I have been carrying on with my experiment these last few days. I have been thanking everything I come across that supports my existence in some way. I have mostly been keeping it to what is actually in front of me as I go through the day. I want to focus right in on what is literally supporting me in some way moment to moment.
Thank you comfy seat, thank you lamp for the illumination, thank you mug of tea, thank you pens for helping me to communicate, thank you boiler for powering the central heating that is keeping me warm. Thank you legs for supporting my body and walking so well. Thank you restaurant for such lovely food, thank you neighbours for being so lovely and friendly.
Now I find that there are more and more and more, it is quite a fun game actually. What supports my life right now that I can send some appreciation towards? Then I see just how many many things I appreciate but have not been acknowledging. What a beautiful energy I have been missing out on!
So why am I doing it?
Acknowledging that I feel supported (reminding myself by voicing thanks) is the opposite energy to complaint. The mind likes to/has evolved to find problems and solve them. That is its job, and it means that we can spend a lot of time looking for and identifying problems and focusing on what is wrong in our lives. This brings a level of stress with it as our limbic system is alerted to the problem/danger and is aroused rather than relaxed.
If we acknowledge how well supported we are even in the most minute ways, it restores a sense that everything is well, that life isn’t going wrong, and nothing needs fixing including myself. This is a very soothing to the limbic system, and in my experience learning how to sooth the limbic system is of prime importance for cultivating a wellbeing and resilience in the face of life’s challenges. And not only do we have exquisitely designed brains which want to look after us by homing in on problems, we are surrounded by a media which bombards us with messages of danger.
The appreciation that gratitude brings with it is very healing to stress, fear and worry. It can stop short an internal worry or aggrieved complaint story before they really get going. The conditions that gratitude and appreciation create in our consciousness makes it difficult for the mind to get going with thoughts of deficit or complaint. Cultivating gratitude brings me into this present moment, builds resilience, and makes it less likely I will slump into a negative feeling as a result of the mind’s commentary.
It somehow doesn’t work if the motive is to use gratitude to replace another feeling or try to guilt myself out of negative feelings. If I am feeling in low spirits then I accept that I am feeling down – lonely, sad or whatever. Even if joy is not being experienced, I can still notice what is supporting me and what I appreciate. Yes I miss my dog, and at the same time I acknowledge appreciation for this cup of tea.
Acknowledging thanks for what I have in my life helps fill out the bigger picture and wider context of my life. A wider context puts feelings into a perspective and helps me to manage them. It allows me to regulate all the emotions that come and go, with a glass half full context.
“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can. “
~ The Dalai Lama ~