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November 23, 2017

A Glaring Omission in our Gratitude Practice.

It’s easy to say that “gratitude is the best attitude” or to espouse the importance of counting our blessings.

During this time of year, we tend to make a point of appreciating our lives and the people who play a positive role in them. But the more I think about my past gratitude practice, the more I see a glaring omission. And not just in my own practice either.

I see so many posts on social media thanking friends, family, and even pets for their roles in our lives. We thank service members and people who provide services in our community. We perform random acts of kindness for strangers. We do all of these things to show our appreciation for everyone around us, and while it’s a beautiful and admirable thing, I wonder why we so often leave self-love out of the equation.

As much as we may praise body positivity and talk about self-care, what we say and what we do don’t always align. We say it’s great to love how we look, but then we discuss diets and complain about getting too little exercise and constantly check the number on the scale. We look in the mirror and find flaws instead of kindness.

We are surrounded by advertising and media that tell us we shouldn’t feel too good about ourselves. Otherwise, how can they convince us to purchase products designed solely to make us the new-and-improved version of ourselves?

Add to that the idea that self-love is often seen as selfish or egotistical. Shouldn’t we focus on being grateful for others and practicing kindness? Isn’t it pretty self-serving to turn that attention on ourselves?

When we have all of these beliefs coming at us from our own minds and the world around us, it can be difficult to find the space to extend some of that gratitude to ourselves. But we’re doing a disservice to ourselves and others with this line of thinking.

Self-care isn’t selfish.

But because most of us haven’t already established a way of working self-love into our gratitude practice, it may seem like a daunting process. Here are a few ideas to get us started:

  1. We can demonstrate gratitude for our health by making better choices. This could be taking an extra serving of fruits or vegetables with our meals or working in a few minutes of exercise during the day.
  2. We can appreciate our skin with a pampering skin care routine. This could mean doing an at-home facial, or taking the time to apply sunscreen before a day spent in the sun. We could also give ourselves a short facial massage.
  3. We can show thankfulness for our hearts and the work they do by engaging in a heart-healthy form of exercise. Even a quick walk can help.
  4. To honor the mind/body connection, we can take a yoga class or make time to meditate daily, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
  5. We can stop for a moment and breathe deeply and fully to show appreciation for our lungs and for the miracle of every breath we take in this life.
  6. We can check in with our bodies. How are we feeling? Does anything hurt? Are we uncomfortable in any way? Listening to our bodies’ cues is a great way to ward off, or at least reduce, illness and injury.
  7. We can show gratitude for our emotions by practicing daily coping skills, instead of waiting until we’re stressed out, in a crisis, or overwhelmed because things aren’t going according to our carefully-constructed plans.
  8. We can express gratitude for our senses by fully appreciating them. This is one of those times when “stop and smell the roses” should be taken literally. We can enjoy the scent and taste of a hot cup of coffee. We can feel the soft fabric of a sweater against our skin or enjoy the beauty in nature that’s on offer year-round. We can listen to music that speaks directly to our souls and lifts us up. We can make sure to appreciate each of our senses for the little gifts they bring us on any given day.
  9. We can protect the bodies we’re living in by reducing our carbon footprint on the environment. Perhaps we choose an eco-friendly cleaning product for our homes or opt for a sage smudging to cleanse the air. Maybe we choose to eliminate any product filled with additives or growth hormones. We could skip a highly-processed meal in favor of a fresh or organic one.
  10. We can promote a healthy mind/body/soul connection by acknowledging what makes us feel good about ourselves, our bodies, or our emotions. We can do for ourselves what we would do for a close friend and give ourselves that same level of encouragement and support. If we need to make a healthy change, we can show ourselves some compassion or forgiveness while gently encouraging the change.

It’s so easy to overlook our own bodies, hearts, and minds when we’re busy being thankful for everyone and everything around us. Focusing on others is wonderful, but when we begin to practice radical self-care and passionate self-love, we are better able to love and support those around us.

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Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Pixabay
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Emily Bartran
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis

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