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Living Gratitude

Living Gratitde by Ashley Neese When I started this blog at the end of 2011 I had been keeping logs of gratitude lists since 2001. I was even part of a women’s email gratitude group where every day we would send lists to each other. Nearly a year in later in 2012, I made a practice of writing five pages of gratitude on a regular basis and it was super helpful for keeping me grounded and present.

For most of my life I have been a glass half empty kind of person. Much of my life has been experienced feeling like I am not enough, that there is scarcity in the world and that I have to prove my right to exist. Coming from that place of lack, I needed a strong writing practice to help shift my perspective and focus on the good in front of me in each moment. While you have to begin where you are, and for most of us that involves writing, the practice cannot stop there. Your practice has to grow. If you want to feel grateful you have to learn to live gratefully.

I learned about gratitude and keeping a journal of your blessings in rehab. I was 21 years old. I was angry, afraid, and certain that this world was full of shitty people and nothing good was ever going to come from me getting sober. I also knew deep down that if I kept drinking and using drugs I wouldn’t make it to see past my 25th birthday. Something had to give and that thing was me. When I arrived at the rehab there was a tiny piece of my heart that knew without question I belonged there and that I was truly meant for something so much bigger.

The first few gratitude lists I wrote were pitiful. They looked something like this:

Today I am grateful I have legs.

Today I am grateful I have a pack of cigarettes and a full head of hair.

Today I am grateful I can see.

I remember being so frustrated in a group therapy session with the question, what are your grateful for? I wanted to punch the counselor in the face and anyone that ever asked me that question again. Fuck all of these stupid people I thought, what does gratitude have to do with getting sober?

Thankfully my intuition led me to an amazing sponsor that I trusted who suggested I keep up with the gratitude lists even if I thought they were dumb and wouldn’t help me. The fact that she spoke my language and was willing to entertain the idea that writing lists might not support my sobriety got me to write them. That was the first time in years I felt seen and fully heard. Her understanding and ability to relate to me was the magic elixir I needed to decide to take control of my life and change it.

Living Gratitude by Ashley Neese

And I am here all these years later sharing with you, this gratitude stuff everyone is talking about is totally real and it’s not about fluff and being happy all of the time.

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.

All my heart,



Images by Lani Trock


  • Ashley, thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. And thank you for the reminder that gratitude is not about being happy all the time. This post was exactly was I needed to read at this very moment. You’ve inspired me to start my own morning ritual. Thank you. <3

    • ashley

      Hello Sophie, it’s so wonderful to hear from you. Thank you for the kind words, I really appreciate your thoughts. This is such a potent way to begin the day. I look forward to learning how it supports you! Lots of love. xoa

  • Christina Stack


  • Elisa Darin

    Every time I receive your newsletter is a blessing gift. I am always moved to tears while reading your posts. You are one of the main source of inspiration of my life, since I bought your book and started following you last year my life started to chance. I remember that one of the most deep experiences for me soul was the live breathing practice you made on IG. Thank you for your work, thank you for being as you are. I am so grateful you are in my path. Much love, elisa

    • ashley

      Hello Elisa, it’s wonderful to hear from you! So grateful for your thoughtful and heart centered words today, they are reaching me at such an important time. Wishing you a grounded and clear New Year. Lots of love, Ashley

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