acknowledgement
The last step of Naikan is more difficult because in it we acknowledge not the things that bother us, but how we cause pain in the lives of others by our thoughts, words and deeds. Greg Kech, the originator of Naikan says, “If we are not willing to see and accept those events in which we have been the source of other people’s suffering, then we cannot truly know ourselves or the grace by which we live.”
Today, ask yourself:
In what ways have I caused troubles or difficulty in others’ lives?
Day 22 – Active Listening
Listening and hearing are two different things. You can hear many sounds throughout the day, you can hear another person’s voice, and their words; but are you really listening? Active listening is a real practice — it’s hard to do. Notice yourself when you’re in conversation, are you listening, or are you formulating your response? Take a minute, be aware of your thoughts, ask yourself, “have I truly heard this person? Can I sit with their words without responding? What are the emotions behind the words? Can I stop trying to cover silence with my own words, so that I can truly hear what the other is saying? What questions can I ask to help the other person clarify or deepen their thoughts — how are you feeling about that? What’s your next move? Who is helping you with that? How can I help?”
Active listening is a gift you give to the other person. Their heart is being heard and acknowledged. Their words are being honored. But, it is also a gift you give yourself — the gift of deep connection. Try to practice active listening today, and notice how it leads to stillness, silence and self-reflection — all parts of a greater spiritual practice.
Give gratitude for your efforts and, as you improve — give gratitude for your growth.
Day 23 – Hugs
There is so much science around the benefits of physical touch. Touching another person — a rub, a hand, or especially a hug, gives a boost to both giver and receiver. The good-feeling hormones in our brains are released and begin to spread throughout our bodies making us feel lighter, happier and more energized. If you are already a good hugger, for today’s practice, try a longer hug. According to the Buddhist leader Tich Nat Hahn, a proper hug should last for three full breaths. I find this difficult, but there are growth opportunities to be found in challenging our comfort zone.
For today’s practice, try spreading good feelings to others through hugs. Reflect on how this feels. Are you energized? Does it increase your affection? Can you imagine that your hug might be like a chain reaction that will spread goodness from one person to another? Do hugs increase your feelings of gratitude?
Day 24 – Eye Gazing
Today, the 24th of December, the eve of Christmas, when the gift of love was presented to the world in the form of a baby messenger. What gifts of yourself are you giving the world? You have many gifts, are you aware of them all? The biggest gift you give each day is the gift of yourself through your spirit and your presence. Many say the gateway to the soul is through the eyes, it is here that we express our love. Today, on this special eve, practice deep eye-gazing. As you practice active listening with your loved ones, practice showing them your deep love and connection through your eyes. Real eye contact is difficult to maintain, but when two people commit to it, it forms a connection like no other. Try it!
Day 25 – The Miracle of Christmas
I often try to imagine what it would be like if a baby Jesus was born today. Shepherds and mangers and wise men are not that easy to come by. What if he was born in the ghetto? Most people from organized religion would be so skeptical. How would he spread his message? What miracles would he perform? What shape would the angels take? Would they come to you and I and tell us, “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy!”?
It sure seems like we need a savior! We need a sane and loving and wise figure to bring hope and salvation to a world gone awry.
Today, imagine the miracle of a baby born who grew up to spread teachings of such significance they’ve lasted for two thousand years, and have given comfort to so many.
Now imagine that that same spirit of Jesus is alive in you and me and everyone! Today, as you celebrate a day of family, gift giving and tradition, remember the spirit of the holy that is alive on this earth right now. Imagine that we are all our own saviors. Imagine that all the chaos that we see on the news is not real, only the love we feel for each other and this world is real.
Imagine the miracle of a baby born who was sent to earth to give us this message of comfort. Imagine the holiness of this moment, when people began to be free of earthly afflictions and were about to wake up to a new love-based reality.
Imagine all this and be grateful for the spirit of Christmas in your heart.
