Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Hey beautiful soul,
The colonizers would say that this month we are celebrating “Thanksgiving” but by now I’m certain you know that story is a lie. If you aren’t there yet, you can check out the truth about Thanksgiving here, here, and here.
Despite the awful stories that plague this month, we have an opportunity to honor our ancestors who were enslaved and murdered by practicing gratitude. While we, of course, are not grateful for their tragic deaths, I invite you to find gratitude in the beauties they have left behind like holistic medicine, advancements to society, spiritual teachings, and connection to nature. Both our grief and gratitude are allowed space to exist this month.
As we walk through life in the present, we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors’ accomplishments and advancements to civilization. Let’s take the Aztecs for example who are responsible for a lot of what we know related to technology, science, and astronomy. Education is mandatory for children in many places of the world, thanks to the Aztec influence!
The Yoruba people, through rich oral history, gifted us rituals and practices for connection to our ancestors. They show gratitude to their ancestors through altar offerings, a practice that has become customary in many cultures and religions around the world!
The Mayans are well-known for their calendar system which helped them predict solar eclipses and is very similar to the ones we use today. As a Dominican-American womxn, I can’t forget the Tainos whose complex and rich religious belief system honors nature and whose agricultural influences are still prevalent in the Dominican Republic today.
Our ancestors from across the globe left us riches, and the fact that we get to build our lives on top of these accomplishments deserves gratitude... regardless of the ways our counterparts have tainted their stories for us.
Now, I’m coming out of my ancestral bag into the present moment to tell you how I discovered gratitude. Books come into my life at divine (synchronous, perfect) timing, and in 2018 I stumbled across “The Magic” by Shonda Byrne - basically a month-long practice in gratitude. As a heavy analytical thinker, the “Law of Attraction” behind Shonda’s theory of gratitude made sense to me... essentially, you get back what you put out.
After the first week of practicing gratitude every day, while I didn’t get a random $10,000 deposit in my account (lol), I did notice a shift in my perspective. Unfortunate things would happen like missing the train, breaking a glass, or getting an unexpected bill I didn’t have room in my budget for, but I didn’t hold on to them like I normally would through complaining and wallowing. Gratitude gave me something to lean on when things got hard – without knowing, I was strengthening my capacity for faith.
Moreover, as my gratitude practice matured, so were the things I was able to feel grateful for. I started my practice by being grateful for material things. Presently I am still grateful for material things, but I’m also grateful for experiences and nature. I used to practice gratitude for big things/accomplishments, now I practice gratitude for “small things” like my daughter’s laugh or my husband’s hugs.
Through time I also noticed how the devotion of my gratitude practice shifted. At first, I was grateful to my higher self, then to the Universe, then to Nature, and ultimately to God (Source, Creator, insert your most comfortable name here). There’s no right or wrong way to dedicate your gratitude practice – the one thing I invite you to keep in mind is that maybe one day your gratitude ultimately honors something greater than you.
For my readers who feel like this all sounds “woo-woo” (I totally get it), here’s a different lens. According to psychologytoday.com, gratitude is scientifically proven benefits to increase our overall wellness! The feeling and practice of gratitude has positive effects like opening the door to more relationships, improving physical health, improving psychological health, enhancing empathy, reducing aggression, improved sleep, improved self-esteem, and increased mental strength/resilience. This article shows us the ways gratitude can serve as a priceless psychological healer helping us to increase our satisfaction with life as it is – not as we want it to be.
So, whether you want to honor your ancestors, try out the law of attraction, connect to your higher power, or simply enjoy the psychological benefits of gratitude, here are 5 practices to get you started:
Appreciate your surroundings through new eyes on your next walk
When I’m outside, I’m focused on getting from point A to point B… it’s the New Yorker in me. If this resonates with you, set an intention to appreciate your time outside and notice what stands out to you. Does the tree in front of your building look any different today? What color is the sky? Did you see any new plants at the park? Marvel at what makes you feel good, and sit in that feeling of appreciation when you get home.
Highlight the good parts of your day
We have a tendency to focus on the negative parts of our day like an annoying commute or zoom malfunction because they are the most impactful to our psyche (read: negativity bias). In the same way we train our muscles to become stronger, we can train our minds to do the same. We aren’t trying to eradicate negativity in our life through gratitude, rather balance the negative with positivity.
Turn gratitude inward
Do you give yourself enough credit for being freaking amazing? We often focus on our faults (see negative bias above) and gratitude gives us an opportunity to be our own hype people! What can you be grateful for when it comes to yourself? Are you resilient? Brilliant? Creative? An excellent mother? A hard worker? A dedicated daughter? It all deserves to be celebrated and appreciated by you.
Turn gratitude outward
Think about how you feel when you receive a note of gratitude from someone whether verbally or physically. The next time your appreciation senses are tingling send a text message to a friend and let them know how much they mean to you. I invite you to take your gratitude one step further and write a hand-written note! As you seal the note in the envelope, envision your love and gratitude leaving with it.
Look back to glide forward
Research some of the ways your ancestors practiced gratitude and find ways that work for you. Perhaps you want to explore creating an altar or tuning into and honoring nature! By connecting to the ways your ancestors practiced gratitude you not only deepen your spirituality but also practice appreciation in the process.
There are a ton of different ways to engage in the vibration of appreciation through gratitude, and this list is only a start. Notice the subtle changes in your mood and wellbeing after finding a gratitude practice that works for you. By honoring our ancestors, healing ourselves, and practicing gratitude we are making space for the greatness that seeks to make its way out through us 😊.
Just your casual reminder that you are loved,