Acknowledging the Small Things that Warm the Heart

Blog

March 4, 2021

If you ask me what warms my heart, I would tell you it’s my family, who cares and loves me. It’s my dogs who want to cuddle and take me on their walks and meet strangers who stop to pet them.

My heart warms thinking of my good friends who call and we share laughs, our dreams, and sometimes our tears. However, during this pandemic, I have had many very different heartwarming experiences due to a decision and commitment I made to myself with the virus restrictions.

Compassion for Myself and Others With Gratitude

A benefit of my Mindfulness practice gives me compassion for myself and others. I decided to share my gratitude to each and every essential worker I encountered.  

I told those delivering my packages, the mail lady, the garbage collectors, “Thank you. I appreciate your service.”  To those working in stores and at the fast-food drive-through windows, which I frequented way too often, “Thank you for being here.”

How is this heartwarming to me? You may ask. Their responses would melt anyone’s heart.  If you thank them, you can see for yourself.

Melt Your Heart and Others

At the beginning of the pandemic when I first decided to say thank you to workers, one of the first people I chose was in a grocery store. 

I saw a busy worker stocking cans of beans on a shelf, intently focused on the task. I wondered, did she have children at home? Was she risking her health because she really needed that job to feed them? When we were all told to stay home, did she have to muster up the courage over any fears to get to her job that may pay only minimum wage? Who knows?

When I first got her attention, she glanced over her shoulder at me with a solemn look, almost annoyed. I figured that she thought I was going to ask her where an item was in the store. However, when I gave her my appreciation, her face softened as she continued stacking those cans.

Other workers I thanked over the months were clearly just as surprised. Each time, their serious expressions melted when I went up to them. That is heartwarming.

I saw one worker at a Sam’s Club gas station disinfecting each pump handle and payment screen after each customer.

I thought, what a thankless but necessary job. When I finished getting my gas, I walked over to the pump she was busy cleaning and told her, “Thank you.”  She smiled and surprised me when she replied,  “Thank you for saying thank you.” 

We exchanged a lingering look, and I knew before the pandemic I would have asked her for a hug. However, like the others I thanked, her face had softened into a smile, and I felt a virtual hug.

Then there was the time my husband and I drove up to a hospital mobile Covid testing site. Before he was allowed an elective hip surgery, his surgeon wanted to make sure he was covid free. We were an hour early before they opened, and the very first ones in line. We watched the nurses busily preparing their stations in the white tent, and we both told them “Thank you for being here.” 

All three of them turned to smile at us.  One nurse said, “No one ever tells us thank you. They just complain about the test and having to wait in line.” The other nurses nodded in agreement.

Since they had time before the official testing opening, we got into an enjoyable conversation sharing we had moved from Los Angeles to Atlanta. The nurses said they would like to visit the city and we all laughed as my husband told them jokes about LA LA land.

As we drove away after the test, our hearts were warmed knowing we had brought smiles and laughs to those hard-working, life-saving nurses. I was reminded by all the workers I met, whether you give gratitude or receive gratitude, it’s heart-warming.

The Science Behind Heartwarming Emotions

Neuroscientists at the Heartmath Institute discovered that when we experience heartfelt emotions such as gratitude, love, care, and compassion, the heart produces a smooth pattern and rhythm.

 On the electrocardiogram, it looks like rolling hills, rather when we are stressed, it looks like pointy peaks, tight together resembling an earthquake measured on a Richter scale. The smooth heart rhythms indicate positive emotions, cardiovascular efficiency, and a balanced nervous system.

The heart is not just a blood-pumping muscle. It sends more signals to the brain than the other way around. For example, when we feel a good emotion like gratitude, the heart lets the brain know that gentle, warm sensation is positive. This is heart coherence. The brain and heart are
working together, which means our brain, heart, and bodies are acting in concert. This has positive effects on our cardiovascular systems and
overall health.

The Power of a Gratitude Mindfulness Practice

The practice of Mindfulness helps us to calm our bodies and mind to bring awareness to our hearts, which gives us messages and guidance. Many ancient civilizations believe that’s where our intuition is housed. Here is a powerful Mindfulness gratitude practice that can be done
anywhere, and at any time. You can keep your eyes open or closed.

  1. Place your awareness on your chest.
  2. Imagine your breath flowing in and out of your heart area. Breathe more deeply, rhythmically, and slowly.
  3. When you are breathing in this way feel the gratitude for someone, something, in your life, maybe a pet. It can also be something small in your life.

Notice where that regenerative feeling is in your body. Think of your breath and your heart as two old friends reuniting over and over again. Now allow your breathing to go on automatic with awareness. 

4. Radiate that renewing feeling throughout your body, and to others.

You can immerse and bathe yourself in gratitude anytime. With live and on-demand programs including Mindful Dailies, you can take a mindful moment anytime you need it.

Written by Janet Alston Jackson, eMindful Teacher and Certified Heartmath Coach