Wellness is not only about the body - mind and spirit must be fed, too. This month, we look at a topic that keeps us thriving and giving: Gratitude!!! What is it and how can we add more of it to our lives? This month, let's explore what being grateful can look like and how it can help us with everything we do.
Gratitude is something we often think about at Thanksgiving time, when we are reminded to count our blessings and offer thanks for the bounty in our lives. But what if you were to bring the spirit of gratitude into your everyday life? What could change for you? This month we look at real strategies for adding gratitude into everything we do. Whether it's being thankful for the "basics," for that promotion at work, or for the quality of our relationships, gratitude is always called for. And it can change a negative mindset faster than just about anything.
We make lists for everything - grocery lists, to do lists, and bucket lists. But what if you could spend a little time each day making a list that increased your happiness and contentment with life? Making a gratitude list might just be a fantastic use of your time and energy, changing your outlook on your life in a big way. As Dr. Robert Emmons has found in his research, gratitude gives meaning to life. According to Emmons, gratitude is an attitude we must actively choose. Once gratitude is adopted as a mindset, the mentality of victimhood vanishes; the two simply cannot coexist.
Emmons, a University of California, Davis professor, backs up his claim with eight years of intensive research on gratitude (see his book in our recommended reading below). In this research, Emmons has found that people who view life as a gift and consciously adopt an “attitude of gratitude” experience many advantages. Among them are improved physical and emotional wellbeing, and stronger relationships and
community. As Emmons says, "without gratitude, life can be lonely, depressing and impoverished...gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms. People are moved, opened and humbled through expressions of gratitude.” While there are many ways to practice gratitude, the simplicity of the gratitude list makes it a great tool to use daily, or more!
Beginning your list is very simple - grab a sheet of paper, the back on an old envelop, or
a beautiful new journal and write down 10, 20, or even 50 things/people/experiences/feelings you are grateful to have in your life today. Your list can contain something as basic (and profound) as gratitude for the air you breathe, or you can write your thanks for your partner, children, or fantastic job.
You can do this exercise daily, weekly, or whenever you need a reminder of just how much love, health, and abundance you have to enjoy. A nice thing to do is to keep a compilation of your lists so that when you need to, you can go back and remind yourself of all the reasons your life is utterly amazing. You may even find that things that appear to be problems bring with them unexpected gifts! What are some thing you're grateful for today?
The practice of meditation can cultivate a great feeling of gratitude for all that is good in your life, and for the gift of life itself. Cultivating gratitude can replace painful feelings with positive ones, though not at the expense of feeling the original feeling.
There are many meditations you can practice to increase your feelings of gratitude for what is. The one below is simple and centering. If you like, record your own voice reading these instructions, then play it back to yourself - the ultimate self-guided meditation! Go at your own pace and include anything else that may come to mind.
Settle yourself into a relaxed posture - whether sitting on the floor, in a chair, or lying down, be sure you are at ease.
Close your eyes and take a few deep, calming breaths to relax and center yourself. Breath is the cornerstone of meditation and allows you to re-inhabit your physical body. Follow the natural rise and fall of your breath - there is no need to breathe more deeply, just breath.
Let your awareness move to your immediate environment - all the things you can smell, taste, touch, hear. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”
Next, bring to mind those people in your life to whom you are close: your friends, family, and co-workers. Say to yourself, “For this, I am grateful.”
Then, turn your attention to yourself; you are one-of-a-kind, gifted with imagination, the ability to communicate, to learn from your experiences, and the ability to weather life's storms and enjoy its sunshine. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”
Finally, rest in the awareness that your life is a precious gift. You have a measure of health, a loving community, choices about how you live, and the gift of awareness. You can focus on whatever you choose to in your life, which creates your reality. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful."
Afterward, breath slowly, in and out for as long as you like - enjoy your breath and your ability to smile. You can practice this routine as often as you like.
