Gratitude is the ultimate renewable energy--it's free to give, and by giving it, you often receive more in return. If only everything were that easy!
But the truth is, it is easy to feel grateful, and the benefits are wonderful. Expressing gratitude (even if it's in the quiet of your own heart) has been found to make you happier, more successful, and healthier--and even sleep better and longer!
If you want to tap into the power of gratitude, it's simple: Just start small and quietly. Before you go to sleep at night, think of one or two things or people you are grateful for and just allow yourself feel it. Then do the same thing in the morning when you wake up. Keep a gratitude journal if you feel like it.
Throughout the day, take a moment when you start to feel thankful and stop to really feel it. For example, sometimes I'm in a meeting and I look around the room and realize that I am so grateful to every single person in that room. Sometimes I say it out loud, sometimes I don't. But I believe that even just feeling it puts the energy of appreciation out into the room.
If you're ready for more advanced gratitude, you can begin expressing it out loud and publicly--not like when you're a kid and your mom is like, "Say thank you, Maria!" but really genuinely feeling and conveying thankfulness. Look into someone's eyes. Smile. Connect. Send an email out of the blue. Handwrite a thank-you note and don't forget to put a stamp on it. (Perhaps we can save the U.S. Postal Service by deluging everyone with thank-you notes!) Surprise someone with flowers, a small gift, or even just a silly picture that brings a smile.
Throughout our lives, many of us at times feel underappreciated and unrecognized for our efforts, which can lead to a spiral of depression, loneliness, apathy, or sadness. I've found the best way out of the spiral is to give to others what you feel you're missing, and soon it will come back to you bountifully and joyously.
When I was a kid, we always said a prayer before dinner. As I grew up and moved away from organized religion, the prayer stopped. But what I miss is the act of taking a moment, stopping and appreciating all the effort that went into creating the meal--from the farmers who grew it to the cook who cooked it--and also the simple pleasure of sitting down with family and people you love. So I've started adding a prayer back in, just a little one of gratitude. It makes a difference.
Gratitude is infinitely free, infinitely powerful, and infinitely pleasurable. And nothing deserves our gratitude more than Earth, without which we would not exist (in this form, in this place) and neither would all of our daily pleasures--from the food we eat to the air we breathe, from the spring rains to the blossoming trees and flowers or the pictures of cute and funny furry animals on the Internet.
All of it, I believe, deserves our infinite gratitude.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com