Like a gratitude practice, praise can change your life. We've all heard that people who practice gratitude are, in general, happier than those who don't. In my family there are two gratitude practices that we've found useful.
Every Friday for the past several years my wife, Lisa, emails me a list of "3 Good Things" from the week. Sometimes her lists have twelve things on them. Sometimes she admits to having a hard time coming up with three...but that is rare. She claims that this practice gives her a strong foundation that helps her through challenging times.
Together, we have a jar on the kitchen counter. Throughout the year, we (independently) write things that make us happy or that we are grateful for on slips of paper, fold them up, and put them in the jar. On New Year's Day, we dump them out and read through all of them, as a way of symbolically seeding the coming year with happiness and gratitude.
I've recently learned about a practice that is similar to a gratitude practice: a praise practice. This is from my shaman teacher, Jaime Meyer. Here are the simple steps to spontaneous praise:
Who: Whoever you like...the Universe, the Divine, God, Goddess, the Great Mystery, Spirit (personally, I've praised all of these and it's helped me connect with the beautiful complexity of, well, of the Great Divine Mystery of the Universe).
When: Every day or at the very least, three times a week. The idea of any sort of practice is being regular and having discipline.
How: This is the fun part. Think of different art forms. Then imagine the Great Spirit or Universe or whoever you believe in as an artist of that art form and praise his/her/its brilliant work. Say what you think of out loud. Yes, really. Out loud. Give voice and life to your praise.
For this example, I imagined the Wondrous Mysterious as a sculptor:
In the hush of a held breath
you lean in close
with gentle hands
and sensitive fingers
shaping the world
according to your great heart
and bringing to life the dreams
that dance in the center
the center where all things begin
In each masterpiece you craft
you leave a piece of you in the center
so that we can find our way
back to you.
As you can see, you needn't worry about being "good," just sincere and enthusiastic. It gets easier with practice and soon you can break into praise whenever you like.
Why: Gratitude is awesome and I will never stop doing that. One big difference between praise and gratitude is that praise focuses solely on the wonder of the Divine while gratitude focuses on your life. It is a slight, subtle difference and sometimes praise meanders into gratitude.
Since I've started praising, I've found my perspective shifting, my heart opening up. I started paying attention to wonderful things to praise and found that the more I looked, the more I found.
Praising, rising so often as it does from the subconscious, also teaches me about the Divine. In hearing the words I allow my soul to speak, I discover truths that I might not have come to through my mind alone.