Category Archives: Gratitude

Want to be happier? Try the ABC’s of Gratitude

ABC your way to deeper happiness

increase your happiness, gratitude practices, mindfulness practices to be happierTry this exercise, as suggested by Brother David Steindl-Rast in his “Stop, Look, Go“ book – “A Grateful Practice Workbook and Gratitude Journal”, to amplify your experience of gratitude. Did you know more awareness of gratitude in your life is associated with deeper happiness?

In this exercise, name the first word that comes to mind with each letter of the alphabet, and write down in a list. Then go through each one and find something about that word or what’s associated with it to have gratitude for. There may be some things on this list that you might have to reflect on a bit, to see what you could possibly be grateful for. See what you come up with, with a few moments of mindful attention.

The following is my recent list. Try it out by creating your own…

A – anxiety – I am grateful I have the capacity to help people with their anxiety.
B basket – I love baskets of all kinds – open, flexible containers, able to hold everything from bread to belongings.
C – calypso – music that makes me connect to gentle island breezes and drums made from steel oil barrels
D – darkness – the night sky that surrounds and embraces each and every star, allowing the star’s brightness to shine strong, or how in the middle of the night it gets darkest – I appreciate how the darkness deepens just before dawn.
E – emptiness – the echo of an empty room that invites you to linger and fill it up.
F – families – that include the blending of cultures, races, languages, colors, identities, histories, rituals, practices, values, politics, orientations, religions, bodies. Or…
forgiveness – the freedom that comes when one is able to forgive someone who has injured them; or forgive themselves for not being perfect, maybe in those same families.
G – grappling – the space that opens up to move even a little bit forward after grappling with the complexities of life.
H – harried – to feel harried and rushed is to prime oneself to know the beauty of feeling relaxed and centered.
I – igloo – amazement that a warm home can be built in the coldest of environments, and with the iciest of materials.
J – justice –… With liberty and justice for ALL…
K – kite – the adventurous way a kite soars and dives; and struggles with the wind or is buoyed by it, from moment to moment, is a wonder to behold.
L – lunch – homemade with care and that calms my grumbling stomach at the midday hour, every day.
M – Mountain meditation – one of my favorite meditations that inspires me to be like the mountain, even through the storms and harsh weather events.
N – necking – that term dates me but the hot steaminess of it arouses all the senses.
O – ordinary – so many moments of the ordinary are what we often take for granted before we remember how much we would miss them if they were taken from us, and realize we are truly grateful for them.
P – persnickety – I love that word and how it sounds like what it means and actually makes me laugh about something that can be annoying.
Q – queries – the tender vulnerability and courage present when submitting a query and knowing you may be met with rejection and doubt or affirmation and acknowledgment.
R – rain – soft, gentle, torrential, steady, soothing, pitter patter, relentless, pouring – all different expressions of Mother Nature‘s emotions.
S – sunrise – I wake at dawn with the winged heart and give thanks for another day of living. Fall sunrises especially give me hope for the day, that I know will end with early darkness.
T – tater tots – A fond food from childhood that I would be excited to have served.
U – ugliness – If one doesn’t run from ugliness, it has the power to awaken a softer more empathic heart.
V – variety – synonyms include different choices, diversity, multicultural, various, not homogeneous, a wide array, an assortment of good things.
W – water – Wondrous. Enough said.
X – xylophone – Another magical musical instrument used in world music.
Y – yellow – the color of sunflowers. Or…
yesterday – I can’t change what happened yesterday but I can change how I relate to it.I appreciate all the joys and challenges of all my yesterdays that have brought me to today.
Z – zebra – isn’t it amazing how black and white can live together and be so beautiful side-by-side on this amazing creature?

I’d love to see your ABC’s of Gratitude list. Please feel free to share by responding to this email.

If you or someone you love is struggling to find deeper happiness in your life, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
(510) 482-4445

How to deepen your sense of gratitude and make the world a better place…

Three kinds of gratitude that can’t help but make a brighter world… (or Your world brighter)…

Gratitude helps depression and anxiety; Easy, Daily and Paradoxical Gratitude and gratefulness.

