Doro Bush Koch & Tricia Reilly Koch
In our work creating wellness experiences, we frequently see ourselves in the role of imparting wisdom. And yet, what keeps us true to our message — what helps us remember how important gratitude is to our whole health — are the moments when we are graced with lessons from others.
At a recent retreat, we were working with a sommelier at a resort. He loved his work with wine despite the fact that he was in recovery, an active participant in Alcoholics Anonymous. When talking about optimism vs. pessimism, he told us, “I don’t see the glass as half empty or half full. I’m just grateful for the glass.”
For years we’ve been teaching about how cultivating an attitude of mindfulness can help us be present in — and grateful for — the moment, and how this presence leads to better health and happiness. To hear the way this man had come through addiction to a place of acceptance reminded us to practice what we preach. Listening to him was a gift, a call for us to be open.
Gratitude is a choice. It’s a muscle that needs strengthening through regular practice. There are many ways to do this, from journaling to prayer to making lists or more active practices like giving time to help others. Different approaches will feel right to different people at different points in our lives.
In our teaching, we emphasize the importance of bio-individuality. Like any other aspect of holistic health — nutrition, exercise, sleep — our gratitude practice is specific to us.
The important thing is that we remember that gratitude is a key spoke on the wheel of wellness. It needs to be a priority, something we tend as much as our stomach and our bodies. The science is overwhelming that people who practice being grateful have greater rates of happiness and stronger feelings of fulfillment, both of which contribute to health and vitality.
As we’ve grown older, we’ve come to understand that life is messy; it isn’t a bowl of cherries. Practicing gratitude is one of the ways we can learn to remain happy amidst the suffering and challenges. Because they will come.
We can’t control setbacks, natural disasters, or pandemics. But we can ensure that we are preparing ourselves to build resilience, like one strings beads on a necklace, by keeping up practices that make it possible for us to accept the reality in front of us.
Mindfulness is accepting what is. When we combine mindfulness with intentional practices that help build our gratitude mindset, we don’t spend life waiting for the train to come in. Rather, we’re content to take in the scene at the station.
In The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, his holiness the Dalai Lama XIV says, “The most important quality to have toward your day is gratitude for what you have experienced, even for what was hard and what allowed you to learn and grow.”
When we decide to integrate a gratitude practice in our lives, we are giving our future selves space. We are making it possible to move through life with greater ease, accepting even the challenges that arise. The more we can cultivate a grateful outlook, the more at peace we will be.
When people share about the passing of a loved one, they may share relief that they passed peacefully. We don’t need to let go of living to reach bliss. Gratitude helps us inhabit a peaceful space in our daily life. So let’s choose today to be grateful for what we have in front of us.
Growing Bolder contributors Doro Bush Koch and Tricia Reilly Koch are sisters-in-law who founded the wellness company BB&R, Bright, Bold and Real over a decade and a half ago with a very clear goal: to share with others what they’ve learned about mindfulness and holistic living with the intention that everyone begin to live their best life. Learn more about their retreats, workshops, courses and popular Health Gig podcast at bbrconsulting.us.