Most of us wake up thinking about how we are going to meet obligations or fulfill our promises to other people. We begin our day in response mode and remain that way until it’s time to go to bed.
For twelve years I have begun my day with the same positive ritual. No matter where I am, I start my day with a moment of awe. I wake up and head for the nearest window. I open the curtain and look outside. When I’m at home, I look at the ocean. When I’m at a hotel, I look at tall buildings. When I’m in Maine, I look at trees. Wherever I am there is always something interesting to draw my attention. Each time I look out my window I appreciate the fact that the universe does not revolve around me; it includes me…
Immersed in wonder and awe, and connected to the outdoors by a feeling I can’t explain, this first step in my morning ritual reminds me that the world is much bigger than my life and my concerns.
My Mom grew up in Maine and often reflects on the beauty of nature. She once said to me, “Think of the beauty of maple trees. The same force that makes sap run up a tree from its roots to its trunk, against gravity, is the same force that resides inside of you.” She made her point by gently poking me in the gut and saying, “It’s right there; connect to it.”
University of Virginia Psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of the The Happiness Hypothesis, and Dacher Keltner, University of California-Berkeley Psychology professor, wrote about awe in Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman’s book, Character Strengths and Virtue:
People consistently report that experiences of awe and elevation have profound outcomes, motivating self-improvement, personal change, altruistic intentions and actions, and the devotion to others and the larger community.
The Second Step: Verbalizing
The second step of my morning ritual focuses on gratitude. I say everything for which I am grateful.
Philosophers, religious leaders, and teachers have taught us for thousands of years to begin our day by expressing and feeling gratitude for everything and everyone we have in our lives.
My list includes being grateful for a new day, the sleep I had the night before, my health, my family (by name), my close friends (by name), my key supporters in business (by name), and important opportunities professionally and personally. I make it a habit of visualizing the people and things as I say them; I want to keep these images fresh in my mind.
“Grateful individuals have a sense of abundance,” according to research by psychology professor Phillip Watkins and his colleagues at Eastern Washington University. “Grateful individuals appreciate the common everyday pleasures of life… appreciate the contribution of others to their well-being.”
A Ritual of Rewards
“A ritual can smooth life’s transition as can perhaps nothing else,” wrote Huston Smith, professor of Religion and Philosophy at Syracuse University, in his book The Religions of Man.
Gratitude and awe in my morning ritual helps me transition from a night of sleep to a new day of possibility.
Rituals also serve another function, says Smith, “namely to intensify appreciation and crown man’s joy with celebration.”
Every day is a new opportunity. What would happen if you started each day with a little awe and gratitude? This positive ritual could change your life.
David J. Pollay, MAPP, is the founder and president of The Momentum Project, an organization dedicated to increasing the positive momentum of their business clients. Email [email protected], or call 561.265.1165.
Original article first published in Positive Psychology News, the news source for positive psychology.