When he arrived, I ushered him to the breakfast table and poured him a cup of his favorite tea. As we ate our food, I told him about my dilemma. "What should I do, Dharma? I need to upgrade my pad but I don't have the funds to do it." Dharma smiled and responded without hesitation, "Tadpole, he is a wise frog who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. I understand your frustration Irwin, but the fact of the matter is your pad is fine just the way it is. You have all the comforts of home. What more could you ask for? And please don't tell me that you need a more modern stove or a newer dishwasher. or that your sofa is out of date. Those are just cosmetic upgrades. Honestly, my boy, they won't make you happier. Why not, instead, focus your attention on the wonderful life you have. You are fortunate in so many ways. Be grateful for those things, my boy. Many other frogs would love to trade places with you."
I knew he was right. But even that didn't make me feel better. I needed a push in that direction. Sometimes the heart and the mind aren't on the same page. "Dharma, can you help me with a few ways to jumpstart my gratitude?" Dharma happily obliged.
Be began by telling me that gratitude can be almost as important as nutrition when it comes to living a better and healthier life. To back this up, he said that research has shown that people who have an attitude of gratitude also; eat healthier, develop stronger immune systems, demonstrate more optimism and mental acuity, exercise regularly, solve mental challenges easier, have deeper friendships, sleep better, have increased self-esteem and self-worth, show increased productivity, cope better with stress, and work and perform better at their job. Not to mention, they enjoy life far more than those who don't have as much gratitude. If you're like me, you're probably thinking, "Wow, I could use more of those things in my life, too!" So my next question to Dharma was, "How can I develop more gratitude. Are things I can actively do that with help strengthen my sense of gratitude?"
"Yes, Irwin, there are things you can do and they're not hard. One must only take a little time to practice them. Developing a stronger and deeper sense of gratitude is some anyone can do if they want to."
Here are Dharma's five top tips.
1. Write it down. Start a gratitude journal and write in it every day for a month. Be specific about what you are thankful for. Watch how your thoughts develop over time. You may start simply, but when you add stories and color, it becomes more powerful.
2. Talk about it. Sharing what you are thankful for isn’t just for Thanksgiving. Make it a habit to talk about what you are grateful for all year long. It will reinforce your feelings.
3. Meditate. Whether you regularly meditate or not, take a break a few times a day. Focus on a spirit of thankfulness. Who are you thankful for? Bring the person to mind. Imagine your life surrounded by blessings.
4. Express it. Do you have someone in your life you inspired you or who helped through a difficult time...maybe someone who made you feel special? take a few minutes and express your gratitude to them for the boost they gave you. Perhaps it's a teacher, a long-ago friend, or a neighbor. Whoever they are, take time from your schedule and write them a thank you note. No, don't text or email. WRITE to them! if they've since passed on, that's okay. You can still write to them and tell them how much they meant to you. Even though you can't mail the note, the act of expressing your gratitude is still helpful.
5. Seek it. If you want to be thankful, get around people with that characteristic. Some people just bubble over with enthusiasm and gratitude for life. Just like happiness, gratitude can be contagious. You must be willing, though, to catch it and you must be around those who are grateful for it to spread to you. So no more time around sad sacks, spend time with those who inspire you.
As always, Dharma's words hit home. He made me realize that although I am not currently able to upgrade my lily pad, I am one lucky frog! My pad is comfortable, I have wonderful friends and family, I have a career doing what I enjoy most, and I have a teacher who is always there to help me and coach me when I need it most.
Please take a little time today and be grateful for your life. If you look around, I bet you'll see so many things staring you in the face that are pretty wonderful. And you've been ignoring these gifts for too long. You'll feel happier and healthier if you begin to pay attention to awesomeness that comes your way every single day.
Please stop back by tomorrow for a look at something that is a staple of many fairs this time of year. And this thing is guaranteed to take you to new heights. What is it? Come back tomorrow and find out. Until then,