"Naming" versus "Feeling" the Things for Which We Are Grateful

being present self-care Jan 04, 2024
Taking time to feel gratitude

Like many of us, I've been contemplating 2023 and reflecting on my thoughts, plans, and dreams for 2024.   

I've chosen a word for the new year which shouldn't surprise anyone who's been following me for a while.

My word for 2024 is "presence."

My practice of being present began two years ago as an experiment one summer. And once I started this practice, I've not stopped.

My Biggest Takeaway From Being Present

Has been the depth of gratitude that I feel.   Truly feel.

At a minimum, several times each day.

Because when you are being present and are in the moment, you aren't thinking about anything else besides what is happening right then and there.  Here are a few examples from just the past couple of weeks:

  • waking up in the middle of the night with my husband and pups beside me.   How often do we wake up and start thinking about bad things?   Or worry?   Now, when I wake up, I notice my room.   My husband.   My dogs.   I notice that my back isn't hurting.   When my mind starts to wander, I bring it back to the present.
  • listening and paying full attention as my grandchildren show me all of the different ornaments on their Christmas trees.
  • sitting with my husband and chatting at the end of the day.   And really listening to and engaging in the conversation.
  • smelling the fresh air and looking at the blue of the sky as I'm taking my walk.   Being amazed at what my body is doing while I'm walking. Breathing.   Heart beating.  Legs moving.

It's important to note that being present doesn't always mean you are immersed in positive experiences.   There have been some not as positive ones along the way, as well. 

The act of being fully present in our sad or angry feelings in the moment helps us to move forward and to get past them. 

Naming Versus Truly Feeling

Identifying what we are grateful for has become almost a cliche practice throughout the years.   Gratitude journals have become very popular.  Experts talk about the science behind the act of practicing gratitude.   How it can turn our lives around and even rewire our brains.

I believe this to be true.  But only when we are truly present in the gratitude.

Each morning, I journal something that I'm grateful for.   But, if I'm being honest, 95% of the time that I write the thing down, I'm naming it.   Not feeling it.

It's always something for which I am truly grateful.  However, I typically don't take time to really think about it in depth.   I don't reflect on the times I had or didn't have whatever the thing was.  I just think of it and write it down.

I sort of check that box for the day.

When I'm in a situation where I'm actively practicing being present, I am immersed in that experience of gratitude.   I am fully present for it.  

And am truly truly grateful.

So, I encourage you in these next days, weeks, and months to not just name the things that you are grateful for.   But to take a minute and really reflect on and feel the gratitude for that thing.   And, if you can, do it in a moment when you are being fully present.  When you are thinking of, or even better, experiencing nothing else in that moment except for that thing.

It can be something as small as that delicious hot cup of coffee that you are sipping on in the morning.    Something as huge as good news from your doctor.  And anything in between.