The power of gratitude is still being documented and discovered, but through the physiology of the body – and my own personal experience – I know gratitude to have a powerful influence on the mind, body and soul. This gratitude mindfulness practice is designed to help you discover the benefits of gratitude, too.
“Shifting attention to what is good in life counters the tendency to dwell on problems and is a powerful way to lift mood. The more we practice gratitude, the more we find to enjoy,” explains Glenn R. Schiraldi, a resilience researcher and stress management expert. “Our feelings of connection to people increase as we remember shared good times and the traits we appreciate in them. Practicing gratitude has even been found to cause beneficial changes in brain and heart functioning .. as well as make distressing memories feel less troubling and less likely to intrude into awareness.”
Daily Gratitude Practices
As Schiraldi explained, the more we practice gratitude, the more we feel its positive effects. But figuring out how to practice in a way that keeps us engaged and connected can sometimes be difficult. Here are a few simple ways to bring gratitude into your daily routine.
- Write a gratitude letter. Think about someone who has touched your life for the better. In many ways, your life would not be the same without them. Now write that person a letter of gratitude for all the ways they’ve added to your life. You can read the letter aloud to its subject, or you can send it in the mail.
- Share your gratitude aloud with a loved one. You might be familiar with a gratitude journaling practice. This exercise asks you to take it one step further by sharing your gratitude list with a partner or friend at the end of each day. Feel how it changes the energy within you and between you.
- Give up something you take for granted. If there’s a relationship or area of your life where you’re not recognizing the full potential of your gratitude, take a brief break from it. The absence will make you feel even more grateful when you return.
- Practice grateful reminiscing. Even remembering a memory or event you’re grateful for can increase your feelings of well-being by activating the brain’s reward center. Simply find a quiet space, focus on your breath, and remember every detail of that beautiful memory. Immerse yourself in gratitude of the past to bring it to the present.
- Rely on gratitude in adversity. When hope feels lost or pain becomes overwhelming, gratitude can be a salve for the soul – especially in life’s toughest moments. By focusing on what we do have, gratitude can change our perspective in a way that lifts our spirits out of the darkness.
A Special Gratitude Mindfulness Practice
The positive effects of gratitude are most powerful when incorporated into a daily practice. However, if you’re looking for a special, dedicated ritual to help you rediscover gratitude in a difficult moment, this Gratitude Mindfulness Practice is for you. It blends various modalities – from yoga to journaling to Ayurveda – to cultivate deep thankfulness for your mind, body and spirit.
1. Ayurvedic Tea
Before or after your gratitude mindfulness practice, nurture your body and mind with a cup of grounding Ayurvedic tea that will inspire peace and gratitude in the present moment. This lovely tea is best sipped in the mornings while enjoying your favorite reading, journaling or morning ritual.
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp fennel
- ¼ tsp lemon verbena
- ½ tsp rose petal
- ½ tsp tulsi (holy basil)
- ¼ tsp peppermint
- Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
- In a saucepan, add 8 oz (1 cup) of water, and bring to a medium boil.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir in the ingredients from the bowl.
- Allow the tea to steep for about 5 minutes.
- Strain your tea into your favorite mug. Add a little honey, if desired, and enjoy!
2. Guided Meditation
To set up for your gratitude meditation, simply grab a few blankets and pillows, and find a comfortable space you can lie down upon. Arrange the blankets and pillows around your body in a way that feels good – under the head or knees, tucked into the side body, or layering a blanket across the abdomen. Go with whatever feels most inviting to you. Then follow the steps below to invite the feeling of gratitude into your mind, heart and body.
- When you arrive at a place of comfort, place one hand on the heart center and one hand on the navel. Begin to bring your awareness to the rise and fall of your breath. As you inhale, feel your body breathe into your hands, and as you exhale, feel your body release and draw away from your hands. Stay here for 10 breaths, and just notice the rise and fall of your breath.
- Now, turn your awareness to your hands. Feel the support they offer to the body on your abdomen and heart center. Experience the warmth or coolness of your own touch. Let their weight settle in. Stay here for seven rounds of breath.
- Release the arms down to the side of your body, or keep the hands where they are. Do whatever feels right. This time, begin to imagine breathing only into your heart space – inhaling and exhaling from the center of your chest. Visualize the breath flowing into every cell and limb of the body before it returns back to the heart. Repeat for 10 rounds of breath.
3. Mindful Journaling
After your meditation, take a moment to journal your thoughts. Once you’re ready, take out a pen and paper. Set a timer for 5 minutes, and once you start, try to write or draw until the timer stops. Begin with the phrase:
“In this present moment, gratitude is …”
- Once the timer completes, read what was written. Pick the sentence that stands out the most to you.
- Set the timer for 4 minutes. This time, begin with the sentence you chose. If you drew a picture, notice what comes up when looking at it. Continue by adding to it or drawing something new.
- Once the timer completes, read the written words, and once again, pick the sentence that stands out most to you.
- One last time, set the timer for 4 minutes, and begin with the sentence you just chose.
- Now, read through all three journal prompts, then pause. Let the words sit with you as you keep the eyes opened or closed – and notice what gratitude feels like.
4. A Simple Yoga Pose
Sometimes the simplest way to connect to a sense of gratitude is to return to yourself and the earth below your feet. That’s why I love wrapping up this gratitude mindfulness practice with Balasana (Child’s Pose), which is perfect when I need to feel grounded in my body.
In this pose, bow your head to the earth and give thanks for the very ground you stand on. Take time to breathe in this pose, and feel your breath fill up the space between you and the mat. Once you arrive, the only thing left to do is surrender.
Try It Yourself
- Start on your hands and knees, in tabletop position.
- Bring your big toes to touch.
- Spread your knees as far apart as is comfortable.
- Reach your arms out in front of you and let your hands settle, palms down, onto the mat.
- Let your torso fall forward and rest your forehead on the mat.
- Lean your hips back into your heels.
- As you hold this pose, notice the ebb and flow of your breath.
“Unless we’re grateful for what we have, we’ll never be happy with more.” – David Rich