In my desire to experience deeper levels of happiness, I’ve learned the importance of creating what I call a Gratitude List. A Gratitude List is simply a list of things you’re grateful for. I learned of the power of this method several years ago when I was interviewing spiritual leaders for a book I was editing. I had arranged to interview an elderly and well-known Native American man from the Lakota tribe. His name was Bear. I drove to meet him at this beautiful place he gave me directions to. Before I could interview him, Bear said, “First we must pray.”
What transpired was a great lesson for me. Bear began by literally talking to the rock he was sitting on and saying something like, “Thank you rock for providing me a seat. You are beautiful and I thank you for your strength and your power.” Then Bear proceeded to thank the tree next to him, and the sky, and the birds that flew by, and the opportunity to be helpful to me, and on and on. I thought his prayer was interesting and inspiring for the first couple of minutes. After five minutes, I began getting a bit impatient. After ten minutes of thanking every damn leaf and twig and squirrel he could see, I was downright irritated. Finally, after 15 minutes of thanking every single thing he could see, he turned to me and said, “What is your first question?”
Well, my first question happened to be, “How do you connect with the sacred during your daily life?” He smiled and paused before he answered. I was still a bit irritated, but as I looked at him, I could see that he was obviously in high heaven. His eyes were beaming; he radiated a strength and glow I had never seen in an 85 year old man. Finally, he said, “I just showed you how I connect with the sacred in daily life.” Indeed he had. He went onto explain that, whatever the situation he finds himself in, he gives thanks for it—for he sees it all as a gift from the Great Spirit.
As our discussion ensued, he made the point that he doesn’t just give thanks in a “general way.” He gives thanks for each individual person, situation, or thing in his environment. That way, he is filled with gratitude. In effect, he was making a gratitude list. Now, when making a gratitude list, it need not be about big things or big events. Bear even felt grateful for each bird that flew by and each squirrel he spotted. He didn’t put off feeling grateful until things went his way or he experienced good luck.
When making your own gratitude list, I suggest you aim for a high quantity of things to feel grateful for—rather than just a couple of items. You can either say your gratitude list out loud to a friend, or write it out in a gratitude journal. In order to feel grateful, I’ve found that it helps to have a certain quantity of items on your list to help you create a momentum of gratitude. For example, in my recent gratitude list, I stated, “Thank you for this computer I’m writing on; thank you for my health; thank you for this beautiful day; thank you for the pretty leaves on the tree outside my window, and thank you for my quiet office.” By listing a lot of items, I could more easily allow feelings of gratitude to wash over me.
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