One of the ways to shift out of negative thinking is to shift our attention toward the things that we are thankful for. In this short article, I offer nine clear steps you can take toward greater satisfaction in your life.
Throughout human history, gratitude has been revered as a high virtue. This is evidenced in many classical and sacred texts propounding its importance across traditions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Western philosophy among others. Indeed Cicero’s proclamation that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others” exemplifies this. The specialness of gratitude even lives within the word itself. Examining the Latin roots of the word “gratitude” reveals the sacred dimensions of practicing gratitude. One interpretation of the Latin Gratia, means grace- which, in my interpretation, reflects the bestowal of Divine blessings upon oneself and all beings. Therefore, offering gratitude opens us up to becoming full of grace and then shining that gracefulness and gratefulness outward.
The psychological literature even reflects several health benefits of gratitude including strengthening relationships and enhancing happiness, pride, hope, and boosting prosocial behaviors. Given the wisdom of the sages over the centuries and the modern discovery of these health benefits, it seems clear that the practice of gratitude is a worthy pursuit. So you may ask, “how can I experience and offer more gratitude in my life?”
Drawing from the disciplines of Mindfulness and Cognitive-Behavioral Psychology, I offer you the following contemplative meditation practice to support you in cultivating gratitude.
9 Steps to Cultivate Gratitude
- Begin by simply meditating on the breath
- Allow your thoughts to arise and skillfully, yet compassionately scan these thoughts for negative, unwholesome, unappreciative, or thoughts tinged with entitlement
- Acknowledge, allow, and appreciate even these more difficult thoughts as a part of your present moment experience and notice their effect on your body, emotions, and spirit
- Deepen your breath and specifically breathe into your heart- the seat of love, kindness, and compassion
- Set your intention to consciously and kindly shift the unwholesome thoughts toward brighter, more radiant thoughts infused with love, gratitude, and an appreciation for all beings and all things; if this is challenging, simply think of a person or animal that you feel unconditionally loved by.
- Feel the effect of generating these positive thoughts on your body, emotions, and spirit
- Intentionally direct and send this positive energy outward emanating it in waves from your heart
- Savor this experience and resettle your awareness back to the breath preparing to let go of this practice
- Place your hands onto your heart and offer gratitude toward yourself for taking this time to cultivate this healing energy not only for your benefit, but for all beings
Article by Dr. John Rettger
John P. Rettger, PhD
CA Licensed Psychologist (PSY27863)
407 S. California Ave STE 10
Palo Alto, CA 94306
IMPORTANT: I do not provide any psychological emergency consultations, for emergencies please call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency room and request a psychiatric evaluation.