In teaching a yoga class I like to, during a gratefulness practice, bring the yogis’ awareness to at least three things in their lives that they are grateful for and constantly throughout the practice bring them back to that place of awareness of what is good in their lives. Certain pinnacle postures such a deep heart-openers like ‘full wheel’, ‘camel’ and ‘wild thing’ are powerful in breathing in and embodying those things we feel most grateful for – and it helps to keep bringing the awareness back to those things in the practice. It helps us to keep those things at the forefront of our minds once we leave the practice and it brings something very powerful into our bodies on a cellular level when our focus switches from that which we feel deprived of – to that which we feel grateful for. Through a gratefulness practice we begin to see the profound effect, both physically and mentally, that a targeted yoga practice can have on our lives.
Don’t practice yoga? You can still have a gratefulness practice to bring you back to focusing on all the wonderful blessings in your life – helping you to attract even more of that. It also helps you feel more at one with the natural flow of things and more connected to others and so less alone. Having a regular gratitude practice has been found to promote high-energy, positive moods, a sense of a stronger connectedness to others and feeling more positive about life. Definitely the kind of improvements in life we would want to strive towards.
Research shows its better to have two or three different kinds of gratitude practices for maximum impact, so pick two or three out of the list below and start practicing today:
- Reflect: When getting into bed at night let your last thoughts be around that which you did well that day. The ways in which you were of service and what good things you did. Be grateful for those opportunities. This serves as motivation every day to do things to feel grateful for and becomes the way by which you measure the success and failure of each day.
- Gratitude Journal: Get a small book in which to on a daily basis write three things for which you are grateful. In the beginning this will seem easy, but once you got past all the things you know you should be grateful for you will begin to have to look to find new things. Your outlook on your day will change as you begin searching for things that you are grateful for. What a great way to change the things you focus on during the day!
- Let’s Talk about it: Make a time (about once per week) to discuss with someone – a partner, a friend, a running partner, a colleague which you meet regularly for lunch – just all the blessings you have in your life. Dedicating a whole lunch date or running session just to focus on all the things you are grateful for is uplifting and revitalizing and adds so much to your overall attitude of gratitude!
- Put it in writing…and read it out loud: Regularly acknowledge and remember people that have had a significant impact on your life. This could be through big acts in significant roles in your life – or even just something small that someone did at some point that really inspired or touched you. Write a letter to that person – thanking them and explaining how what they did, impacted you so positively. Then go and visit this person and read the letter out loud to them personally. This is a very powerful gratitude practice – for both you and the person you are addressing in the letter.
- Thank you notes/texts: Take the time and make the effort to write short and sweet thank you notes or send text messages to those close to you for little things throughout the day, that you are grateful for: ‘thanks for helping with the dishes’; ‘thanks for being kind to your sister’ ; ‘thanks for picking up the kids when I couldn’t’; thanks for being such a kind/helpful/fun work colleague’. Such little acknowledgements will again impact you so positively but also will probably be a lovely gesture to whomever the note or text is directed – and encourage more of what you are grateful for!
- Dedicate your yoga practice or any other form of exercise to an awareness and focus on what you are grateful for: This is another way to set time aside to bring your mind to focus and linger on and around those wonderful things you already have in your life.
- Practice mindfulness: Practice staying present in the moment more regularly during the day. We often spend so much time living in the future – planning, anticipating, worrying – or in the past – thinking about what could have been and or holding on to resentments and hurts, that we miss so much of what is happening right here, right now around us. We get so obsessed with what is wrong in our lives in the world that we fail to notice the smallest things that may be right – and those things are often so much more significant: our child laughing out of his/her stomach; new flowers blooming, showing the turn of seasons and the way nature teaches that change and growth is a natural part of life; a smile from a stranger, a green light, or even better – a good considerate driver! Things to be grateful for are everywhere around us, if we just take the time – and have the presence of mind – to notice.