In thinking about the essential elements that form a magical life, I keep coming back again and again to gratitude. I firmly believe that creating a magical life starts with gratitude. Gratitude is the best foundation I know for building a positive life of meaning and joy, enabling the other aspects of our lives to flourish.
I first began a regular gratitude practice in the mid-1990’s after reading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s essays on the topic in Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. I knew that religious and spiritual traditions the world over had long recognized the importance of being grateful for the blessings in our lives and giving thanks. But it was following Sarah’s suggestion of keeping a Gratitude Journal that turned my vague acknowledgement of the riches in my life into a regular practice of being truly grateful for what I had.
From Lack to Plenty
Consciously recognizing and naming our gratitudes every day moves us from an attitude of lack and fear to one of plenty and joy. It certainly was a game-changer for me. It set me firmly on a path to envisioning and then intentionally creating a positive and more meaningful life for myself. All these years later, gratitude still remains a daily practice for me, although my methods for expressing it continue to evolve as time passes.
Given the power of gratitude to transform our lives, it’s not surprising how much has been written on the subject over the years—and it has renewed relevance today. The Great Recession was a huge wake up call for most of us. It urged us to reconsider our debt-ridden and consumer-driven lives, raising questions about why after working like crazy to accumulate so much stuff, we felt even more wanting, fearful, and insecure than before. Surely, we thought, the new thing would make us happier…but it usually didn’t, at least not for long. We worked ourselves to the bone chasing what in the end left us still dissatisfied, anxious, and longing for more.
A lifestyle on autopilot, taking what we have for granted and focused on needless accumulation becomes an endless cycle of wanting the next shiny thing and the need for others’ approval. It depletes us rather than enriching us. The practice of gratitude is a simple remedy that yields powerfully magical results.
The True Power of Gratitude
“As you focus on the abundance rather than on the lack in your life, you will be designing a wonderful new blueprint for the future. This sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work, transforming your dreams into reality.”
~Sarah Ban Breathnach
When we take stock of our true riches and genuinely appreciate what is good and meaningful in our lives, a calm serenity, contentment, and joy take root. We are inspired to focus on what really matters and avoid taking for granted all the blessings we already have. Through the process, we start becoming clear about our values and priorities. That gives us the perspective to be more discerning about how we spend our money, where we focus our energy and time, the goals we pursue, the relationships in our lives, what kind of work we want to do, and how we measure success. This clarity doesn’t all come at once, but trust me, it comes. Our gratitude and clarity extends an invitation to the universe that brings even more blessings our way, aligned with the values we embrace and the intentions we hold for our lives. I’ve seen this happen so many times in my own life that I know it to be true.
Approaches to a Gratitude Practice
There are many ways to bring a gratitude practice into your daily rounds. The simplest is to just write out a short list on paper every day, but there are many other options. Which gratitude practice is best? It’s the one that you will actually do daily. You can create a meditation practice for contemplating your gratitudes, write them in your journal, participate in online gratitude projects, blog about them (I love Brené Brown’s blog series, TGIF), or even use the wonderful iPhone/iPad app called The Gratitude Journal. If you are more visually inspired, what about taking photos or drawing things that represent your gratitudes? If you’re a Pinterest fan, maybe pin things on your inspiration board that remind you of your true riches everyday.
I started with a Gratitude Journal, devoted only to listing out my gratitudes each night before bed. After a while I switched to including them in my regular journal entries in the mornings. Then for a few years I listed then in a five-year diary and noted them on the few lines allowed for each day. I loved being able to see the previous years’ entries next to my new ones. Over the past few years, I’ve come to treat them more like a prayer. As I am going to sleep each night, I reflect on the blessings in my life and the positive things that happened that day. Then I send my gratitude for them out to the universe as a silent, heartfelt prayer of thanks.
I’ve recently come to realize once more the power of physically writing down our gratitudes. So I’m considering listing them in my languishing five-year diary again in addition to sending them out as a prayer at night before sleep. I’m intrigued with the Gratitude Journal app for iPhones though and like the idea of being able to make an entry wherever I may be. It could be a wonderful opportunity while I”m on a break from work or traveling to refocus on what is good rather than the maelstrom around me. So I may give that a try. I love that you can include a photo as well. Bringing an element of creativity into our daily gratitude practices will help to keep them fresh.
“Wherever you are, hold yourself in appreciation, commemoration,
and infinite gratitude. I guarantee you there is someone
who would love to be where you are.”
~ Tama Kieves
The first and most important step to inventing a magical life is to weave a gratitude practice into your daily routine. There’s no time like the present. Play around with different approaches until you find one that resonates with you and you enjoy. If it becomes rote, then change it up and try a different approach. Naming our gratitudes shouldn’t be just a dutiful litany, it can and should be a wellspring of joy and sincere acknowledgement of the wonderful things already in our lives.
And you? Do you have a regular gratitude practice or ideas for one you’d enjoy? I’d love to hear about it.
Wishing you loads of magic and joy (and nummy coffee too!),