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Mental Health

Feeling Helpless and Alone? Here’s How to Open Your Heart to Gratitude

These simple tips will leave you with a fresh perspective that will comfort and free you

Every person will face sickness, loss and the end of life, and it cannot be controlled or even known. The fear of loss you describe is the energy of life trying to protect itself. This fear tells of some-thing valuable that needs protection — your health, your autonomy, your loved ones. It’s important to name and acknowledge this, but the vital question is: How are you holding and relating to your fear?

You can’t control the inevitable losses. You can only control how you live your moments. You can stay locked in fear or meet what you’re given with a deep sense of appreciation, a spirit of gratitude. Gratitude opens the heart to a divine, loving presence that is so much greater than fear. It allows you to care for what’s before you knowing it’s temporary, not with sorrow but with the understanding of how precious it is.

Generosity is the expression of gratitude. While the heart may be tentative about giving at first, the more you give, the more your heart opens and the less afraid you become. You can delight in good times, even knowing they are temporary. You can develop a heart that’s happy when others are happy — there are so many more opportunities to be happy when you celebrate in the joy of others! Becoming open and generous in this way brings a fullness of delight.

It only takes a breath to look around and see with new eyes, to open to the greater love that flows through you, to awaken a spirit of gratitude and to live in a different way…courageously.

Open Your Heart to Gratitude

Here are small ways to open your heart to deep gratitude as a refuge from fear.

Simple appreciation: Ask: What am I grateful for? Open to that goodness. Appreciate the bounty. In relationships, embrace your power to give love with your words or small gestures of care. This lifts you up. Be generous to yourself as well. Surround yourself with as much beauty as possible, as this helps to soothe and calm fears.

Body-centered reflection: Remember a time when you were afraid to be generous, when you were fearful, clinging or stingy in some way. Sense how the memory registers in your body. There may be sensations of tightness or holding. Now, reflect on a time when you were generous to another. Play the scene in your mind and notice the sensations of delight, the joy in it. Rest in that bliss.

Visualization: Close your eyes and sense the presence of some-one you are connected with who has been very generous to you. Sense how it feels to remember that spirit of giving. Hold an image of their face in your mind. Softly whisper their name and the words Thank you. Sense them receiving and notice how this feels, taking some moments to fully feel this love in your body.

Follow your impulse to give: Find a partner and connect briefly each day to share what you feel grateful for. This helps you tune into the blessings in your life.When you have the idea of doing something generous, share it, go for it. Don’t hold back or overthink. The impulse to be generous comes from the depth of your being.

Open yourself to abundance: Consider that in this very moment, people are falling in love. Babies are being born and anniversaries celebrated. People are reconciling and reuniting. They are healing from sickness. Hard work is coming to fruition. People are hav-ing their dreams realized. Revel in their joy, let it multiply in your heart.

Gratitude walk: Allow yourself to be nourished by a walk in nature. Notice what you are grateful for and name it as you walk. Warmth from the sun. Solidity of the ground. Water that refreshes. Wind that moves the air, carrying the breath that we share. Life-giving presence of plants. Vast openness of sky. Appreciate and greet what you see, sensing it with an open heart.

For audio recordings of select mindfulness meditation practices, please visit Dr. Ferretti’s website Present Heart.

For an introduction to loving-kindness meditation from our sister magazine:

Try Loving-Kindness Meditation To Increase Compassion, Positivity, and Self-Love

For more guided meditations from Dr. Ferretti:

This 5-Minute Mindfulness Meditation Will Break Your Worry Cycle

Deeply Disappointed? This Meditation Will Help You Rediscover Peace and Happiness

This Simple Meditation Exercise Can Help You Let Go of Rage and Find Inner Peace

Are You Suppressing Your Emotions Due to Stress? This Calming Meditation Script Will Help

Neuropsychologist Louise Ferretti, Ph.D. portrati

Dr. Louise Ferretti is a clinical neuropsychologist serving children and families in western New York. She has been exploring mindfulness and heart-opening practices for over 20 years, with experience in Vipassana and Tibetan meditation traditions. She recently completed the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program developed by Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach. She has taught mindfulness to children living with mental health challenges, and offered heart-opening practices in faith communities seeking a deeper contemplation on love. She’s also Chief Editor of the magazine Kindfulness.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Kindfulness (Buy on Amazon, $12.99).

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