It’s thought that practicing gratitude can have many positive mental health benefits, but what is it? And how do you incorporate gratitude into yoga?
What Is Gratitude?
It’s really very simple. Gratitude is feeling grateful for something. The problem is that we get so caught up in daily life that we often don’t have time or forget to feel thankful for all the great things that we experience. Or even to be grateful for the gift of life itself!
We take things for granted when we really shouldn't. Ask anyone that’s faced with a terminal illness, and they will be thankful for each moment of life. If we could truly appreciate every day of our life, then perhaps we would all feel very different. The effects would be far-reaching and enhance every aspect of our lives from our physical and mental health, a stronger immune system, improved sleep, feeling less lonely to even experiencing better relationships with others.
How To Be Grateful
Gratitude is a combination of celebrating every win, no matter how small and being mindful enough to notice them. It could be getting the kids to school on time, meeting a deadline, spending time with a friend, learning something new, the beautiful sunrise as you drive to work and everything else in between. In essence, you must create a new habit of gratitude. Each time you notice a win, it gives stronger reinforcement to the new habit. You’ll also find that it becomes easier to observe the good.
How To Practice Gratitude
An excellent way to begin practicing gratitude is by journaling. That’s because it makes you recall moments of gratitude from ordinary events and daily life as well as highlighting valued relationships and your personal attributes and characteristics.
A journal also brings structure and you’ve guessed it, creates space in your life for you to think! Filling out a daily journal builds a gratitude habit, and you’ll find it pervading into other areas of your life as you take more notice.
Expressing gratitude to others is also important because not only does it make them feel good, but it makes you feel good too. And it serves to strengthen your relationships. After all, we all want to feel valued and appreciated by our friends and family.
Breathing and Mindfulness
It may sound obvious but longer, deeper breaths have an instant effect on our body and mind. We feel calmer, less stressed, and more in control. And we slow down. This is beneficial because we notice more when we take a pause, and our thoughts slow down.
Paying attention to the breath is also a key aspect of mindfulness because it anchors us to the present moment. When our mind is in the now, rather than constantly wandering to the past or future, we’re more tuned into what we’re doing and of course, having greater awareness means that we’re more likely to spot things to feel thankful about.
Gratitude and Yoga
You can also use yoga to cultivate gratitude. After all, yoga is a very mindful activity that encourages focus, connects our mind and body, and slows down our rate of breathing, all of which help us practise gratitude. You can also combine yoga with meditation to help you become more mindful and even incorporate gratitude affirmations as you hold each pose.
Yoga Poses For Cultivating Gratitude
A wonderfully soothing pose that directs the mind inwards. From kneeling, fold forwards, resting forehead gently on the floor and bottom resting slightly above or touching the heels of the feet. Consider the small wins you’ve made today whilst you rest in this pose.
Seated Forward Fold
This is a lovely hamstring stretch which also helps focus attention inwards. Make sure you’re in a comfortable sitting position with legs extended forward.
On the next inhale, reach your arms up and fold forwards over your legs as you exhale.
Enjoy this wonderful chest opener that lends itself to thoughts of love and gratitude. Slide a Yogi Bare Yoga Block under your shoulder blades and another Yoga Block under your head. Make sure your head, neck and back feel comfortable before continuing.
Legs should be extended, softly supported by the floor whilst arms can rest beside you with palms turned towards the sky.
Mountain Pose with Raised Hands
Simultaneously, this is a grounding, welcoming, receptive, and inspiring pose.
Stand tall with feet apart. On the next inhale, reach your arms up and over your head. Turn the palms inwards so that they are facing towards each other with fingers spread wide and extended upwards. Gaze up with a big smile on your face and give thanks to the universe.