Conscious Gratitude

By Alex Cohen

I want you to try something. Take out a blank sheet of paper. On the top of the page, write, “Today I am grateful for…” Below that, write out the numbers 1-5. Now, think about the five things you are most grateful for.

I will make this a little harder by removing the obvious answers – your family, your health, your partner, your children. What are the five specific things you are grateful for at this very moment? It’s not easy to come up with a list, is it? I tried to do this exercise in the past, but struggled to write new things every day. So, instead, I listed things that I am grateful for and paid more attention to what I actually have that I am thankful for.

To be conscious is to be aware, awake and alert, and to be grateful is to be thankful and to show appreciation to a kindness. How many of us go through a single day, or even weeks, unaware of the great things in our lives? We often take the smallest things for granted. By being more aware and responding positively to our surroundings, we become more in tune with ourselves and those around us.  There is a reason why people say “stop and smell the roses.” We need to focus more on what we are happy about in our lives and stop dwelling on things we don’t have or situations that do not go our way.

Let’s start with ourselves; we must first find gratitude in our own lives so that we can begin to return the kindness to others.  I started with something simple. Every time I used visit my husband at his office, I would always swing by his desk to give him a little peck. Today, we work in the same office building, and now he comes by my desk to do the same for me – for that I am very grateful.

Everything in our lives is a blessing. We go to sleep at night, we wake up the next morning. Many people assume these things are a given – ask those who have lost someone in their sleep – they are not. We go to work; whether we like where we work or not, we are employed when so many are not. We buy lunch; many go hungry because they can’t afford to eat. We make our way home by public transportation or by car; compared to many, we are lucky to be able to afford either. And we return to our homes at the end of a long day and curl back up in that bed that we woke up in. Now stop and think for a second; imagine not having a place to call home. Think about the homeless living on the street who have to search for a safe place to sleep every night. I just gave you five reasons to be grateful every day.

How do you experience life and the world? Do you live as a robot, merely saying “thank you” to someone as a habit, or do you really mean it?  Thanksgiving should not be one day a year, it should be everyday of our lives. As busy as we are, we can always find something to be thankful for – whether that’s what we have, who we are, or what we have been tasked with.

However, you have to envision the act of gratitude. Practice it, create a gratitude journal, and leave yourself or others sticky notes revealing what you are thankful for. Be fully present in your own life and when you say “thank you,” mean it, even in your gestures, thoughts, and prayers.

Here are the five things I am grateful for at this very moment:

  1. For the kiss I get every single morning from my husband before he leaves for work, even if I am still asleep.
  1. For Gladys, who lives with us and who takes care of our entire family. She says she does it because she is so grateful to have us in her life.
  1. For my three doggies, who are the happiest in the world to see me walk through the door.
  1. For James, who knows I am trying to eat better and left me boxes of homemade healthy food in my fridge on his days off so I will stay on-track.
  1. And for my parents, who turn 80 and 85 this year and celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary; I am grateful they are healthy and still with us.