Friday Musings: Demonstrations of Gratitude

Practicing gratitude is vital for deep fulfillment. When we make a focused effort to both acknowledge and dwell upon the positive forces in our life, we completely shift our horizon. 

Both Shane and I journal regularly as a part of our personal gratitude practice. We frequently tell one another how thankful we feel to both know and work with the other and for the positive impact that our relationship brings (love you brotha!). I continually strive for the vulnerability and sincerity to extend those expressions to all of the special humans in my life. 

The openness and discomfort in these moments are small prices to pay for the investment in my relationships and long-term happiness. 

As in all investments, the payoff comes in proportion to initial efforts. With a bit of additional effort, you can practice a far more potent form of expressing gratitude.

Demonstrations of Gratitude

When we express gratitude, either to others or to ourselves in writing or reflection, we purposely pluck positive memories and emotions from the soup and dwell, for the moment, on their beauty. With enough consistency, this practice grooves into an unconscious pattern - we become more positive, optimistic, and cognizant of our good fortunes.

Consider practices like keeping a gratitude journal to be expressions of gratitude. Remembering and meditating on all that we feel thankful for will always be an important practice but we can take it a step further into demonstrations of gratitude.

These may seem synonymous and are, admittedly, quite similar. Despite the minor differences, they can have profoundly different effects in practice. Expressions of gratitude have a momentary and fleeting quality. They are a moment of personal reflection, a quick journal session, or a sincere yet passing comment to a special person. These are beautiful and pure. Practicing expressions brings them to the fore more freely and naturally in your daily life. 

Demonstrations of gratitude require deliberate effort and investment. However small, when we invest our time, money, attention, and emotions, we tap into something deeper. Do not understand this to mean grand gestures, elaborate plans, or expensive gifts. My favorite demonstration of gratitude is a simple letter.

As I enter my third decade (and am finally beginning to consider myself a “man”), I cannot help but dwell on all the people who have played instrumental roles in my development. I can point to a handful of special (and often accidental) mentors whose contributions, though seemingly minor at the time, still influence my life. I have begun writing letters by hand to thank these special people for their guidance, help, or support, and let them know that whether they meant to or not, they continue to be a positive force in my life. 

I rarely fill more than a single side of a page or spend more than 10 to 20 minutes. The paper, envelope, and stamp cost less than a dollar. I make an extremely minor investment, yet the increased effect and production are potent in the way that a text or phone call will never be. It could be that the physical act of creating something enhances the emotions. It could be that writing taps into a more careful and deep form of thought. It could simply be that we have been conditioned to consider the letter as the ultimate form of emotional expression. But, the modality matters not.

For my letter recipients and I, the tiny extra effort pays back tenfold. 

I encourage you to begin a gratitude practice. The gratitude journal is a great place to begin. I began with a quick bedtime ritual of listing one thing I was grateful for, one thing I was proud of from that day, and one thing I aimed to do well the following day. 

I share this in hopes that it will inspire you to find your own ways to express and demonstrate your gratitude.