How to Develop Gratitude for Mindfulness
Gratitude is considered by some as the greatest of all emotions that can be cultivated for mindfulness. Recent studies are beginning to show that gratitude has a unique relationship with wellbeing, and can explain aspects of wellbeing that other personality traits cannot. An attitude of gratitude goes hand in hand with mindfulness.
You’re grateful when you’re aware of what you do have rather than what you don’t. The effect of this is an opening of the heart. When you’re aware with an open heart, you’re in a deeper mindful mode.
Gratitude is a skill that you can develop. If you’re bad at tennis or the piano, with practice you get better. The same is true of gratitude. Through repeated effort you can develop, strengthen and intensify gratitude. Flex your gratitude muscle by trying this exercise, which is almost guaranteed to make you more grateful!
Think of something you’re ungrateful for.
Perhaps you’re ungrateful in your job, a relationship, or your place of residence.
Now think of all the things that are good about it. Give yourself two minutes and challenge yourself to come up with as many good things as possible.
For example, if you’re not happy with your job: Does it pay you money? Is there a pension or medical plan that goes with it? Are there colleagues you like? Do you get breaks? Think of as many positive aspects for which you’re grateful. To supercharge this exercise rather than just thinking about it, write it down. Be aware that you may have to overcome some resistance to doing this.
Try this exercise again for other areas of your life.
See what effect that has on them. Again, remember that the exercise takes some effort, but the rewards make it worthwhile.
Commit to doing this regularly for a week or month on a daily basis and you may find yourself being naturally more grateful for all sorts of other things too, including meditation.
When someone has hurt you, or you’ve done something wrong, you have a conflict in your mind. You probably feel angry at others or yourself. This harmful state of mind requires forgiveness to enable greater wellbeing and less ill will for yourself. These feelings hurt you more than anyone else. Many studies show that releasing and letting go of past hurts through forgiveness leads to a longer and happier life.
Try this approach to begin allowing in forgiveness:
Understand that hating someone else doesn’t actually hurt that person at all.
List all the beneficial things that have emerged from a situation. Try to see the situation from a totally different perspective. Ask a trusted friend to help you if you want.
Be compassionate with yourself. If you’ve been ruminating over a problem for some time, perhaps now’s the time to let it go. You don’t deserve all this hurt you’re carrying around with you.
Understand that the story you’re telling yourself is just that: a story. This pain and hurt may be repeating itself in your mind through a story. Try letting go of the story, or seeing the story from another person’s perspective. Something may shift to help you to forgive.
Wish the person well. If someone has hurt you, counteract that with some loving-kindness meditation. Wish the person well just as you may wish yourself or a friend well.
An alternative practice would be to do a forgiveness meditation. You may choose to record and play this back whenever you feel it appropriate.
Sit in a comfortable and relaxed position.
Let your eyes close if that’s okay with you, and allow your breath to find a natural rhythm.
Imagine or feel the breath going into your heart.
Become aware of and feel the obstructions you’ve created in your heart due to a lack of forgiveness, whether for yourself or others. Become mindful of the heartache from a lack of forgiveness in your core.
Now you can ask forgiveness of others.
Become aware of the many ways that you knowingly or unknowingly have caused others pain and suffering through your own fear, pain or anger. Visualize each person who comes to mind – feel the sorrow and pain they feel due to your words and actions. Now, finally, release this sadness, sorrow and heartache by asking for forgiveness.
Now you can move on to forgiving yourself.
You’ve hurt yourself in many ways through thoughts, words or actions. You may have done this consciously or unconsciously. Allow yourself to become mindful of any unkindness you’ve directed towards yourself. Feel the suffering you’ve caused yourself and begin to release this by saying: ‘I forgive myself as far as I can.’
Now you can move on to forgive other people who have hurt you.
You’ve been hurt by many people through their words or actions. They’ve caused you suffering to different degrees. Imagine the ways they’ve done this. Become aware and feel the pain others have caused you and allow yourself to let go of this sadness from your heart.
Repeat the words: ‘I have been hurt by others many times, in many ways, due to the pain, sorrow, anger or misunderstanding of others. I’ve carried this suffering in my being for longer than enough. As far as I’m ready to, I offer my forgiveness. To those I’ve hurt, I forgive you.’
With time and practice, you may feel a shift in your heart and be able to forgive. If the shift doesn’t happen, notice how you feel and be soft and kind with yourself. Let the forgiveness be genuine. Forgiveness takes time, so be patient and practice the meditation regularly. With regular commitment, you’re able to release yourself from the sorrow you’re carrying through gentle forgiveness.