Practicing gratitude has been part of my morning routine for a week or so now. (Why gratitude?) I’m loving it, except for one troubling issue: a few mornings this week, when it came time for gratitude, my mind went blank -emptiness – there was nothing I could immediately bring to mind. When I did think of something, it was lazy and subject to availability bias: the coffee in my hand, my condo, my quiet morning.
After forgiving myself for my sense of entitlement and lack of perspective, I gave this some thought that should be helpful from now on:
In a gratitude practice, we shouldn’t settle for our first thoughts.
Our first thoughts are automatic, intuitive thoughts (system 1) that are usually focused on wanting what we don’t have or fearing loss instead of feeling grateful. System 1 is why we need to practice gratitude in the first place. We need to switch to slow, rational thought (system 2) to gain perspective and remind ourselves how good we have it.
We can get to the next level by counting the ways we don’t have to worry compared to others:
- people who lived 1000, 100, 10 years ago
- people living on low/no income
- people living in other countries without basic access to food/water
- people living in countries at war
- people living with disease
- people that are oppressed because of their skin color, religion, or sexual orientation
When viewing the above list from my relatively worry-free vantage point, there seems to be a certain baseline list of things to be thankful for regardless of day-to-day trivialities.
These are easy, no-brainer, gratefulness lay-ups:
- I woke up today. Death will come at some point but it looks like I get one more day.
- The sun rose. Without it I would be here.
- A couple billion years of evolution has given me this brain and this body.
- This body is currently free of disease.
- I have food and water.
- I have family and friends that love me.
- I don’t get discriminated against because of my skin color or gender.