We lead busy lives. As a consequence, “self-improvement” can feel like something that is just too time-consuming or energy-sucking to deal with. One of the things that can help with this is to do these things in little tiny chunks – say, one minute at a time. I know that no matter how busy you are, you’ve got one minute somewhere in your day. Find that minute and let’s practice one minute of gratitude.
As you may have guessed, it’s a pretty simple process. I’m of the opinion the simplest processes are the ones that have the most profound impact. Rather than complicate them with all that messy cognitive interference (aka “thinking!”), they touch something basic within us.
Here are the steps. There will not be a test at the end.
1. Find a quiet spot.
2. Breathe deeply.
3. Give thanks for something.
4. Breathe some more.
5. Reluctantly leave your quiet spot, but promise it that you will return!
See, I even gave you some exit instructions.
Gratitude is a process that we tend to muck up with our emotional reactions, our learned prejudices and assumptions, and all kinds of other stuff. The trick is to let go of the judgment and just be simply thankful, without a reason or an explanation. If your shoes feel good, flood them with your loving gratitude. Good hair day? That works fine. Someone did something nice for you? Direct your uncomplicated flow of love and gratitude their way.
As the complications come in, be grateful for your mind’s ability to produce such complicated loveliness and then let them GO. Return to that powerful stream of pure thankfulness. Let it wash over you. Pick a color. Is gratitude green and vibrant? Is it muted and smoky? Plaid? Your choice. Envision it touching the object of thanks, if you want. Let your pulsing blue river of gratitude flood over that guy who held the door open on the bus. See it however you’d like.
The point isn’t to do it right. There is no point, really, other than being in that moment of thanks, touching it, letting it become a part of you.
One minute! That’s all. No goal. No way to do it right. Just an opportunity to do it.
Jeff Guardalabene is a psychologist at Pacific’s counseling center on Cedar Street.