Updated: May 18
When things are not going the way we would like them to, when times are hard, when we cannot find a way out of our circumstances, it is easy to get into a downward spiral of negative emotions and destructive thoughts.
It is at such times, when we should engage in appreciation of what we have and what we are experiencing. Reminding ourselves of what we do have, can alleviate the suffering and oppression that threaten to drag us down. Allowing ourselves to feel gratitude for the experience we are having right now, however "bad" this may seem at the time, can open us to accepting the pain and letting it pass through us. It is also an exercise in acceptance of suffering and of the things that we cannot change.
1. If possible, sit somewhere comfortable. Make sure your back is straight and your feet flat on the floor. If you are standing, make sure your back is straight, arms to the side of your body, feet slightly apart and knees slightly flexed.
2. Take a deep breath. Breathe in through your nose and allow the air to go all the way down to your belly.
3. Count to five before slowly exhaling through your mouth.
4. Take another deep breath. Do not rush it. Make a conscious effort to breathe in gently and slowly, all the way down to your belly. Count to five and release gently and slowly.
5. Repeat 5 times.
6. Then say to yourself: "I am grateful for this moment of peace and for [here you can choose three things for which you feel grateful].
"I am grateful for this moment of peace, and for being healthy, having shelter and food on the table"
"I am grateful for this moment of peace, and for my health, the health of my family and for the smile on my children's faces"
We can also be grateful for the experience and for what it is teaching us, even if it brings up very painful emotions:
"I am grateful for this pain that is teaching me to be strong"
"I am grateful for this loneliness that is teaching me what it feels like to be alone"
7. Finish the exercise with a commitment to yourself to be mindful of the things you are grateful for as a practice for everyday life.
This may seem like a simple exercise and it is indeed. However, it helps us to get grounded and present in the here and now, stops the stream of negative thoughts and emotions, and helps us accept our suffering, which gives us the strength to carry on.
Incorporate greater Appreciation into your daily life
Take Appreciation breaks: no matter how busy it gets, take several breaks a day to practice appreciation. Just take 5 minutes to follow the steps in the exercise described above.
Create an Appreciation list: make a list of the things you appreciate and put it somewhere visible, like on the fridge, or by the mirror in your bathroom. The task is to remind yourself of these things throughout the day.
Practice Appreciation in the moment: make another list to take with you in your wallet, on the screen on your laptop, etc. When you are under stress or beginning to feel depressed, choose an item that can evoke appreciation. Make sure your breathe in and out as you mentally practise your appreciation statement.