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Using the gratitude jar for good causes (DW#658)

Yesterday we discussed the gratitude jar activity for families. Today let us explore another way to use a gratitude jar which involves sharing our blessings with others.
Here is the practice:

Next to the gratitude jar in which you are depositing your daily gratitudes, also place another jar to be used as a sort of a piggy bank.

Develop a habit of depositing small amounts of money in this jar whenever you are writing out your daily gratitudes and feel called to share your good fortune with others.
Once the jar is filled up you can decide as a family where to donate the contents.

Using our gratitude to show kindness to a charity we are passionate about encourages us to show gratitude in action. It can be a very important learning for children as they begin to recognize that the blessings and gifts that we have been given also create a responsibility to pay these blessings forward and to use them to promote good in the world.

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The gratitude jar (DW#657)

Today’s practice can become a meaningful family ritual and has the potential of transforming the home environment from one of complaining to one of gratitude.

1. Find a glass jar or a box.

2. You can decorate it with your family as you wish.

3. Keep the jar in a prominent place in a busy zone of your house such as the kitchen or front hall way. Keep a stack of notes and pens next to the jar.

4. Make it a ritual for each family member to write three notes of gratitude a day and put it in the jar.

The notes can be about mundane things (a hot cup of coffee, spare toilet paper) or important things (doing well on a test, hearing from an old friend)

5. At the end of the week, you may take out the contents of the jar and have people read out the slips of paper and share what family members were grateful for during the past week.

Over time, you may find that the atmosphere of the family subtly shifts and that an attitude of gratitude becomes the norm, especially as family members are...

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A teacup full of gratitude (DW#656)

This week we are continuing exploring various gratitude practices.

Today, I am sharing one of my favourite and simplest practices.

For many of us, the morning cup of tea or coffee is quite precious. It is a ritual we engage in every single day, perhaps with not much thought to what is involved in getting that cup of caffeine to us.

Today’s practice involves becoming mindful of this blessing and feeling gratitude for it.

While you are having your first cup in the morning, pause for a moment and become mindful of cup you are holding:
Notice …
The comforting warmth that fills your hands
The aroma that gently drifts up towards your nose
The quiet time before the hustle of the day begins
How many people and resources it has taken to get this cup to you .

. . . people who planted the tea or coffee,
. . . those who harvested it, processed it and brought it to market
. . . those who took care of the cow that gave the mil
. . . those who worked in the factory that made the tea cup,...

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Clear the backlog even if you cannot get in touch with the person (DW#655)

The practices that we have been discussing have two aspects:

1) the feeling of gratitude(which is an internal process for ourselves) and
2) the expressing of gratitudewhich is external and involves other people.

While it is extremely powerful to both feel and express gratitude, some of the people who show up in our list of people to thank may not be accessible to us at the present time. They may be out of touch, have passed on from this world or be entire groups of people such as teachers, speakers, coaches or volunteers at our places of worship.

In such situations, it is still worthwhile to engage in the first aspect of gratitude by recalling the kindnesses of such people, or groups of people, in detail. And then to write them out or to offer thanks to them in your imagination for the specific things that you are grateful for and appreciate about them.

One practice that I engage in regularly at the end of a busy season at our community centre is to recall the many many small things...

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Clear the backlog (DW#654)

Once you get going with writing the first gratitude letter, consider where you might have a backlog of thanks, for big things and little things. Kindnesses that you have received but which you never thanked the person properly.

"When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life," Martin Seligman writes in Flourish. "But," he continues, "sometimes our thank-you is said so casually or quickly that it is nearly meaningless."

A wonderful and powerful practice is to make a list of people you want to thank and then gradually move through the list. In his book 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life, John Kralik explains how writing one Thank You note each day for 365 consecutive days instilled the attitude of gratitude in his life and helped him focus on little things he had been taking for granted. The process of doing this, he shares, transformed his life in so many ways that he did not expect.

If 365 days seems...

