“Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is the true prosperity.”
– Eckhart Tolle
“Living in the Present” is a powerful concept described in Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now. This simple idea has changed many lives. I spent most of my life living out of past hurts, and fretting about a future that might be, but never was. By living in the past, or focusing on the future, precious energy was wasted. I failed to find the beauty of each moment of the now. Negative thinking controlled my life, and I was not generally happy.
Those subconscious messages of lack, worthlessness, and illnesses of the past tend to cling to our lives even when we mentally recognize the inherent falsity of the message. If we want to live in the now, we just need the tools to release the hold the past retains. Gratitude for the abundance, beauty, and benefits of the present is the greatest tool for creating for creating happiness in the now.
What is gratitude? At its basic level it is an acknowledgment of the receipt of a gift or benefit. Psychologists say gratitude is more than feeling thankful: it is a deeper appreciation for someone (or something) that produces longer lasting positivity. “What is Gratitude and Why Is It So Important?” by Courtney Ackerman, MA, https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-appreciation/, accessed June 1, 2021.
Depression and anxiety have been on the rise with the pandemic and the isolation experienced with the lockdown. Our lives have been forever changed by the shifts in the workplace, our social lives, travel, financial stress, and interpersonal relationships. Many people have become mired in mind loops focusing on the past, being stuck, never being able to go back to what was, the unknown future, and addictive behaviors of excessive eating, drinking, exercising, streaming, or surfing.
One proven method to shift to a positive mindset and focus on the positive is to be grateful.
Begin With the Feeling of Gratitude
Gratitude is warm, expansive, positive, and relaxing. The results are happiness. Simply look, hear, sense, and feel something upbeat around you. Often, we start with nature, especially since this is summertime. Let your eyes see the beauty of the flowers and trees, hear the birds singing, feel the warmth of the sun or the wetness of the rain, sense life flowing around you in all its forms. No matter what troubles life brings, nature can be a source of positive, relaxing joy.
Then, consider the good and optimistic aspects of life around you that bring happiness and pleasure. Your safe, warm home, a loved pet, a friend to call, a favorite shirt, a comfortable bed, having a phone to connect with others, etc. If we stop and think, there are always happy, hopeful, and positive people, places, or objects around us. We often overlook small, everyday items when we are deeply emerged in the negative emotions of depression and loss. If we just take a moment or two to refocus and feel the constructive and helpful emotions of hope and positivity, when the anxiety or depression begin to surface, remember the warmth and happiness the emotion gratitude carries.
Deeper Feelings and Actions
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude in the present moment reframes your life, your mind, your health, and your future. Instead of being stuck in the story of the past wrongs, notice life is better than we thought.
When we add a commitment to actively thank and express our gratitude for people who help us in small and large ways, we receive positive feedback even by way of a smile. A simple ‘thank you’ for holding open a door, bagging your groceries, or serving dinner, can brighten a moment. A compliment to another for their helpfulness, intelligence, support, cooperation, or assistance at work, home, or in the neighborhood engenders positive feelings.
Relationships benefit from expressing appreciation. Telling someone you liked the dinner, appreciated the laundry done or the children being put to bed, gives the other a sense of being seen and recognized as a person of value and ability in the relationship. Children also need to be complimented when learning new skills to develop a sense of self-worth and lovability.
Actions to Support Positive Change
Being grateful in the abstract is helpful but will not lead to permanent change. Research shows that epigenetic, psychological, and physiological changes take place in the body with continued daily gratitude practices. Writing down five things you are grateful for every day is essential.
The practice of daily journaling requires that we pay attention to the positive in the present. So actively focus on five items of gratitude that bring happiness and pleasure.
The act of writing a gratitude list, forces us to focus on the positive. The physical act of writing creates a neurological shift in your brain, and a neuro pathway with a different emphasis psychologically. Studies with patients with clinical depression, cancer, and heart disease have shown statistical improvement in their conditions when the patients began keeping daily gratitude journals.
Taking five minutes at the beginning of each day and five minutes at the end of the day to simply identify WHAT and WHO you are grateful for, will change your life. There are meditations for gratitude, support groups for gratitude, prayers of gratitude and a gratitude movement because it is such a powerful concept. An additional gratitude tool is to join with another to share gratitude every day. Both of you receive the benefits of recognizing the beauty of life. Health, happiness, and abundance flows with gratitude.
“When I started counting may blessings, my whole life turned around.”
– Willie Nelson