Nature & Health, April - May 2012
"Count your blessings.' It's one of the most basic spiritual teachings. It's also on that I have constantly ignored, always busily wanting what I don't have. So, six months ago, when all my wishing and whining was only getting me more of the same, I decided to change tack: I would write a list of everything I am grateful for everything single day. It would be an exercise in shifting my focus and attention.
At first I just came up with the basics - food, water, shelter, clothing. Then came my family. We are broken and cracked in places, but I've been blessed with two parents who love and support me. And then there are my wonderful friends. There is my work, my yoga practice, the beach down the road. Perhaps things weren't so bad after all.
As time passed, the more I practiced blessing all the things I do have in my life, a funny thing happened: I found it easier to recognise the daily blessings that were all around me. And they were everywhere - a bird's song, being able to read and write, my phone, my legs, a sunrise, trees, my dreams, my mum's fish curry. The more grateful I felt, the more I found to be grateful for, or perhaps it was the other way around. Either way, being grateful felt great.
In Gratitude: A Way of Life, best-selling author Louise Hay writes: "When I wake up, the first thing I do before I even open my eyes is to thank my bed for a good night's sleep. From that beginning, it is easy to think of many, many more things that I am grateful for. By the time I have gotten out of bed, I have probably expressed gratitude for 80 - 100 different people, places, things, and experiences in my life. This is a great way t start the day." And the first words that Louise's colleague and spiritual teacher, Wayne Dyer, says are "Thank you."
The health benefits of counting your blessings are also well documented. Psychology professor and author of Thanks! Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Mariner Books), Robert Emmons, Ph.D. says it leads to sounder sleep, less stress and more overall life satisfaction. These days for me, counting my blessings is as important as brushing my teeth. And it's so easy. After all, blessings are everywhere. It's simply a matter of choosing to notice them.