Appreciation and Looking for the Good

While any time of year is a fine time to practice gratitude, this season seems to lend itself especially well to the acknowledgement of our blessings. Senior Scholar-in-Residence and Kripalu Ambassador Stephen Cope says that year’s end is actually “a very good time to embrace contemplation and introspection, and to ponder the many gifts we have been given.”

Stephen says that, at its core, gratitude involves an understanding of the profound extent to which we’re all interconnected and dependent upon one another and upon the bounty of the world. “This understanding gives rise to feelings of awe and wonder,” he says, “and deep appreciation for the ways in which other beings hold us up and enable us to thrive. Gratitude, in that sense, is part of the awareness of union, of non-separation from all beings.”

Because gratitude acknowledges the wonder of non-separation, Stephen explains, it gives rise to more acts that acknowledge our essential unity. “It creates a profound sense of good will and openheartedness to all beings who come into our path,” he says.

And when we’re consciously grateful for the gifts our connections to other beings—human and beyond—can bring, we can’t help but experience greater happiness. “Gratitude and happiness are cousins,” Stephen notes. “They both give rise to a state of expansiveness. They both have their source in an understanding of our essential oneness with all of life.”

Stephen emphasizes that a gratitude practice doesn’t need to be elaborate—it can take just a few minutes each day. “Every night before I fall asleep,” he says, “I scan through my day in my mind’s eye, looking for moments for which I feel gratitude. I now fall asleep every night in a state of appreciation—because I’ve found that no matter how challenging the day was, it was absolutely replete with moments for which I feel profound gratitude.”

Stephen suggests keeping a gratitude list posted in your bedroom, and adding to it whenever you think of something new. He says another way to enhance gratitude is by noticing when it arises, and making a point of savoring the moment. “Marinate in those feelings before moving on to the next thing,” Stephen says. “Over time, this practice will actually change your brain.”

Even challenges and difficulties, Stephen says, can bring good things in their wake. “The contemplative traditions suggest that we actively look for the good,” Stephen says. “As we find the good, more gratitude naturally arises."

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