“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” –G.K. Chesterton

The most important lesson I have learned throughout all my spiritual searching and study is how many forms of healing occur within prayers of gratitude. Unlike the thank you notes that follow a gift exchange, these prayers to feel into gratitude are entirely visceral. Prayer is often misunderstood as a kind of asking for something you do not already have, when in truth prayerful gratitude is a deep recognition of all that we have already been given. Feeling into this kind of gratitude in the body is how we sense our belonging; not only to ourselves, but more essentially to all that makes every breath possible. It is the kind of deep remembering of just how many things are working on your behalf all the time. It is how you feel when you look to the sky and really see the blueness of it.

This grateful knowing was not one that came to me easily. Although I remember many childhood moments of awe and wonder at the natural world, I was not raised with a sense of belonging in my family or in the world. I had no language to describe what it felt like to be part of something bigger. Instead, my childhood sense of isolation and dislocation made it hard to belong to the wonder around me and feel the fullness of life. The expressions of gratitude that I was instructed in were formed as an obligation, which often left me feeling hollow and unworthy.

It was decades later, during my years of writing The Positivity Quest blog that I really understood how my inability to feel gratitude was perhaps the most serious road block on my path to a more fulfilling life. I think that I am not alone, as many people share in lacking this essential the skill of receiving life’s goodness. In 2013, I dedicated myself to really learn the meaning of receiving in what I called the Summer of Gratitude (which may get a repeat this summer). What turned the tide for me in learning about gratitude was the repetition of daily, and sometimes hourly, affirmations.

One that I still use to this day is: “I am a joyful, excellent, grateful receiver.”

Beginning the repetition of affirmations, where we are intentionally teaching ourselves new thinking habits, the words initially can feel empty and maybe even a little disingenuous. But as that summer wore on, these lovely words became the container of a practice that opened me to seeing how many things there were to be grateful for. The practice begins to retrain your eyes to see through the heart. Our vision comes to rest on beauty, colors become more vibrant. When was the last time you noticed how many greens exist in your own backyard? We begin to notice random exchanges of kindness and affection of nearby strangers.

Better still, the practice of owning your ability to receive makes you more able to let go of the annoying aspects of relating to others and helps you become aware of how precious and fleeting the time we have with people really is. It becomes a practice of reaching to the core of what is most lovable in your partner, kids, neighbors.

It is a practice that filters every moment with the very real possibility that this is the last time I will ever see, speak, hear, or love this person again. It trains you to take nothing for granted.

I often think of this flow of gratitude as a parallel universe, because truly, when you are outside of this gratitude reception, if someone told you how it could be different, it would sound like fiction. And for the ungrateful heart, all that there is to receive is fiction. But let me assure you, from one formerly ungrateful convert, there is an amazing flowing abundance waiting for your discovery. Veritable treasures are surrounding you, but you first have to find the mechanism of receiving what has already being given gratefully.

Trust me, this affirmation is worth the effort, because in the flow of abundance that originates in deep gratitude, you can’t tell the difference between giving and receiving. They feel like one in the same.

Start with this affirmation: “I am in the abundant flow of gratitude.”