Saying Thank You
Saying Thank You is about the daily practice of gratitude, the potential to change your perception of yourself and how you see your world, the new scientific evidence supporting that you can rewire your brain, and practical advice on a range of ways to cultivate a daily gratitude practice. I will also offer an original poem – just because it comes from my heart.
Thank you, dear friends and readers.
As the Zig Ziglar quote says:
“There are three things you can give and still keep,
your word, a smile and a grateful heart.”
When you say, “thank you” with intention and a grateful heart, you give a gift – and you get to keep that gift. It is a wondrous example of how giving and receiving are one.
Gratitude is a foundational element in my stress management coaching practice and underlies many of the habits in high performance coaching, most notably clarity, necessity and influence. Gratitude is also a driving force in my transformation, as I share in “Be Happy NOW!”
There is an old saying: We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. Let’s look at one example. What is your response when someone says, “Thank You”? What do you typically say? Perhaps you respond:
Reflect for a moment – without judgement -- about what that says about how you view your world, your relationships and your practice of gratitude, both towards others and towards yourself. Are you more open or more deflective? Are you more appreciative or a little uncomfortable, even dismissive?
This I know: a daily gratitude practice will – step by little step - change the way you see your world.
The basic concept – and I love the phrase -- is that “neurons that fire together wire together.” This awesome phrase was first said in 1949 by Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist, to describe how pathways in the brain are formed and reinforced through repetition. Messages that travel the same pathway in the brain over & over begin to transmit faster and faster. The neural network becomes stronger and more efficient – and eventually we can go on auto-pilot. We can rewire our brains. [If you want to read more, look at the research and writings by Robert Emmons, Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, and Sonya Lyubomursky.]
And that is exactly why a daily gratitude practice is so powerful.
I started my daily gratitude practice over 8 years ago as I detail in “Be Happy NOW!: From Wall Street Ambition and the Illusion of Success, My Path to Happiness.” David Prudhomme, my coach at that time and now co-author, suggested I start my day with 3 gratitudes. This suggestion made my prayers more heartfelt and more specific, and it helped me start my day in gratitude rather than in stress, thinking about my long to-do list for that day. One day almost five months into this new daily gratitude practice, I chose to be grateful for me. I was thankful to be me, thankful for my life. Imagine that.... it took me 5 months to be grateful for myself. Step by step, gratitude changes how you see your world.
The practice of daily gratitudes has been foundational and transformational for me. It has supported me as I have grown my coaching practice – and it has supported me through the dark times and grief of losing my husband.
A few years ago, as I integrated a meditation practice into my evolving Morning Ritual, I began to use Insight Timer. I found a wide array of gratitude meditations. I have used meditation to deepen my gratitude practice. A few of my favorites, in no particular order are:
[Note: these links may still require you to sign in to your Insight Timer app.]
Whether you are new to meditation or an experienced practitioner, these guided meditations can help you jump start or elevate your gratitude practice. The writing is eloquent and informed. The music is beautiful. The voices resonate with me.
I encourage you to download the Insight Timer app on your mobile phone. It is free. Over 1 million people have downloaded this app. My tip: when you first open the app, it can be a little intimidating to navigate the thousands of meditation options. I go to the bottom panel, meditations with the headphone image. Then in the top search bar, type in gratitude, and scroll down to Guided Meditations. Make sure you hit the “See all” tag on the right. You can then filter by most played, highest rated, duration, and alphabetically. Alternatively, you can search by the name of the teacher, once you find a person whose style and voice resonates with you. Now you have a meditation partner and teacher at your fingertips whenever the time is best for you to pause and meditate, be that for 2 minutes or 30 minutes.
More recently, I have started a Daily Gratitude Journal. It is not fancy. A simple composition-style student notebook, does it for me. I am now on Day 162. Writing 10 gratitudes in my journal is now firmly ingrained in my Morning Ritual. There is something about taking the extra time to put pen to paper that more firmly imprints the gratitude in my mind. And yes, there is scientific evidence to support why journaling is effective in rewiring your neural networks. This is called the practice of Deliberate Gratitude. However, if you are not drawn to journaling, it may help to say the gratitudes out loud and give voice to your thoughts.
There are other gratitude practices recommended by the experts in the field, in addition to meditation and journaling. A few examples are: start your day with a smile and joy; say thank you to other people to deepen relationships and make eye contact; close your day with a thank you; write a gratitude letter to someone and hand deliver it; take momentary pauses during the day to notice what you notice and what you can be thankful for; create a gratitude jar.
I trust that by now you get a sense that a daily Gratitude Practice goes deeper than a cursory “Thank you” and is more than simply feeling thankful. Personally, rather than trying to find the best definition of the word gratitude, and it is a complex topic, I am more into inspiring people to experience seeing the world through a lens of perception cleared by gratitude.
As you start, evolve or deepen your gratitude practice, I believe you will smile more, you will walk into meetings and people will feel a new energy, the staff in your local grocery store will truly know you appreciate their service, and in your walk in the woods or along a lake shore, you will see the miracle in nature, you will see the extraordinary in what was once ordinary.
In closing I would like to share a blessing I was asked to give earlier this month at a luncheon with a large group of women after a golf outing.
A Prayer of Daily Gratitude
“Let us all come together with a prayer of gratitude, joining with all traditions and faiths—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, native and earth traditions—that practice daily gratitude. We are humbled as we are a part of something bigger than ourselves, something that grounds us and unites us.
Please join me in a simple prayer: Thank you, God.
Thank you for this fresh air, the beauty of the lake, the caterpillar that transforms to a butterfly, for the nourishing rain, or not.
Thank you for our family, our partners, our children, grandchildren, blended families, brothers and sisters.
Thank you for our friends, near and far.
Thank you for our family and friends, past, present and to come.
Thank you for our Angels.
Thank you for our homes and our adventures.
Thank you for our health and the lessons of our infirmities and limitations
Going deeper and inward, thank you:
For all my talents and gifts;
For my giving spirit;
For my forgiving heart;
For my loving heart;
For my Life – just as it is in this moment.
Thank you for the everyday things:
For a call from a friend;
For the fact that my dog let me sleep in this morning;
For my cat, that chose to purr on my stomach at 3 am;
For the golf balls that disappeared in the water and taught me new patience --with myself;
For the smile of a stranger;
For the great energy and laughter at lunch.
In silence, for a few moments, add your own individualized prayers of gratitude.
Please join me in this prayer and then add a closing in the way you are accustomed, whether that be Shalom, Amen, Namaste, or another closing.
Thank you, God, I have no complaints.
Indeed, a grateful heart is one of the things you can give and still keep. Thank you. It is my pleasure.
Till next time,
May you be happy now and always, Alison
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P.P. S.: Here is a link from my website to preview and purchase our book, “Be Happy NOW!” https://www.alisonlanzafalls.com/p/be-happy-now.
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