How (and Why) to Start a Gratitude Practice
Whenever life’s stresses and strains start to get to us, having a gratitude practice can really help put things in perspective. It’s common to feel overwhelmed by the pressures of our busy schedules, full timetables, and financial commitments. Taking a few minutes to notice the good things we already have in our lives can channel your mood to a more positive, contented place, which is known in yoga as santosha. There are many ways to start acknowledging gratitude daily but this one works really well.
Ideally, do this in the morning as soon as you have a few moments to yourself. It could be before everyone else gets up or maybe you can catch a few minutes after the kids get off to school. Morning is recommended because it’s common to wake up in a pretty optimistic mood and we want to carry that feeling right into the rest of the day.
1. Come to sit as if for meditation. It the floor isn’t comfortable, you can sit up on a bolster or use a chair. Close your eyes and take a few breaths to anchor yourself in the present moment.
2. Think of three to five things that you feel grateful for on this day. It doesn’t have to be anything monumental. Just simple things, like:
The sun is out.
My family is in good health.
I can move my body.
I have a supportive parent/partner/friend/dog.
If none of these examples applies to you, come up with your own list.
Don’t overthink it, just accept what arises on that day. If you like, you can start a gratitude journal where you jot down each day’s thoughts but it’s also ok to just let them go.
3. Since you’re already in a practising mode, take a little extra time to do a few stretches. Moving your body first thing helps shake off the cobwebs and lift your mood. Again, no need to overthink; you can move intuitively. For example:
• If you are sitting cross-legged, begin to move your torso in big circles over your hips. After a few rotations, go in the opposite direction.
• Come onto hands and knees for some Cat-Cows. After several rounds, begin to exaggerate your movements so that your Cat takes your butt all the way to your heels. Slither your chest low to the ground and keep your elbows hugging your ribs as you come forward for Cow.
• From all-fours, tuck your toes and hover your knees over the floor. Then push back to Downward Facing Dog keeping your knees slightly bent. Peddle your legs, then start lifting the leg that is bent off the floor and tucking that knee toward your chest. Do this on both sides a few times.
• If you have time for more, try the rest of our fluid morning flow or take your postures in any other direction you like.
Now you’ve set the tone for the day, but things may still go south here and there. If they do, try to take a moment for a deep breath (actually, this is the most important part of the whole exercise) and recall the gratitude list you came up with this morning. Use that to shift your perspective back to a place of positivity because, even when circumstances seem dire, we all have a lot of good things in our lives.