We often say "Thank you," yet how often do we mean it? I hear people say things like, "Of course I am grateful." I would like to propose that meaning it is feeling it. And what does appreciation feel like, exactly? Appreciation can feel like wonder, it can feel like butterflies, it can feel like excitement and most of all it feels like relaxation, being present and at ease. Now ask yourself again how often you feel appreciation. When is the last time you felt truly relaxed consistently? When is the last time you enjoyed going to work, getting up in the morning, getting the kids ready for school or checking your emails? When is the last time you felt relaxed and at ease while doing things you "have to" do? For many people, it would be hard to recall. Many would even say the two things don't go together -- being relaxed and at ease while working, cleaning, commuting etc. This is simply not true. Below are five practices that can help us feel a deep sense of appreciation throughout the day on a regular basis:
1.What I Like...
When I am by myself, I love doing the 'what I like' activity. I say out loud what I like in my immediate surroundings and slowly make my way through many topics. Sometimes I do this in the shower or when I want a break from working. Like right now I am wrapped in a blanket and on the computer, so I would start by saying, "I really like the softness and warmth of this blanket, I like that my laptop makes it easy for me to write anywhere, I like the quietness of the evening, I like that I just had a tasty snack I enjoyed..." I go on like this until I realize how many things I like about my experience of life and a smile is on my face.
Writing a gratitude list is a great way of focusing the mind. During this process we can often notice the amount of positive versus negative things we think. In the beginning, it is hard for many people to even write down 5-10 things. I began with 5 things and now I can write 5 pages with ease! I like breaking this activity into sections - body, mind, home, relationships, career and lifestyle.
An excellent way to incorporate the feeling of appreciation into your day is to engage in rituals. Now, before each meal I talk to my food and say, "Thank you for the delicious replenishment I am about to receive. Thank you for your vitamins, minerals, nutrients and energy!" This helps me stay present and engaged in exactly what is happening right now. Other great times for rituals are first thing in the morning and right before bed. These are great times to deep breath, sing, read, practice silence or acknowledge what you have accomplished and are looking forward to.
4.Saying Thank You
Don't just say 'Thank You' when someone opens the door for you. Say 'Thank You' next time your partner takes out the garbage or the person bagging your groceries is thoughtful and gentle. Say 'Thank You' for things we normally skip over. I have started saying 'Thank You' to bus drivers and crossing guards.
We often say things like "You're amazing," but how? Next time you compliment someone, really think of something specific that you like about them. You could say "Wow, it is amazing how enthusiastic and energetic you are," or "The way you communicate is amazing." Instead of saying, "You look great," you could say, "I love your sense of style." Instead of saying, "Thank you for putting in a good word for me," you could say, "I really appreciate you being supportive of my aspirations." Being specific helps our brain fully engage with other people and our surroundings. When we use generic compliments and phrases we can often become disengaged and routine even in our niceties.
Physically feeling appreciation is a wonderful experience. Feeling gentle, at ease, relaxed and joyful takes practice, intention and focus and it is well worth it.
A Little Love From Mala