Why Be Grateful?
One of my favorite things to talk about in my yoga classes is gratitude. Cultivating a strong sense of gratitude helps you plug into life that much more – to really connect with the energy of the community, to feel what you share with others. Taking this practice to the mat helps me to fine-tune it and gives me a chance to really reflect on it, which are both processes that can be easily forgotten! Sometimes I just start out thinking about the immediate things that I’m grateful for: my functioning body and mind, the time I have to practice yoga, my friends and family, and being part of a community. From there, it is easier to expand my thinking to larger things: having general safety, people who love me, planet Earth, the warmth of the sun, etc.
Experiencing (and, likely, dwelling on) negative things is a reality for everyone, but it’s important to recognize those reactions and counter them with gratitude for the positive elements of life. It is often said that if you are thinking about what you are grateful for, you cannot be feeling fear or anxiety. However, gratitude doesn’t just make you feel good for a moment; it has some deeper implications that can fuel your longer journey to contentment and stillness. Tapping into the graciousness of the universe and feeling truly supported by it is sometimes hard to hold onto, because it is so abundant and so beautiful.
“It is, as the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, the gift of the whole universe. When you stop and really look, you see that you are supported continuously in literally countless ways. This is the highest wisdom of yoga, the truth of interbeing, of no separation.” – Frank Jude Boccio, via Yoga Journal
Practicing gratitude can lead to some amazing physical benefits, too: according to a UMASS Dartmouth article, people who practice gratitude are more likely to have higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, energy, and sleep. Gratitude can even help create a stronger immune system and reduce the risk of coronary artery disease)!
Some outlets for the expression of gratitude:
1. Write down three things that you are grateful for every day, or whenever you feel like it! These can even live in a special gratefulness journal.
2. Over dinner, tell your roommate or partner a few things that you are grateful for.
3. Write a note to your friend or a family member about why you are grateful to have them in your life.
One last thought to reflect on: one of my teachers gave this poem to me in at a tumultuous time in my life, and it frequently reminds me to be grateful for things I don’t naturally want to be grateful for:
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks
Do you practice gratitude? What are your favorite ways to do so?
About the Author: Jessica Collette is a Durham, NC based Yoga instructor. Yoga has brought more mindfulness, awareness, love, and respect into Jessica’s life. Among other things, it has taught her how to cherish the important things, live more fully, and love her whole self as well as the people around her. Learn more about Jessica’s work here.