There is SO much incredible research and writing on how beneficial gratitude is as a state to develop.
A simple google search throws up any number of books and articles on the subject.
My personal favourite is ‘Thanks! How the new science of gratitude can make you happier’ by Robert Emmons which is informative, well-researched and an enjoyable read.
Some of the reported benefits of cultivating the state of gratitude are that it improves productivity, health, sleep, relationships, resilience and happiness while reducing depression.
And you may already have come across the method that involves writing down what you are grateful for.
This is one of the best researched methods and keeping a gratitude journal where we note down those things we are grateful for is one of the easiest methods for bringing this attitude, and its benefits, into our lives.
~ Two powerful discoveries from exploring gratitude ~
I have been exploring and experimenting with gratitude for some time now and have made two discoveries that I’d like to share in this article.
The first is a big challenge that I have encountered as I have attempted to cultivate gratitude more, and how to deal with this challenge.
The second is a way of working with gratitude that has been a great source of pleasure and joy for me.
But first the challenge. This is something that doesn’t affect everyone but definitely affects me.
~ What if I’m not in the mood? ~
What if something has happened and I am not remotely in touch with feeling gratitude? What if instead I, for whatever reason, am feeling caught up in a negative mindstate?
Irritation, frustration, stress, despondency- when these states are front and centre in my experience I find it a challenge to connect to any authentic feeling of gratitude.
I feel like I’m going through the motions and the actions such as writing in my journal feel kind of empty and sometimes even meaningless.
Of course there is value to riding through the low and just doing it anyway. Sometimes however it just makes me feel worse and intensifies whatever state I am in.
But I have found another way that seems to work much better most of the time and brings me back into touch with a feeling of gratitude much faster.
~ Feeling gratitude for a future state ~
The method is this- to start feeling gratitude for a future state.
Normally this will be something like being grateful that I will soon be feeling easier and at peace. Or grateful that I will be more in touch with being able to feel gratitude.
What I like about this approach is that it allows me to be with what I am feeling now and validate rather than suppress my current state.
The acknowledgement allows something in me to settle and doesn’t trigger my resistance in the way that a pushing-through-let’s get it done attitude can sometimes do.
And at the same time as validating how I am feeling now, this approach opens the doorway to a different future state, one that is much more filled with possibility.
Having now moved out of a low energy state we can now explore the other side of the discoveries I have been making. How to play with gratitude.
~ Using gratitude aspirationally ~
In a way it is similar to what we have just done in that we are using our imagination to explore gratitude for a future state. But this time it has more of an aspirational flavour.
Some examples include gratitude for…….
A meeting or conversation going well
Discovering the solution to a particular work issue
Improving a relationship
Cooking a delicious meal
Having a good meditation
The possibilities are endless
A deepening experience of love
What it seems to do is help move us out of our current state into one where there is more of a sense of possibility available to us.
And this directly impacts our quality of life in this present moment which, no surprise here, prepares us better to take full advantage of the opportunities that are with us right now.
This is something that we can dip into throughout our day and this is why the Lantern Fish seems such a good metaphor.
~ The Lantern Fish metaphor ~
The Lantern Fish is a deep sea dwelling fish. To lure it’s prey it has a light on the end of what can only be described as a pole right in front of it’s face. The unsuspecting fish attracted by the light gets eaten.
For us the image is slightly different. For us the image is of the Lantern Fish holding it’s light in front of it. No matter what direction it points in it is holding its own light as a guide.
This is how we can use our gratitude for future states- as a guide to lead us in the direction of future states that are more likely to create the life we actually want.
As we do this we become more adept at working with ourselves positively when we’re in a more negative state as well as maximising our opportunity for success when we’re feeling good.
And this is definitely something we can be grateful for.