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How Giving Thanks Can Give You a Boost

By Sharon Salzberg
January 31, 2024

In this excerpt from her new book, Finding Your Way: Meditations, Thoughts, and Wisdom for Living an Authentic Life, renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg offers her thoughts on the benefits of gratitude and how a regular gratitude practice can help you in your journey toward true happiness. The author discusses how focusing on the things we’re grateful for, no matter how small, can give us the strength to get through a bad patch—and the courage to look to the future instead of dwelling on past mistakes.

The things and people we are grateful for anchor us to the goodness in our lives. A moment of gratitude slices through the thicket of worries and mishaps that often grows, unchecked, in our minds.

Many of us find it easier to focus on situations that are going poorly and relationships that have become troublesome. When we’re feeling low, it is especially hard to cast aside that problem- centric vision to find some peace in gratitude. In those times, gratitude requires more elbow grease and creativity.

Whenever my friend Kate needs a gratitude boost, she takes a glance at the “Favorites” list on her cell phone. There she has the people she calls most often. Next to their names are small pictures of them. Sometimes she focuses on one person, a friend from school perhaps, and is grateful for his restored health, the joy he takes in his garden, or the memory of a particular summer night on his back porch. No matter what kind of day my friend has had, she can look at her “Favorites” and remember that the good of life exists even when times are difficult.

Another friend, Susan, has developed a personal gratitude-alert setting I admire. “I have a theory that there are no ordinary things or people or places or relationships, only ordinary attention,” she says. “Extraordinary attention makes ordinary things extraordinary. When I’m feeling disconnected or lonely, I do my best to remember to pay attention to details. I do my best to use my senses to take in the moment as it is happening.

“At first, I used this practice to calm my worried mind and settle my future-spinning. I then realized that paying attention—exquisite attention—is a way of falling in love. I can fall in love with the intricacies of a maple seed. I can fall in love with the sharp sounds of the blue jays and squirrels fighting nearby. I can fall in love with the poignant uncertainty of what the coming months hold. This transforms any moment from one I’m rushing through or impatient about or not noticing to one that I’m in love with. Paying attention is an investment of love in the moment.”

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Excerpted from Finding Your Way: Meditations, Thoughts, and Wisdom for Living an Authentic Life, by Sharon Salzberg (Workman Publishing). Copyright © 2023.