How often do you stop to notice and feel grateful for the little things in life?
It is so easy to be caught up in the hustle bustle of the every day, live in the land of stress and focus on what you don’t have, what isn’t going right and wanting what you don’t have. However, when you live that way, from that perspective, you miss out on the myriad of things that are actually lovely in your life.
Four years ago, I realized I was living in a land of lack, focused on the challenges and struggles of life rather than the goodness that surrounded me. Living from that place made my life harder, my career less fulfilling and me a less nice person to be around.
As a way of shifting from that perspective, I decided to make a daily effort to notice, and be grateful for, small moments in my day: the chance to talk to a friend, the sunshine, blue sky, roof over my head, heat in our house, the chance to share what I love with others. As with most changes, I did not arrive at being more grateful in the most graceful of ways. Surprise, surprise, I resisted!
My intention was to keep a gratitude journal and before bed each night, write three things I was grateful for in my day. After purchasing said journal (I do so love a pretty notebook), it sat on my night stand. I would look at it before bed and think ‘I can’t come up with anything to be grateful for’. I think I wrote in it one or two times, struggling to come up with three things to be grateful for, before it went to live underneath my alarm clock for nearly six months.
One day I went to bed particularly bothered by the day. I hadn’t felt like a good teacher, yogi, singer, parent or spouse. I had snapped at people, I was getting a cold and I just generally felt down about the world. I saw the notebook sitting there and thought, ‘what the hell, why not?’ and I pulled it out.
It was hard to come up with things from my day that made me grateful. Like, really, really hard. But, I kept at it. Each night I wrote. At the top of the first page I wrote, “I’m grateful…” then I just listed things…for sunshine…for flowers…for birds singing…for my children’s joy…for my husband’s love…for music…for yoga.
After four years of the practice I am so much more present to gratitude each day that I can pause while in the middle of any situation and take stock of the things I am grateful for. I may or may not remember to write them down at night, but most of the time I do. My gratitude pages can easily be completely filled with the small moments that I’ve noticed and taken time to appreciate.
This practice of expressing gratitude has been a profound change in my life. I find that I live from a place of greater joy, able to endure a difficult time because I know that all around the edges of that difficulty are the many other wonderful things about my life. I have learned that every day will not be perfect and that doesn’t matter. Joy is found in those little, everyday moments that we can so easily miss.
Robert Emmons, PhD, a prof at UC Davis, researches gratitude and the effects it has on people. In an article he wrote for The Greater Good he shares that there are physical, emotional and social benefits to being grateful. You can view his list of 10 ways to become more grateful and at the top of that list is to keep a gratitude journal.
Go ahead, indulge in a new notebook and a pen you love. Put the book by your bedside and commit to writing in it nightly. Start with just three things you are grateful for and watch how your list grows over time. If you need some ideas, try keeping track of:
- the things your voice allows you to do,
- how the people around you have helped you pursue your singing goals,
- your admiration for your singing colleagues,
- the opportunities you have to share your gift with others,
- other small moments in your daily life that make you thankful.