Ah, gratitude! It’s kind of like flossing: We know it’s important but it’s not always easy to do. In day-to-day life, it’s typical (and human!) for our appreciation to fall through the cracks, disappearing with the ease of keys in the couch cushions. Yet the more that gratitude disappears, the more important it is to get it back.
Gratitude is perhaps no more crucial than in the season of thanks, although this year is especially tricky. Say it with me: 2020 can f#ck off.
Fortunately, there are ways to cultivate gratitude even in a year of a deadly
So, what does gratitude in this capacity mean? It has nothing to do with tipping your instructor after class (just FYI) and instead taps into the essence of what gratitude truly is. Gratitude is more than a virtue; it’s also a law of attraction. The idea is that if you’re grateful for what you already have, more things for which to be grateful will come your way.
Gratitude uses both mindfulness and self-awareness, two things that yoga taps into as well. What’s more, both gratitude and yoga promote emotional and physical wellbeing. For example, they each affect a person’s ability to handle stress, making them more resilient in the process. This resiliency influences how a person interacts with others (and themselves!).
Gratitude and yoga both have a way of ridding the body of negative emotions as well, replacing them with positive ones. This is among the cornerstones of good health. In fact, people who are optimistic have, on average, a 11-15% longer lifespan than those who aren’t. They’re also far more likely to live to 85 or older.
Another way that gratitude and yoga work together is through perception. Gratitude is a way of looking at things while yoga shows people how to embrace the present. This sets the stage for them to enhance each other. Gratitude encourages people to embrace all of life – the good, the bad, the ugly – while yoga echoes this acceptance.
Of course, if gratitude or yoga were to give you a piece of their mind, they would tell you to concentrate on peace of mind, a feat that is easier said than done.
So, how do we work around this difficulty? How do we practice gratitude and roll out the yoga mat when life gets in the way (as it all too often does).
We can start by making room for thankfulness by trying the following:
Aim low: Gratitude and yoga do not need to consume hours of your day; rather, take five or ten minutes to reflect or practice a few asanas.
Start in the morning: One way to make sure you fit in groga (gratitude and yoga) is by doing it first thing in the morning; that assures you get it done before other issues arise. Get up ten or twenty minutes early and contemplate all you have while laying in child’s pose. Add in a cup of coffee – that enhances anyone’s thankfulness.
Or do it in the evening: Oh, the contradictions! The point is to practice when it works for you. For some people, this is right after dinner or right before bedtime.
Keep a gratitude journal: A gratitude journal allows you to track things that make you feel happy. While you can certainly include the “big ticket items” (such as health, family, career, or friends), true gratitude involves digging a little deeper. Consider appreciating tiny things too, like the feeling of new socks on your feet or an orange that peels easily.
Give yourself a break when you complain: Being grateful doesn’t mean never complaining. In fact, it’s only human to want to vent about your spouse, your boss, or the neighbor who watches you with binoculars through her living room drapes. The key is to seize the day more than you rue it.