By Stephanie Maniscalco
This time of the year gratitude is everywhere. It’s even being marketed. You can buy a Turkey on the Table kit for $40 and encourage your family to “fill its feathers with words of thanks.” We used to just write what we were thankful for on paper slips to be deposited in a jar and read later. Or we would be prodded to go around the table announcing something we were grateful for, not wanting to go first but hoping the person next to us didn’t steal our idea.
The point being: it’s natural to feel and express gratitude this time of the year, and there are lots of opportunities to do so. But how do you make it last through the chaos and beyond the high emotions of the holidays?
Studies show that grateful people are healthier, sleep better and are happier with increased feelings of connection and life satisfaction. Having a grateful disposition can increase your energy and creativity, lower stress and anxiety, strengthen your immune system and enrich personal relationships. If feeling thankful doesn’t come naturally to you, try the following ideas to boost gratitude from a holiday-inspired attitude to a consistent habit.
Start or end the day with a personal gratitude practice. Find a few moments each day to focus on the good in your life. Count your blessings instead of sheep at night. Begin a gratitude journal in which you record moments of content and joy, or write about the people and places that inspire you. Ask yourself what inspired you or made you smile today. Take time to meditate each day, if only for five minutes.
Incorporate expressions of gratitude into your daily vocabulary and acts of kindness into your life. Regularly use words and phrases such as thank you, appreciate, giving and grateful in your daily interactions. Take it a step further by writing a letter of gratitude to someone who needs it. Small acts of kindness to others is a sure way to improve relationships, but acts of kindness to yourself such as exercise and meditation, indulging in hobbies and getting outdoors can improve your physical and mental health.
Let gratitude permeate your yoga practice. Invite gratitude into your life as an intention for your practice. Repeat “in this moment I have enough” or something similar as a mantra. Choose yoga poses that lead you to experience gratitude physically such as child’s pose and forward folds to turn inward, camel and back bends to open your heart and sun salutations and warrior poses to channel strength and energy. Develop a gratitude meditation by mindfully focusing on your blessings, big and small.
Commit to giving back beyond the holiday season. Taking the family to help at a soup kitchen is a meaningful tradition but consider volunteering your time and talents regularly. Get involved with your company’s giving culture. Donate used items regularly to simplify your life while enriching others. -
Wire your brain for appreciation. Begin by becoming aware of your negative thought patterns and embracing the yogic concept of pratipaksha bhavanam, or cultivating opposite, positive thoughts as an antidote. Visualize happy outcomes to your experiences. Challenge yourself to move beyond being grateful for what you already have to appreciating what is still a work in progress. Instead of feeling grateful for a completed project, focus on enjoying and appreciating the process.
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. - William Arthur Ward
Stephanie is a yoga teacher, writer, mom, and lover of books, big dogs and travel. She was certified as a 200-hour teacher through YogaWorks in 2016. Stephanie believes yoga has not only the power to strengthen, heal and restore flexibility to the body but to help us find peace and happiness in all areas of life. She enjoys the fusion of her professional background in writing and editing with her passion for studying and writing about yoga for studios, magazines and web sites.