A Conversation on Gratitude
First off, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’ll be sharing in my next few posts recipes of some of my favorite dishes from this Thanksgiving, which are perfect for Christmas.
As we approached the Thanksgiving holiday this week, my mind had been very focused on gratitude and what that word really means. Probably because, to be honest, it’s one of the things I struggle with the most. I’m someone who is so laser-focused on the things I’m working on and what’s next to accomplish, that it’s very easy for me to forget to take a moment to reflect on the things in my life that I appreciate, the things that are so necessary to our well-being, mentally, emotionally and physically. Larger things like family, friends and health, but also, and I actually find these to be the most important for daily gratitude, the smaller things; things like the wonderful smell of a pine tree, that it’s a gorgeous, crisp sunny day, or the smile we received from a complete stranger. And let’s not forget the thing I think we forget more than anything: the very fact that we’re alive today. The fact that we’re here, and we’re breathing. We can count ourselves lucky, as we’re not one of the 152,000 people that did not wake up today.
I have found there are two key things that are essential to helping live a life of gratitude, and they go hand-in-hand. The first, is waking up early. I began obsessing over how to most effectively live my life when I was 24 or 25, and began experimenting with different techniques of high performers. And one of those was waking up early. I wake up between 05:00 and 05:30 every single morning and find it to be crucial for many reasons. But for the purpose of this specific post, by waking up early you are literally taking complete control of how you spend your time during the day, rather than time taking ahold of you. You’re not waking up late, rolling out of bed, hopping in the shower and running out the door before ever getting a moment for yourself. You are allowing yourself that time to just be with yourself and your thoughts. And you’re completely alone to do so, because almost everyone else is still asleep. Which means that you can consciously ask yourself without interruption, “What am I grateful for? What things in my life do I love? What am I happy with?” And reflect on those things. And it only takes a couple of minutes.
The second thing is meditation. I began meditating back in my early 20s as a means of trying to gain a better understanding of my thoughts, as the primary source behind my depression was centered around the thoughts I had. Meditation is now probably the most essential tool I use on a daily basis. It’s the very first thing I do upon waking. It’s how I get centered, how I basically clear the forest of all thorn bushes if you will, so I can live in the right frame of mind and right state of being. Really, I shouldn’t be using the word “right.” I should be saying that meditation is what allows me to live in the most centered, effective frame of mind and state of being…for myself. Because "right" is really purely defined by the individual. And through this process of clearing and centering my mind and body, I am able to enter a state of gratitude with much more ease. I’m able to not worry so much about what the next thing is for me to accomplish or how something I’m currently working on is going to turn out. I’m able to just simply be. And it is in that state of being, of being completely present, that we are able to most clearly, without worry of anything, reflect on those things we're most grateful for. Here is a list of the top 10 things I'm grateful for this holiday season, in no particular order:
- My fiancé, Alicia, and my family both flying in to spend Christmas together as one big family
- The smell of pine trees (we just got our Christmas tree, so our entire home smells like pine right now :) )
- Having a close, loving relationship with my family
- My family's and my health
- Waking up next to Alicia every morning
- The friends and relationships Alicia and I have come back to since moving back to Los Angeles
- Being alive (like I said earlier, I think this is something we most often take for granted - I know I do - so I try and consciously reflect on this every morning)
- Being able to do what I love as a job
- The feeling of complete freedom to freely create every time I step into the kitchen (the kitchen has become my place where I'm able to completely let go)
- Eggnog and warm apple cider...and salted chocolate chip cookies - YUM!
I would love to hear the things you're most grateful for and if you have any tools or techniques you use to help with living a life of gratitude.