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The gratitude visit (DW#653)

Yesterday we talked writing a letter to thank someone personally for the difference they have made in your life. Today, let us consider taking this practice one step further:

Instead of mailing or e-mailing the letter, consider visiting the recipient of your gratitude letter and reading the letter to them yourself.

Here is how to schedule a gratitude visit:

• Let the person know that you would like to meet with them to share something without being too specific about what it is.

• When you meet this person, let them know that you are grateful to them and that you would like to read them a letter you wrote expressing your gratitude. Ask that they not interrupt you until you are done reading the letter.

• Take your time reading the letter. While you read, pay attention to your reactions and the reactions of the recipient.

• After you have read the letter, listen to his or her reaction to the letter and be ready to discuss your feelings together.

• Remember...

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The gratitude letter (DW#652)

Many people believe that today’s practice is perhaps the most powerful gratitude exercise there is. It is in two parts (we will talk about part two tomorrow inshallah).

The exercise involves writing a letter to someone who has exerted a positive influence in your life but whom you have not properly thanked. This can be a teacher or a mentor from your past, a grandparent, or anyone else who helped you in some way.

Here is how to write the letter:

· Address the person directly.
· Describe what this person has done that makes you grateful, and how they have impacted your life. Be as concrete and detailed as possible.
· Describe what you are doing in life now, and how frequently you remember their act of kindness or generosity.
· The letter does not have to be long as long as it contains some detail of what you appreciate about their actions.
· Here is an example:
To my grade 8 teacher

Dear Ms Shah

I realized that you may not realize how...

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Starting a gratitude practice (DW#645)

I really hope that by now you are convinced that a regular practice of gratitude is a powerful way to improve your mental and emotional wellbeing.

So how can you make it a part of your life?

1. Make an intention and commit.
Like creating any habit, we start with an intention. In this case, an intention to become more grateful and an intention to commit to a regular practice of gratitude.

Once we make the intention though, we may begin to notice that gratitude doesn’t seem to come as easily as grumbling does. Some days we will find it much more challenging than others. If we can just acknowledge the resistance and do it anyway, we will find that we will reap the greatest benefits.

2. Begin.
So let’s do it. There is nothing more to know or to research. We already have all the information we need about the benefits. The benefits, however, do not come from knowledge. They come from practice.

The easiest way to begin is to sit down with pen and paper or at your computer and...

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A recap of what gratitude is NOT (DW#644)

Let us recap what we have been talking about over the last few days: while gratitude is one of keys to mental and emotional wellbeing, it is important to recognize what it is not.

Let us reiterate what gratitude does not mean:
It does not mean you hide your true feelings or pretend to be grateful when you do not feel it
It is not about telling others to be grateful, especially when they are experiencing depression
It is not about telling others to be grateful, especially when they are experiencing abuse
It is not about telling others to be grateful, especially when they are experiencing unfair treatment
It is not about accepting poor behaviour in relationships, especially when that behaviour is abusive
It is not about not speaking up for your needs and desires in a relationship
It is not about not working to build a relationship that works for both
It is not about accepting the status quo when that status quo includes injustice towards vulnerable populations

Now that we have a balanced view...

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Gratitude and social justice (DW#643)

Continuing with our exploration of what gratitude does NOT mean, it is important to recognize that gratitude is not a license for passivity in the face of social injustice.

Being grateful for what is present does not mean that we do not recognize the inequalities and injustices that exist in the status quo and work towards change for a better world.

In other words, there is a difference between "be grateful for what you have" and "be content with what is." It is completely okay (in fact often necessary) to be rightly ticked off about some things while also giving what you do have its full measure of attention and appreciation.

Working for change or social justice sometimes means giving a lot of attention to things that are negative, painful or unjust. When we are giving those things the attention that they need, it can lead to burnout or ongoing distress. When we continue to balance the space in our brain with gratitude for things that are positive and good, we ensure that we have a...

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