Both my mom and my grandma used to sing to me a lot when I was a kid, and one of the songs I most vividly remember Grandma singing was “Count Your Blessings”, which is a beautiful Christian hymn. The verses talk about how when everything seems to be crashing down around us or we’re really struggling in life, choosing to recognize and focus on the many blessings G-d has given us can really turn our perspective around.
“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
The importance of remaining grateful in life was instilled in me as a child, especially through my Christian upbringing. Although I’m Jewish now, this value is still a central part of my life. In fact, I start each morning (before I even get out of bed!) by telling G-d how thankful I am that He restored my soul and has given me a brand new day. I finish the short prayer by affirming G-d’s faithfulness (this same verse is actually the basis of another of my favorite childhood Christian hymns!) and only then do I get up and get started on the rest of my routine. I actually started doing this years ago even before my conversion and it made such a difference in my perspective throughout the day that I’ve never once thought of stopping!
“.מוֹדֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶֽיךָ מֶֽלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּים. שֶׁהֶֽחֱזַֽרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי ,בְּחֶמְלָה. רַבָּה אֱמֽוּנָתֶֽךָ”
“I give thanks before You, Living and Eternal King, for you have returned my soul to me with compassion. Great is Your faithfulness.”
Having my first words of each and every day be this special prayer of thanks to G-d is such a wonderful practice! Not only am I starting my day off on a positive, grateful note, but I am also beginning the day by acknowledging that there is something higher than myself and that life is not happening to me–it’s happening for me. I think it’s something that every single person on earth can do, regardless of their religion or background. I mean, think about it: I was raised as a Christian with this exact same value, and it has shown up not only in my Jewish life but also in my practice as a Reiki healer!
The third principle of Reiki is this:
“Just for today…I am grateful for my many blessings.”
You definitely don’t have to be religious or spiritual at all to practice gratitude, either. It’s something that all we humans can experience, and something that can really enrich our lives, no matter what beliefs we hold. But, you might be sitting there thinking, “Okay, Emily. Gratefulness is all well and good and that’s awesome for the people who actually have it good in life, but what about me? What about this shit that I have to deal with?!”
I hear you. Oh man, do I hear you! My depression has been pretty stable the last few years so I haven’t had much trouble with feeling grateful most of the time, but this has not always been the case. I have had so many days where I don’t feel an ounce of gratitude, and not only can I not see my blessings — I don’t want to. It’s tough sometimes to look around and see the people surrounding you getting the things you want for yourself. And you know what? That’s okay. You meet yourself where you’re at, and you just acknowledge that you’re feeling a little down and out and you’re having some trouble finding things to be thankful for. Once you release the pressure on yourself, I bet you anything it’ll be easier to see the good things that are (because, yes, they are!) always happening in your life. And, I also think that this is where the beauty of the Reiki principles come in; the principles clearly say, “Just for today,” and you know what? Today is doable.
Maybe you’ve got some other ideas on how we can practice gratitude in our everyday lives (like my mom’s Gratitude Jar, which we honestly all dreaded as kids every Thanksgiving) or maybe one of these hymns or prayers really resonated with you. Either way, whatever it is, if you’ve got any thoughts of your own about practicing gratitude, let us know in the comments below!