Gratitude Practice

November is the month of Thanks-giving. A great time to focus on gratitude! Sometimes it’s hard. If you’re having a rough day, a rough month, a rough year, staying connected to a spirit of gratitude can feel really challenging. However, the practice of cultivating a grateful heart can be the remedy to feelings of fear, doubt, shame, and anxiety. What do I mean?

Gratitude is:

-the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. (From the dictionary)

Gratitude practice is:

-the art of being thankful

 -an accounting of your resources, gifts, strengths

-seeing those gifts in others and sharing them through acts of kindness, compliment, and presence

-moving beyond “not enough” language

-recognizing yourself as enough

 The practice of gratitude helps to reground perspective, moving away from the sensation of lacking to instead recognize all the resources we have within us and around us at all times.

According to the Chopra Foundation, researchers discovered that people who focused on gratitude:

-Felt better about their lives as a whole

-Experienced greater levels of joy and happiness

-Felt optimistic about the future

-Got sick less often

-Exercised more regularly

-Had more energy, enthusiasm, determination, and focus

-Made greater progress toward achieving important personal goals

-Slept better and awoke feeling refreshed

-Felt stronger during trying times

-Enjoyed closer family ties

-Were more likely to help others and offer emotional support

-Experienced fewer symptoms of stress

 How to cultivate gratitude?

When cultivating a gratitude practice, it’s important to focus on gratitude for yourself, gratitude for the people in your life, gratitude for the larger world, and gratitude of the great mystery, the magical unknown of life (God, universe, nature, whatever term works for you).

1) Gratitude for yourself

 Keep a gratitude journal.

I know it’s sort of cheesy, but it really works! We spend quite a lot of time internally judging ourselves. The feedback loop of the mind often focuses on our shortcomings and it’s really challenging to redirect that language. A gratitude journal is a sort of mental intervention.

The specifics:

When to do it? Everyday!

Five SPECIFIC things you’re grateful for as they relate to you! We have a pretty easy time sharing gratitude about things we are thankful for external of us, but focusing on self-love can be a real bear. It’s not bragging, it’s noticing the gifts you already posses, the beauty you already are, it’s giving yourself a little love too.

 What it might look like?

11/9/15

1) I’m grateful I woke up early this morning for ten minutes of meditation before coffee.

2) I’m glad I shared “x” idea at this morning’s meeting even though the group went with something else.

3) I love my arms and am in awe my strength. Up to 30 push-ups today!

4) I am proud that I prepped a healthy lunch last night and felt energized all afternoon from it.

5) I’m grateful I listened to my body tonight and went home and had a bath instead of going to yoga this evening.

2) Gratitude for the people in your life

 Thank You notes:

Thank you notes are awesome. That means Handwritten cards; the kind youaddress, stamp and drop in the mailbox. Everyone feels extra special when they receive mail. Sure, you can shoot off an email or a text, but a hand written note is much more personal and may shift someone’s entire day upon receiving.

What to include?

-The specific traits you admire in that person

-The crucial role they play in your life

 3)   Gratitude for the world

Selfless service is the giving part in thanks-giving. It means to serve others without expectation of anything in return. You are welcome to give money, but I have personally found in-person service to be extremely valuable, specifically because it connects us to other people. It allows you to see first hand the impact of your actions and build relationships with people who share similar dreams for the world. Finding a thoughtful and proactive community makes the world feel a little less hopeless and certainly your place in it a little less helpless.

 What to do?

Find a local non-profit or community organization that needs volunteers. Maybe it’s a weekend a month park clean-up or volunteering at a food bank. Find something that sounds interesting and just go for it.

4)   Gratitude for the great mystery

Magic is not something contained only in Harry Potter books, it is all around you. The easiest vehicle for most of us is through nature. As John Muir said, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

Try a meditative walk.

-Go to a quiet secluded track of nature. Doesn’t have to be the Redwoods, just anywhere quiet. If you live in the city, find a nice park or even an office park.

-Breath evenly, slow and steady inhales and exhales.

-Walk slowly

-Use your senses. Touch the Earth, smell the trees, listen to the birds, see all colors.

-Try to stay in this present, absorbent state for at least 10 minutes

 When you finish, notice your mood. How do you feel? Has anything shifted inside of you? Perhaps not, but likely you’ll feel much more steady, calm, grounded, and you might even notice yourself smiling.

Congratulations, you’ve just participated in magic.

Cultivating gratitude is not always easy, but it’s possible. It can have a huge impact on how you view yourself, others, and the world. Try out any or all of these simple practices and let me know how they work for you. Feel free to reach out with any questions to melissamclyoga@gmail.com