Days 26 – 27: Thank You Notes
We are just coming off of the biggest giving day of the year. We have given and received many gifts over this past season. Make a list of each gift given to you and write that person a thank you note. Then, think about all of the people who gave you their time or went out of their way to help you in some fashion. Write thank you notes to these people as well. Once you start thinking about all the people who have helped, you will be surprised to realize that many of the gifts you received were not physical gifts wrapped in paper and bows. You might start to feel that these special gifts were just as meaningful (if not more meaningful) than the physical gifts.
Day 28 – Checking Your Sense of Entitlement
According to Robert Emmons the biggest obstacle to gratitude is a sense of entitlement. In his book, Gratitude Works he says, “Since the time of the ancient philosopher Seneca, or before, having an overly high opinion of oneself has been seen as the chief obstacle to feeling and expressing gratitude. Research has shown that people who are ungrateful tend to have a sense of excessive self-importance, arrogance, vanity and a high need for admiration and approval…When you feel entitled, you are not merely disappointed when others disagree or fail to accommodate your presumed rights, you feel cheated and wronged,” and this feeling leads to resentment.
Today, as you go about your routines, be aware of your actions and where you might be feeling entitled to something. Do you just expect that everything will go according to schedule and that you will be perfectly comfortable and that others are expected to work for your benefit? Are you overly entitled? How often during you day do you feel resentful? Take a note of these feelings and realize that your sense of entitlement is keeping you from experiencing a deeper gratitude.
Day 29 – Humility
In his book, Robert Emmons says that Humility is the antidote for feeling entitled. He writes, “The more I contemplate gratitude, the more I am convinced of the necessity of humility. In gratitude and humility we turn to realities outside of ourselves. We become aware of our limitations and our need to rely on others. In gratitude and humility we acknowledge the myth of self-sufficiency. We look upward and outward to the sources that sustain us. Becoming aware of realities greater than ourselves shields us from the illusion of being self-made, being here on this planet by right — expecting everything and owing nothing. The humble person says life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed. Humility ushers in a grateful response to life.”
For our practice today, look for ways to practice being more humble in your approach. Here are some practices to apply as we seek to gain more humility — from Robert Emmons:
- Acknowledging our wrongdoing
- Receiving correction and feedback graciously
- Refraining from criticizing others
- Forgiving others who have wronged us
- Enduring unfair treatment with patience and a forgiving spirit
- Thinking and speaking about the good in others
- Rejoicing over other people’s success
- Seeking opportunities to help others
- Giving due credit to others for our success
- Assuming responsibility from our failures and being willing to learn from it
- Accepting our limitations and our circumstances
- Treating all people with respect regardless of their social status
Humility is very difficult to cultivate, but it is very important to improve your sense of gratitude and to realize just how much you are interconnected with so many others, and actually rely on their goodness every day. Once we begin to understand this, we begin to truly deepen our gratitude to every one and every thing.
Day 30 – Review and Re-test
This is the final day of the 30 Day practice. How has this experience changed you? How have you made Gratitude a bigger part of your life? Have you experienced any new sensations or synchronicities as a result of adding more gratitude into your days?
Scroll down to the Day One Test on the Four Facets of Gratitude. Take the test again and then compare your results. Do you feel more thankful for the little gifts that show up in your day? How is your Intensity, Frequency, Span, and Density. Has it improved? I hope so. If not, you may want to start this practice over. Pick and choose a few days to try again. Go deeper into you journaling, schedule a gratitude visit, write some gratitude letters and send them. Little by little you will see your gifts piling up, and you will start to become aware of the pure abundance of your life!
I am so grateful to everyone who chose to join this 30 day practice. This is such a wonderful journey and it is more wonderful because of the souls who are experiencing it together. If you have any insights or stories that you would like to share from your journey, please consider sharing on the facebook page or in the Gather group.
We all learn from each other and would love to hear from you. Thanks for joining. You are an amazing light, and a presence of grace in this world.