HOW TO PRACTICE AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein
I have always been a dreamer. Ever since I was a little girl, I remember dreaming of far off places and fanciful existences. Escapism really is an art, and it wasn’t until fairly recently that I began to navigate the difference between dreaming of what might bring me happiness, and the practice of being happy.
After establishing a steady and consistent yoga practice over some years, and training with many yoga masters along the way, I learned the wonderful truth that joy is only ever available to us in THIS PRESENT MOMENT. That’s right – in order to en-JOY anything, in order to feel happiness, love and bliss, we must be actually HERE in this moment, a place that for a lot of us, requires concentrated effort to arrive into.
So practicing yoga + meditation began to bring more and more moments of true joy and happiness into my life, whilst I was on the mat – right? So what about all of those moments in between – like the other 23 hours in your day? How to connect back with those amazingly juicy feelings that seep in once we find ourselves in that blessed Savasana, or after a good 15 minutes of ‘letting go’ in seated meditation? How do we tap back in and reconnect to that place of joy? By practicing gratitude.
“The attitude of gratitude is the highest Yoga.” ~ Yogi Bhajan
Is it a cliché? I don’t know. It is certainly a ‘buzz’ word around the social forums, but that’s no bad thing. A good friend of mine Krista Jane - a very wise and successful entrepreneur in the wellness space - once said to me that the most powerful way to make an immediate shift in your mindset is to list on one hand 5 things that you are grateful for. This stuck with me as a beautiful yet simple practice, to bring me back into the present, with a feeling of joy in acceptance, rather than a striving or looking outward ‘grass-is-greener’ approach that I had often found myself in.
So how do we effectively put this gratitude mind-set into practice?
1. Do it daily (at least).
Like your yoga practice, a practice of reminding yourself of what you already have in your life to be grateful for is much more effective if done consistently over time – whether you are journaling or in a meditation, it is effectively rewiring our brains to default to a mind-set of gratitude rather than an outward reaching, comparative, or judgmental way of being.
2. Get grateful about the little things.
It’s awesome to start off with the more obvious, big things in our lives that we are grateful for, but once we start to get detailed about it, that’s when the gratitude bubble really expands to bursting point. I might start off with being grateful for my happy healthy baby boy, but then detail it with being grateful for the huge smile that he gives me when he wakes up in the morning, and the sound of his squeals of delight when I give him that first cuddle of the day. You see how much more power there is when you go deeper into the detail?
So get specific. The more detail you can get into, the more strength the feelings of gratitude will have. Details come from a deeper place, what brings you almost to tears of joy? When we focus on these little things – the details in life that otherwise might go by unnoticed - we find ourselves bringing a practice of gratitude into our lives from moment to moment, far beyond the original set aside times of meditation + journaling.
3. Be grateful for things that seem difficult, upsetting or even ‘bad’ at the time.
This can be the most challenging, and most rewarding practice of all. Can we be grateful when the going gets tough? Can we see the good and the learning even when it seems as though there is nothing ‘good’ about it? Through my years of practicing Yoga and deepening my understanding of it’s philosophical framework, I can attribute my mindset of now more often seeing things as they are, not as they seem, which has real power in not allowing your emotional reactions to spiral out of control. My teacher Sharon Gannon says: Nothing in life is ‘coming at you’. Everything is a reflection of your own state of mind.
“If you only say one prayer a day, make it thank you’.” ~ Rumi
4. Start + End your day with a practice of Gratitude.
There’s no better way to start your day than with meditation (in my opinion). You’re setting the tone for your day, and in doing so, your mindset for all the events yet to come. A meditation around remembering what you are grateful for will set an uplifting vibe, invite more gratitude to filter through your lens throughout the day, and start you off from a place of acceptance and peace, rather than feelings of rushing and absence, that so many of us (myself included), often do.
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” ~ Epicurus
At the end of your day, look back and remember 3 great things that occurred throughout your day. It’s great to share this practice with someone else, asking them what their best 3 things were, and then sharing your own. Watch the expansion in your heart as you talk about things that brought you joy in your day, and the domino effect as you remember more and more things that you want to share. The practice of gratitude really does have a multiplying effect that can quickly shift you into a place of presence, acceptance and bliss like no other.
“I was complaining that I had no shoes till I met a man who had no feet.” ~ Confucius
5. Journal it.
Gratitude journaling is more about the feeling of gratitude and less about what you are writing. Write in your journal at night, keep it by your bedside so you don’t forget. On a less than perfect day it can be even more powerful, and will allow you to drop off to sleep with positive reinforcement through the mind, making for a more effective habit-making.
6. Take it further…
Gratitude affirmations – write down what you want to bring more of into your life. Being grateful is not the same as ‘settling’. Still dream, and dream big! Getting into the little details of what you already have to be grateful for, will set the ball rolling for attracting all sorts of positivity into your life. From this place, all there is is vast abundance…the world is your oyster!
7. Share your gratitude. Don’t just keep it to yourself.
So you’ve written down that you are grateful for your mother/husband/best friend/daughter – Are you going to tell them? This step will catapult your practice of gratitude into a whole new realm. It takes courage to say how you feel, but imagine the ripple on effects of this practice if you could tell all of those people in your life how much you are grateful for their presence, and more - in that in-depth detail of why. Think about how you would feel hearing similar words from someone you know and love? Doesn’t everyone deserve to hear that?
Gratitude is a way of bringing us into the present, appreciating what we have here, in the now. In this fast-paced, individualised + success-driven environment we live in, a practice of gratitude also helps us to quash a sometimes over-zealous sense of entitlement. We can attribute this practice to helping undo negative thought patterns and ‘woe-is-me’ habits of thinking, and doing it when we are in the least suspecting, most down-and-out mood can often have the most profound effect. Be grateful for the great things, but also for the things that didn’t go your way – there is always learning there, which is growth – and therefore something to be grateful for!
We choose what we want to see around us, and retraining our brains through a daily practice of gratitude to see the good, great and beautiful will no doubt bring more happiness into our lives – and isn’t that the path that most of us find ourselves on?
So go ahead, whether you begin practicing a morning gratitude meditation, or share 3 good things from your day with someone, perhaps you begin writing a gratitude journal before bed, or even share your feelings with those in your life that give you this richness of experiencing happiness and joy…choose at least one way to bring a daily practice of gratitude into your life, and watch how the magic unfolds. More peace, more happiness, more presence + more abundance will surely follow.
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” ~ Eckhart Tolle