You’ve probably heard of a gratitude journal, or a gratitude list, or a gratitude jar. And these are all very powerful ways to reconnect with the things that we’re thankful for, and the things that bring us joy. They lead us to refocus when we’re feeling negative about our life or the world. But what if we don’t know how to get started? What if we don’t know where to look? That’s where a gratitude walk can help.
What is a Gratitude Walk?
As you may have guessed, a gratitude walk involves more than just walking and being grateful at the same time. That amounts to a mental exercise—not a bad thing, but not entirely what we’re going for here.
A gratitude walk is a way of experiencing the world anew, as you meet it, through your senses and your thoughts. As you walk, pay attention to what you see, hear, smell, and feel. Notice where your attention is drawn, what you appreciate, the thoughts you have. Get in touch with the emotions that they provoke.
As you appreciate these thoughts and feelings, extend any associations you may find between them. Test the limits of your awareness. Think about what you’re not seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling. The world is broader than you and your awareness. Another thing to be thankful for, when you think about it. It means there’s always something new to explore.
Where Do You Walk? And for How Long?
A familiar walk is fine—or go a way that you’ve never gone before. The point isn’t the destination, or even the path, but rather the journey.
Twenty minutes is usually enough time to take this journey, but don’t feel you need to keep checking the time on your phone. Speaking of phones, it’s best to leave them out of this—even leave them behind if you can. Sure, we’re thankful for them, but they do tend to distract us from the world around us.
Explore the Previously Unnoticed
You’ve explored what you aren’t aware of. Now try exploring what you’ve never noticed. Maybe you’ve seen these trees a thousand times, but what kind are they exactly? Don’t know? Take note of their features, and remind yourself to find out. Where you always look up, look down. Take the turn at that corner you always pass by.
It’s one thing to be grateful for life’s gifts, the things we want, work for, and get. But it’s also possible, and life-changing, to find gratitude for the surprises we never asked for or wanted. And for the detours and setbacks that just seem to be getting in the way. You may notice that the journey seems to be a metaphor for something. What is it for you?
Head back when you’re ready, and go again whenever you need to reconnect with the world and its changes. A gratitude walk isn’t just about thankfulness. It’s the practice of experiencing the places you’ve been and the places you could go. It’s about encountering life, and the things that happen along the way, with an attitude of acceptance and joy.