Quoting Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne) may seem out of place; our advice, don’t scoff but take a look at some of his wonderful quotes – you will be inspired!
This month we are talking about Gratitude. Recently someone sent me a link to an article in the New York Times titled: “Choose to be Grateful. You will be Happier.” At the time I briefly thought about the motivation – was it simply wanting to share a good article with a colleague who would appreciate this kind of philosophy or did he think that I needed help. For the record, I wasn’t offended and chose to treat it as a gift, something for which to be grateful.
For those interested, it is worth reading the whole article (NYT Article: ). For people who want the synthesised version, the key message is simple: you do not need to feel thankful to be grateful, rather, by actively choosing to practice gratitude we raise our happiness. This assertion is supported with references to numerous research reports and experiments. One amusing assertion is that expressing gratitude has a downside as there is some research suggesting it could make you fat (there is evidence that people begin to crave sweets when they are asked to express gratitude).
Despite the impact to your waistline, the message is clear – we should endeavour to make gratitude part of our everyday life.
So how do we go about it? Sure, you might express gratitude after receiving a promotion at work, but you can also be thankful for something as simple as a delicious meal or even the opportunity to witness a beautiful sunset (of which there are plenty in Dubai).
You would think the findings are compelling enough to motivate us to into action. But if you’re anything like me, this motivation lasts about three days until completing my gratitude journal gives way to everyday living. Here is what I am currently putting into practice:
Keeping a journal
Writing things down makes them more tangible and real. The journal doesn’t need to be fancy – a simple notebook, the scribble pad on your phone or notepad on your computer will suffice. Others I know keep a gratitude jar; when something memorable happens they write it down and put it in the jar. Do whatever works for you.
Keeping things fresh
The best way to reap the benefits of gratitude is to notice new things you’re grateful for every day. While you might always be thankful for your great family, just writing “I’m grateful for my family” week after week doesn’t help. I am trying to be specific for example “Despite a tiring day at work, Elisa came home prepared a fabulous meal”. I am trying to notice new things each day.
Being realistic about my practice
Recognise and plan for the obstacles that may get in the way. Personally, I am exhausted at the end of the day; it would be futile to complete my journal in the evening. So, I choose to reflect in the first 5 minutes after the alarm goes off in the morning – no emails, no facebook, just reflection.
Regardless of the above, obstacles do get in the way and there are days I do not complete my journal (e.g. overnight flights). I make sure to catch up later in the day or at worst the next day. One simple trick that I use is a reminder in my diary As the year draws to a close (and the recent passing of Thanksgiving which is celebrated by our American friends), I am currently going through my journal. I find myself smiling after re-reading the little things I noted in my journal that happened earlier in the year.
Choosing to Practice Gratitude on the Mat
Here are four ways to practice gratitude on your mat:
1. Count your blessings instead of your breaths. It’s nearly impossible to do this for an entire practice session, but try to spend one long held pose (Pigeon is a good one) thinking of one thing you are grateful for with each breath.
2. Focus on the positive. It’s easy to have negative thoughts about your self-perceived shortcomings on the mat – maybe you are not bending as far back today or as far as your neighbour. Make a commitment to use your yoga practice to observe the amazing things you CAN do. This will spill over into other areas of your life.
3. Those of you that practice with Fran will already be practicing this way as she frequently ends her class with “Be thankful for what your body did today; not everyone can get up early in the morning and do what you did today …”
4. Practice “Thank You” during Savasana. Not many things feel better than a Corpse Pose after an intense yoga class, when tired muscles finally melt into the floor. Use the opportunity at the end of your yoga practice meditating with the mantra “thank you”. Say “thank” on your inhales and “you” on your exhales.
Thank your yoga teacher. Tell your teacher how much you appreciated their class and be specific. Nothing helps your teachers more than their students’ feedback.
I am sure if you put each of these things into practice, you will leave the mat happier!
See you on the mat,