There are at least three different levels of things we can be grateful for in our daily lives that will help us to raise our own well-being and sense of satisfaction in life.

Gratitude can ease depression, your anxiety and more…

Having and expressing gratitude is good medicine and exercise for the heart. When we feel down, depressed, or focused on all the things going wrong, we can make a gratitude list or notice every day something simple we feel gratitude for that we hadn’t noticed before.

If we are troubled with anxieties and worries, we can calm ourselves by considering all the things that are more right than wrong at this moment, or that don’t need fixing right now – and be grateful for those.

If we’re having trouble or stress in our relationships with our partners or kids, we can shift our focus and consider the things in them that we are really appreciative of, or remember something we have really loved about them – and express those appreciations.

If we’re too narcissistic or self-absorbed, we can have gratitude for all the others out there who are less fortunate than us and who remind us to be generous and giving, to think of others, and to pull us outside of our selves. We can be grateful, not for their plight (better them than me), but for the opportunity they give us to be a better human being and to minimize our own selfishness.

There are those Easy Gratitudes we can all appreciate –  gifts that are meant for us and that we truly like and enjoy or are surprised by. Things that delight us; things that are easy to be grateful for:

  • A bouquet of flowers
  • A vacation
  • A hot meal bought for a homeless person sitting outside the coffee shop
  • A gift bought by someone who loves you and noticed you were eyeing that special thing but hadn’t gotten it for yourself
  • Someone who offers to help you move or make a meal for you when you’re sick.

Then there are those Daily Gratitudes – the things that we are surrounded by every day but that we have a tendency to take for granted and not fully appreciate. Things that we don’t really take in, that are truly spectacular but hardly noticed. These are a little harder to be grateful for.

When was the last time you had the experience that the world had not changed but you had, and so were able to be truly grateful for:

  • Being able to turn the faucet on and have water immediately come out?
  • An elevator that takes you from floor to floor – especially when your hands are full – even if it is slow?
  • A stop light that is working
  • The morning dew on a leaf that shimmers as you walk by, or the way the sun rises and sets every day, no matter what
  • A barista at the bakery who makes your coffee every morning
  • That person in your family who is a challenge to spend time with, but has a great sense of humor? Or the one who never seems to help out enough, but is really patient?
  • Your partner who you think you know so well but have been surprised to learn something new about, or have seen them in a different way?

Then of course, there are those Paradoxical Gratitudes that are often hardest to be grateful for. The “gifts“ that come when something god-awful happens: The diagnosis of breast cancer; an unexpected death, a terrible fire or hurricane or mass violence. Your child struggling with a difficult emotional or physical illness.

When those things that we would never wish on anybody else do happen, we can’t be grateful for those events, but we can be grateful for the opportunities that come from them:

  • The opportunity to express our own (or listen to someone else’s) deep emotion
  • The opportunity to be deeply present to the immediacy of whatever has happened
  • The opportunity to come together – sometimes with family, sometimes with strangers, who share in and are connected to this experience of ours.
  • The opportunity to encounter our own faith, courage, goodness of heart that isn’t always easily available to us
  • The opportunity to really walk in someone else’s shoes and know what they feel like
  • The opportunity to not be alone, when we reach out, to give or to receive support.

In our daily lives as humans, we have ample opportunity to experience all three levels of gratitude: the Easy, the Daily, and the Paradoxical. We can lighten our load – lessen our depression and anxiety and enhance our happiness – by looking for, being present to, and deeply taking in the myriad of things that are available to us to be grateful for.

May your Thanksgiving week be filled with Easy, Daily and Paradoxical kinds of gratitude and may your heart be expanded with warmth and care in doing so.

I’d love to know – where do you find these three levels of gratitude in your life? What has surprised you lately?

If you or someone you love is struggling with not being able to find anything to be grateful for in your life, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
(510) 482-4445