In this second series of my five senses articles, I explore how using your five senses can refresh your gratitude practice.
The clinical definition of gratitude is to appreciate what is valuable and meaningful to oneself and to be in a general state of appreciation.
My morning journaling practice includes a gratitude prompt that I do each morning. I’ve been doing this for over a year now, and although there are other journaling prompts apart from gratitude (I practice Future Self Journaling), the gratitude prompt always has me searching for the ten things I’m grateful for each day. Tapping into my five senses has deepened my journaling practice even more.
Your Brain On Gratitude
Before we dive in, let’s explore your brain on gratitude.
As humans, the brain is wired to look for the threats in our environment, and this is how we survived in ancestral times and how we were able to find the energy (adrenalin) to run away from a dangerous animal. Through gratitude, we train our minds to look for all that is good, and we remind ourselves of the simple things to be grateful for and life’s simple pleasures.
In our thoughts and through our actions, we are either practicing or strengthening something—old, repetitive, and unhelpful stories or strengthening and creating new ones.
Through gratitude practice, you create new pathways in your brain that allow you to search for all that is good in your world. Each of our senses can be a doorway to a more profound understanding of gratitude.
I’ll begin with our most basic sense, which most of us look through, and then we can dive a little deeper.
The Eyes Are The Windows To The Soul
They say that our eyes are the windows to the soul. I wonder where that came from? I’ll save you the Google search – William Shakespeare it is.
Through sight, we experience most of the world around us. Look around you right now, what can you see that you are grateful for?
I’m home; I am grateful for home. I’m thankful for the safety and love my home provides. I’m equally thankful for my dog, who is creeping closer for cuddles as I type this. I cycled through the city yesterday; I’m thankful for my bicycle and the gift of mobility.
Listen To The Present Moment
I love my mornings. I wake up before my husband does so that I can meditate and journal. It’s a morning ritual that invigorates me for the day ahead. Finding sounds that surround you can take you on a more profound gratitude experience too.
I invite you to close your eyes right now and take a few moments to listen to what makes you smile, what brings you joy in your current moment.
Maybe it’s the sound of infectious laughter, or the sound of a bird chirping in the distance, or its the sound of your breath that reminds you to be grateful for simply waking up and being alive today.
The Memorable Experience Of Scent
As I mentioned in my previous article, certain scents take me on a journey to experience a moment in time.
When I smell the coffee brewing in our kitchen, I am instantly grateful for it. My morning cup is a ritual in itself – I savor the moment. It could be because I eliminated it for forty days last year when I started the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), but let’s not get into that.
As I cycled through a park yesterday, I smelled the fresh smell of the earth after the evening’s rain.
Can you smell something to be grateful for right now?
Where Does It Come From?
Prayer is used in many cultures and beliefs to give thanks for the food on our tables and for the hands that prepared it.
I would like you to consider another layer of this practice or introduce a new one. The majority of us don’t buy food from our local markets, nor do we know the farmer who grew the vegetables at our dinner table. That sense of connection is something we need to cultivate more of in our modern society.
Stopping to think about where our food comes from is one of the components of mindful eating. Cultivating a deeper sense of gratitude can mean being thankful for things like: the hands that picked the fruits and vegetables at our table, the animal that walked and grazed from the earth, the grass that they grazed on, the sun that was needed for the grass to grow, and the driver who transported the food to where you bought it.
When you taste the food during your next meal, I invite you to think about where it came from. Who and what made it possible for it to be on your plate at that moment?
Feel Into Your Momentary Experience
If I look around at all that surrounds me that I can touch, there are so many things to be grateful for. My husband, the plants I have grown in our home, our dog Gino, but if I go a little deeper, I sense that there is more.
As a fellow autoimmune warrior, my body was never something I was grateful for, but it is something I have cultivated gratitude for now. I am thankful for the signals it sends me that I need to take a deep breath, that it’s always doing its best to fight to keep me alive, and I am thankful for how it carries me in this world.
In the somewhat crazy and busy world we live in right now, there are always opportunities to slow down and experience our moments by being present and cultivating a sense of gratitude.
Let me know if the exploration of your sensory experience deepens your gratitude practice in the comments below.