One week ago, many of us spent Thanksgiving day recognizing the things we were grateful for. We might have taken turns around the dinner table or posted our thoughts to Facebook. Perhaps we made an actual list on paper or in our heads. And then we moved on.
It can be easy to forget about thankfulness. First of all, the brain seems to be wired to notice the negative. In many ways that helps us. We might anticipate and plan for danger, whether it is avoiding an open man hole or being attentive to a car running a red light. Scanning for danger can be a survival mechanism.
Secondly, there seems to be a lot of bad news lately, from people in high places acting badly to horrible tragedies. The problem is that when our brain is constantly scanning for negativity, we miss a whole world of wonderful things that are happening in spite of the negative. This does not mean that we don’t notice the things that are seriously wrong in our communities and on our planet and work to fix them. But we can simultaneously be attentive to joy and connection.
Extending gratitude to a daily practice can improve our lives. We can gently retrain our brains to see the positive things that are happening. When we intentionally focus on the good, it makes us more able to deal with the difficulties. It gives us energy for stepping up to do the work, and it helps us to stay healthy
Nurturing gratitude just requires a commitment to pay attention. We can notice our brain’s tendency to lean toward the negative and begin to retrain it to recognize the positive. One easy way to do this is with a gratitude journal, writing three things a day that we are thankful for. That’s basically all that is required to begin to re-focus our brains.
The mindfulness focus this week is on extending gratitude. How do we move it beyond thanksgiving to an intentional daily practice?
And since I did not post my gratitude list on Facebook, I will do it here. I am thankful for my dog Luna, friends and family who have been such a support this year, books, my garden, gardens everywhere, and Justin’s vegan peanut butter cups. There’s more, but that’s enough for now.
For more information on mindfulness focus words click here.