Several years ago, I was working for The Chopra Center—which I absolutely loved and was in my dharma—and, I was working way too much. My hours were long—I was stretched between running events, running teacher trainings, being a teacher myself and traveling. After several years of this, I got to a point where I was really unhealthy. I wasn’t eating well. I wasn’t sleeping well. I was putting on weight. I rarely saw my family and my friends had long since stopped calling. Eventually, I went to see an acupuncturist and she stated, quite frankly, “I don’t know what you’re doing but you’re nearing adrenal burnout. This is serious. You’re really not okay.”  

I had gotten into the routine of moving so quickly through life every day and I’d forgotten to practice what I was teaching. To some extent, I think we all do this, right? We wake up, we burn through the day, we pass out. We shift into auto-pilot and everything else gets put on the back burner. We do the things we know we have to do, whether that’s raising our kids, or nurturing our spouses, or going to work and doing a great job at the office—and we forget to slow down and do some of the most basic things that really return us to living from a place of wholeness. 

reclaiming your life through gratitudeThe day came, shortly after the trip to the acupuncturist, when I sat down and asked myself how I could pull my life back together again— to feel healthy, clear in the mind, motivated, energized, and alive. I made a list of ten things that I thought, “If I do these ten things every single day, without fail, I think I could get my life back on track.” And one of the things on that list was gratitude.  

It’s Thanksgiving here in the States this week and we often talk about feeling grateful for the things that we have in our lives during this time. I’d like to talk about gratitude in terms of taking it a step further and how to use it as a tool for reclaiming your life.  

It’s one of those things that’s so obvious and easy to do that we forget about it. There are some things we can do to feel into our gratitude more, to really use it as a way to connect to something more deeply inside of us and the things outside of us, as well—the people in our lives and the experiences that we have every single day.  

Go Deeper into your Gratitude 

As part of my gratitude practice from my personal lifestyle reset, I would not just list something I’m grateful for and move on. I ventured to explore why I’m grateful for it. So, if it’s a person that I’m grateful for, why? What made me feel a level of gratitude for that person? And really dig into it. Why am I grateful for my husband today? Why am I grateful for the opportunity to share with—and guide others today? 

When you understand why something or someone is important to you, it gives you so much more information about yourself, about the thing you’re grateful for, and about the connection that you experience as a result of that person or that experience or that thing. In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a big “why” person. It helps you know what you need more of in your life. What lights you up? In a good way. What fuels your heart and your soul? Your passions. What makes you feel connected? What makes you feel like you have purpose and meaning? 

I’m going through a little bit of a rough experience in my life where I’m feeling like shit is just coming at me from every direction. I’ve done a lot of personal growth work and, for the most part, I’m pretty grounded. I have a lot of tools, and I’m usually pretty good at navigating life. And I’ve been putting some thought into gratitude.  

I’ve really been feeling a level of gratitude for the life I’ve created. I always worked ridiculous hours at my previous jobs. And right now, with everything I’m going through, I’m grateful that I work for myself and that if I need to break down in the middle of the week for 3 or 4 days and lose my shit, I can do that. It allows me the freedom to sit at home on my couch and weep, to spend a day with my horse out on the trails, connecting with him, but also connecting with nature. It allows me the opportunity to stay in pajamas all day and meditate, and read, and do my release work, and be present with all of the emotions that I’m feeling in a safe, sacred space and just process whatever I need to process.  

I’m also grateful for the life I’ve created because of the tools and techniques I’ve learned over the years that enable me to sit in this space that I have. Because it’s one thing to have the freedom, and the time, and the place to fall apart. It’s another thing entirely to have the tools and techniques to allow yourself to navigate your emotions. To let go of old beliefs. To break out of old patterns and behaviors. To self-reflect.  

So, go deep. Go deep and ask yourself, “Why am I really grateful for this?”  

be present with gratitude

Gratitude Brings You to the Present 

We lose who we are in the busyness of days. We lose our connection to self. We lose our connection to source, or God, or the universe. We lose our connection to other people. We lose connection to our purpose.  

When we spend time in gratitude for what is happening in our lives right now, we become more present. And when we are present, we are more able to connect with ourselves, our higher power, those around us, and our purpose. 

How does this help you reclaim your life? Because I’m going to guess that your lifestyle is probably not too different than mine in the sense that you probably wake up and wish you had several more hours in the day to do all the things that you either have to do or would like to do. As a result of living that way, we’re often living in the past, ruminating in the past, and feeling guilt or remorse or regret about the past. Or we’re living in the future.  

Gratitude Reminds You of the Amazing Gifts Life Has Given You 

Gratitude helps you reclaim your life because it puts you back in touch with who you are and the amazing gifts that life has bestowed upon you. The beauty comes through in remembering, or realizing, or taking the time to really see, feel, hear, and reflect. It helps to anchor you back into what’s truly important in your life.  

We tend to take things for granted. We take for granted the people, our partners, our spouses, our lovers, our children. We take for granted our health. We take for granted our finances. We take for granted where we live. We take for granted the things that we don’t have. We sit around complaining about the things we don’t have, and we forget to focus on the amazing things we do have. So, the way I see it, gratitude provides us an opportunity to really shift from the busyness, the chaos, and the negativity that can so easily take over our lives and leave us spiraling and reminds us of what’s truly important in our lives.  

Share your Gratitude 

A powerful way to practice gratitude is to send gratitude letters. Think of someone in your life who’s had a profound impact on you, or someone that you love deeply. It could be a co-worker, it could be someone who did something amazing for you, or an author, your best friend, or someone in your family. Connecting with why that person means so much to you, and then letting them know, can have a profound impact on both of you. 

Several years ago, one of my best friends, one of my favorite people on the planet, posted something on Facebook like, “I hate when people post things that are like ‘7 tips for’ or ‘3 ways to’…” It’s a numerical thing for her. She hates it when there are “10 reasons why…”  I was being kind of fun and funny that day, so I decided to find my favorite picture of her and post on her timeline ten reasons why I love her so much. I included things like her beauty, her intelligence, her mindset. But I didn’t just list ten words. For each reason I came up with for why I love her and think she’s amazing, I added why.  

There were so many comments from other people that know her, and they were adding things they love about her and why she’s so important to them too. I mean, what kind of gift is that? She called me up crying, telling me how truly touching that was and thanking me.  

Spending time in gratitude is for you, but sometimes it’s fun to share it with the people that we are feeling grateful for.  

I invite you to look at something in your life that you have a tremendous amount of gratitude for and explore why. Why are you grateful for it? What does it enable you to do? How does it support you? What does it provide you with? What is it teaching you about life, yourself, or the world? We can even be grateful at the end of the day for our really crappy experiences, just as we are for the really happy things we have in our lives.