Living Gratitude

Contributor: Ashley Neese
Photographer: Ashley Neese
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Gratitude is not about being happy all of the time. 

Happiness is often a byproduct of grateful living but it isn’t the destination or the goal. Gratitude like any practice, is a continual unfolding and opening of our hearts to the present moment. It is an invitation to reach forward towards our highest potential.

After almost fifteen years of a designated gratitude writing practice it’s become clear to me there is a much quicker way to access love and joy: through living gratefully.

Expressing gratitude freely and often in real time is my definition of what it means to live gratefully.


Using the potent sound current of your own voice to thank the people and situations in your day-to-day life opens a direct line to spirit. When you communicate with spirit through acknowledging the gifts in front of you in real time, you are fully connected to your heart and infinite power.

Today my practice of living in gratitude looks like me verbally giving thanks each morning in a simple five minute ritual (yes, that’s 5 minutes, you have the time!). It’s amazing how much energy this gives me. Starting the day by acknowledging out loud in a powerful voice what I am grateful for shifts my energy in such a deep way. It gives me access to my soul and purpose in such a quick way. I’m a results oriented person for better or worse and I need to feel like a practice is working in order to keep doing it. Don’t just take my word for it.

Try it right now.

Take a deep exhale. Empty out your breath. Now take a long inhale and in a strong voice start naming everything you are grateful for in your life in this moment. Do this for five full minutes. Name each feeling, person, and experience you are grateful for and notice how your heart opens and your joy increases. Even if you are repeating yourself keep going. If you allow yourself to open to this exercise and really get into it, you will change.

Once I’ve said my gratitude prayers aloud in the morning, I repeat this practice throughout the day. Most days it’s a very simple and heartfelt thank you for all the goodness that comes my way and all of the incredibly challenging lessons I am still learning. Each time I pause and say thank you I stand in my power and am able to live in the grace that honest gratitude brings.

Living gratefully means giving yourself permission to be tender, forgiving, and loving in as many situations as possible. In the midst of all of the transition happening in my life right now I am finding that gratitude is the only way through the dark times. I must show up, be totally vulnerable and open hearted. I must be willing to give thanks for every tear, every heartache and every wave of grief. Living gratefully reminds me that this too shall pass.

If you want your heart to expand and your capacity to hold space for yourself and the people around you to increase, live in gratitude. Start each day with five minutes of saying thank you and blessing all experiences and people in your life, especially the ones you are resistant towards for they are your greatest teachers.

Remember, gratitude is not about being happy all of the time. Living gratefully is an invitation to reach forward through whatever you are facing and embrace each feeling and experience as it arises. When you offer a humble thank you in each moment, the moments that bring you to your knees and the ones that make your soul sing, you are truly connected to spirit. If you want to feel alive and access all of the joy you seek expressing gratitude freely and often in real time and witness each miracle unfold.