Monday, November 23, 2009

Ten Better Ways to Express Gratitude For Abundance In Your Life Than Eating An Abused Turkey’s Carcass


Others don’t need to suffer and die because our cultural traditions tell us that we need this in order to express gratitude. I am thankful each day that I don’t contribute to suffering. It was through my lens of being a vegan that I realized that gratitude is not a passive thing, but something that we cultivate with our actions and mindfulness. If you are lacking gratitude in your life – and we all go through this from time to time – it has a trickle-down, self-perpetuating effect: you feel resentful of others’ blessings, you become miserly, you close yourself off to the positive flow and abundance that wants to happen, the people around you are negatively influenced and treat you in ways that reinforce your self-destructive attitude. Fortunately, it’s easy to jump-start an active expression of gratitude in your life and nothing requires ingesting a tortured bird. Please let us know what you do to bring more thankful expression into your life.

1. Take a child to a park and really be present for her. Push her on the swings, jump in a leaf pile together, giggle. Have fun, don’t be afraid of looking silly and know that you’re creating memories for a lifetime. You’re helping to create a happy, grateful child.

2. Volunteer at the local animal shelter and take the dogs for a walk, play with the cats. If you have the means, consider adopting the one who steals your heart.

3. Think of someone who made you happy this year without asking for anything in return and try to be that someone for another person. Give the gift of your kindness every day.

4. Have a gratitude party: invite your closest friends over for vegan treats and just enjoy one another’s company. Or have a holiday cookie exchange party and supply baking sheets, rolling pins, cookie cutters, decorations and ingredients for a festive afternoon of baking together. Don’t forget the music...

5. Go through your clothing, including gloves, socks and hats, and find items that are still in good shape that you can donate to a local homeless shelter. Blankets are also useful. You can also find items in good condition at a nearby thrift store and purchase those for donation to charity.

6. Find something you’re passionate about and give the gift of your time to it. Whether it’s volunteering at the local homeless or battered women’s shelter, the local animal shelter or at your park district, as donation dollars and grants are dwindling, non-profits rely even more than ever on volunteer efforts.

7. Make amends to someone you have hurt, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Give your sincere apologies for that which you were responsible for and ask for forgiveness. Whether or not you are forgiven, rest assured knowing that you did you did your part.

8. Watch a movie or listen to music that inspires you and lifts your spirits. Share this with others who are having a hard time.

9. If you are struggling with feeling hopeless and depressed, making a daily commitment to maintaining a gratitude list is a great way to get out of that. Every night before you go to bed, write down three things you were grateful for that day, and then the ways you caused those grateful moments to happen. They don’t have to be major, earth-shattering occasions you are taking note of: simple things like that you swept the kitchen or returned some phone calls are important to acknowledge when you are feeling down and the acknowledgement can help you lift yourself back up. As a great little side effect, you will find yourself bringing more blessings in your life in order to maintain your list.

10. Give thanks for the blessings in your life whenever they occur. Your gratitude will become a more intuitive response with practice, like a muscle that is given proper exercise. Remember to appreciate the small and the big gifts – a stranger smiling, a friend appreciating you, a new skill you’ve learned – and really feel thankfulness deep inside you. Others will feel this in you and create more blessings in their lives, keeping the happiness flowing in and out. If others have turned off their ability to feel gratitude presently, it shouldn’t affect you. Move on, knowing that you are creating a beautiful and lovely compassionate life.

“My life is my message.” Mohatma Gandhi

9 comments:

Vegan Burnout said...

I love this! When I was living across the country and really struggling with anxiety and homesickness, my mom told me to write down one good thing that happened each day. Whether it was eating an apple while sitting outside or talking on the phone with my best friend, being able to flip back through my day planner and see all the good things that had happened made me feel better.

The Voracious Vegan said...

LOVE THIS POST! Such great suggestions, they are really inspiring. Thank you!

Marla said...

Thanks, VB and VV! VB, I think an important element of the gratitude exercise you were referring to is also listing how you made that happen. For example, I took the time aside, I valued myself enough to do it, I am making an effort to feel better, etc. This helps us to see how very key we are to creating happiness, which I think we can sometimes get the impression is because of random good things that happen to us. We do need to have an active hand in creating it, often. :)

Laloofah said...

I love this post too, Marla, such great ideas. VB's comment reminded me of my college friend Inez. Whenever she thought I (or anyone at our dinner table) had whined enough...about our crappy day, our tough workload, our unfair professor, our lousy ex-boyfriend... she'd demand that we tell her about three good things that had happened to us that day. Sometimes it was really hard to shift out of complaining mode and come up with one good thing (and sometimes it really pissed us off to have Inez crash our perfectly good pity party, lol), but once we got going, we could almost always come up with more than three good things. And it completely changed our whole vibration from negative self-pity to an attitude of gratitude. I forget all too often to tell myself to do this exercise, so thanks for the reminder! :-)

Marla said...

Such great thoughts, Laloofah. Thanks for sharing! I think pessimistic people consider that wishy-washy: not when you really have to work to cultivate it, it's not. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is give in to the negative thinking. You really have to redirect your skis - which requires mindfulness and self-disciple - to not engage with that frame of mind.

The Blasphemous Fiendess said...

Those are fantastic suggestions. I like the idea of a gratitude party with friends. It could be incorporated with bringing donations for a food bank as we are all grateful that we have enough to eat.

Marla said...

Totally, totally, totally, BF! Excellent idea. Thanks for sharing it!

Susan said...

As children, every night in bed after lights went out my sisters and I would say, with our mom or dad at our side: "Thank you, God, for a happy day, for XXX, XXX, XXX, etc. We'd enumerate as many things (people, events, activities, foods) we could think of for which we were truly grateful. We went to sleep with happy thoughts and woke up with same.

Unfortunately, our list used to include animals in the food category, but we didn't know better. Thank goodness I do now!

Marla said...

That's a great tradition, Susan. Thanks for sharing.