Today was day 46 of the gratitude practices that I began on October 10, Canadian Thanksgiving. Not only have I gotten in front of my computer every morning to be live and record the sessions, I've talked about gratitude with most of the people in my life (apologies to those who've had to endure me). I've steeped myself in gratitude. But I've come to the end of what I set out to do.
It isn't really the end, though. It's the last time I'll research, prepare, go live, record a call as a part of a series devoted to gratitude. But it feels like just the beginning of my own gratitude journey. I planted a gratitude seed, a state of gratitude, I watered it daily, and now I have this lovely gratitude trait growing in me. That's what happens — with purposeful attention, a state can become a trait. And the trait of gratitude has shown to feed joy in your life. And trait joy is fuel for gratitude (an upward spiral). Yeah, I'd like more of that in my life, thank you!
Nobody asked me, which I thought was interesting, and I didn't bring it up, although it would have made for an interesting daily call, but what's the breathing person doing spending all this time and energy focused on gratitude. Besides the idea that nobody is just one thing, that this would be a very flat existence if all I ever did was talk about breathing, there is a connection.
One of the breathing techniques that I am certified in, and don't talk about much, is HeartMath™. HeartMath (I'm not putting the ™ after I every time I write HeartMath, but you and I both know it's there) is a breathing technique that uses technologies to maps out heart rate variability. It has encouraged and participated in research to back up the techniques, and they have had great results. The techniques work, in part, by focusing on positive feelings in your heart centre.
A friend pointed out to me today that I'm a Meyer's Briggs INTJ. This friend sent along an article (below if you're interested) that showed the difference between INTJs and INFJs, which this friend is. Yeah, that's me. I'm not a big "feeling" person. I'm analytical, critical, logical, rational. This whole HeartMath thing where you feel warm fuzzy feelings is, well it feels phoney to me. And how can just "feeling" something change my heart rate and my nervous system? Well, somehow it does — What is the vagus nerve? for 200 Alex. Early in my Season of Gratitude I went to a HeartMath practitioners' Zoom meet-up, and one of the things we did was this Heart Lock-In technique where we feel the feeling in our hearts. It sounds super cheesy, but it feels so good. That's the kicker — it actually works. A part of my Season of Gratitude practice was me checking with me to see it worked (that's an INTJ thing too, apparently.
When we purposefully bring our attention to pro-social emotions like gratitude, it changes the state of our autonomic nervous system, and that shifts our breathing. The more we do it, the more our breathing becomes slower, calmer, more functional. Over time state becomes trait.
Of course, breathing isn't the only answer. Nor is gratitude. There are many people who need or want other kinds of work — physical therapy, manual therapy, depth psychology — to find their way back to themselves, to resolve things in their own bodies, to manage life. And I definitely encourage that, and do those things myself. But there are moments where feeling gratitude in my heart is the beginning of shifting a moment of stress, where bringing attention to a positive feeling calms my breath, and then things begin to flow again.
A Season of Gratitude may be finished, but gratitude has only just begun in me.
If you are feeling like you missed out on A Season of Gratitude, fear not! It's all been posted on this website as a new blog (a vlog? cringe). You can pick and choose, or go through the whole thing, and create your own gratitude practice. It's free (it was from the beginning and it always will be). I hope that it inspires you as well.