Sometimes we need a little nudge to get started with a particular feeling. While a well-meaning loved one may suggest we look at the glass half-full, as it were, it can help to have a concrete way to express what we are thankful for in our lives. Here are twenty simple writing prompts to kick-off your gratitude journey. Try one a day and see where it leads!
What is your favorite part of the day and why?
How is where you are in life today different than a year ago? What positive changes are you thankful for?
List five small ways that you can share your gratitude today.
What aspects of your work environment are you thankful for? (Supportive co-workers, flexible hours, great natural light, air-conditioning in the summer, etc.)
Write a few sentences about a person in your life that you’re especially grateful for and why.
What skills or abilities are you thankful to have?
What is there about a challenge you’re experiencing right now that you can be thankful for? What are you learning?
What part of your morning routine are you most thankful for?
What activities and hobbies would you miss if you were unable to do them?
List five body parts that you’re grateful for and why.
What about the city/town you live in are you grateful for?
What is your favorite book and why?
Write about the music you’re thankful to be able to listen to and why.
Who has done something this week to help you or make your life easier and how can you thank them?
What foods or meals are you most thankful for?
How has a family member made your life better?
What elements of nature are you grateful for and why?
Write a letter to someone who has positively impacted your life, however big or small.
What is your favorite holiday and why?
What is your favorite room in your home? How does it make you feel?
Movement didn't end with March! Just as you can cultivate a feeling of gratitude by writing, you can enhance your ability to be thankful through moving your body. And yoga poses can be a great way to do so. We visited Chopra.com for a few really great poses to inspire feelings of gratefulness. From Child's Pose to a gentle heart opener, the poses suggested are great ways to align the mind, heart, and body. Enjoy!
Brene Brown - Braving the Wilderness
Brown, a social scientist states, “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.” In her writing and speaking, Brown has sparked a global conversation about the experiences that bring meaning to our lives—experiences of courage, vulnerability, love, belonging, shame, and empathy. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown redefines what it means to truly belong in an age of increased polarization. With her trademark mix of research, storytelling, and honesty, Brown will again change the cultural conversation while mapping a clear path to true belonging.
Dr. Robert Emmons, Thanks! How The New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier
Did you know that there is a crucial component of happiness that is often overlooked? In the pages of this eminently readable book, Robert Emmons - editor in chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology - draws on the first major study of the subject of gratitude, of “wanting what we have.” He shows that a systematic cultivation of this under-examined emotion can measurably change people’s lives. Emmons reaches beyond science to bolster the case for gratitude by weaving in the writings of philosophers, novelists, and theologians. Like no other book has before, Thanks! inspires readers to embrace gratitude and all the benefits it can bring into our lives.
Will Bowen, A Complaint Free World
In Bowen's book, the source of so much unhappiness is unmasked, and it is really simple: complaining. Since this is the opposite of gratitude, it stands to reason that when we eradicate complaints from our lives, thankfulness for what IS will follow. In this enjoyable, often fun read, you will learn what constitutes a complaint, why we complain, what benefits we think we receive from complaining, how complaining is destructive to our lives, and how we can get others around us to stop complaining. You will learn the steps to eradicating this poisonous form of expression from your life. If you stay with it, you will find that not only will you not complain, but others around you will cease to do so as well. In a short period of time, you can have the life you’ve always dreamed of having.
Just One Drop, the world's first film about homeopathy, is now available! On April 10, and in honor of World Homeopathy Awareness Week, you can enjoy a pay-what-you-wish home screening of this informative film.
Enjoy these tasty treats for a healthful snack, or as part of your breakfast routine. Brazil nuts are high in the mineral selenium, ginger is great for digestion, and honey and raisins add a wonderful sweetness for spring.
20 Brazil Nuts
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried ginge
¼ cup raisins
1 tbsp raw honey
Put nuts, parsley, and ginger in the food processor and pulse
Add raisins and honey, then pulse again
Divide mixture into tablespoon sized balls and refrigerate
Enjoy two each morning