“You think this is just another day in your life? It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well.” (unnamed elderly man in film by Louie Schwartz in Ted Talk Nature Beauty Gratitude)
Being grateful is to be thankful and appreciative and expressing this gratitude in your own heart or out loud can make you a happier, more mindful and a more positive person. There are many things to be grateful for and nature inherently provide us with this opportunity. Nature provides humans with 6 main gifts; the gifts to hear, taste, smell, touch, feel, and see. These gifts allow us to experience what the rest of nature offers, awe inspiring sites, sounds, smells, textures, tastes and that extra something that words can not describe.
“Oh my God.” Have you ever wondered what that meant? The “oh” means it caught your attention, makes you present, makes you mindful. The “my” means it connects with something deep inside your soul. It creates a gateway for your inner voice to rise up and be heard. And “God”? God is that personal journey we all want to be on, to be inspired, to feel like we’re connected to a universe that celebrates life. (Louie Schwartz in Ted Talk: Nature Beauty Gratitude)
How do you cultivate gratitude?
Gratitude is a form of mindfulness and so as with other mindful practices it involves simply using your senses to notice what is around you and then adding a ‘thank you’ to that experience.
Some people keep gratitude diaries in which each day they write or draw a message of thanks, others incorporate silent thanks into their daily meditation. I like to encourage people to make ‘Tokens of Gratitude’.
Have a piece of paper or perhaps even a leaf handy as well as a pen.
1. Close your eyes and picture an experience in nature today that left an impression on you. Perhaps it was the bird outside your window, perhaps a flower in your garden finally bloomed, perhaps you walked through crunchy Autumn leaves, took your dog for a walk?….
2. Now ask yourself, in that experience what did nature give you that you are grateful for? Perhaps it was a beautiful sound to wake up to, a burst of colour and scent, a reminder of kicking through leaves as a child, fresh air and companionship…?
3. Write your answer on the tag/leaf
4. Now on the other side of the tag/leaf/paper write down what you could do for nature to ensure that you can continue having that experience? Perhaps you need to protect it , love it, recycle, plant more trees, drive your car less….?
5. Hang this tag/ leaf/ paper somewhere you can see it or pick a natural object that adds some meaning and attach the tag/leaf/paper to it, then hang it as a reminder.
Expressing gratitude is a corner stone practice of most if not all spiritual faiths and indigenous cultural practices, the western world is just now catching up. However, typically we are doing this through the lens of Science in particular Psychology. Martin Seligman the so called ‘father of positive psychology’ has championed gratitude as one of the core virtues of human beings that if practiced can lead to a happier and more fulfilling life. As a result there is now an enormous amount of interest in positive psychology in clinical, education and research settings.
But my advice is this: Put science aside, just go outside and look around, open up your heart and notice, really see, smell, taste, feel and touch nature. Be amazed, inspired, mindful and appreciative of what and who is around you, smile and say thanks.