Appreciate Everyday Moments
While we dedicate a holiday to the practice of giving thanks, stopping to appreciate what is in front of us every day has a powerful impact on our state of mind and our well-being. Some of the documented health benefits of gratitude include reducing stress and improving the functioning of the immune system. Giving thanks instead of taking things for granted, and appreciating rather than feeling resentment for what surrounds us helps us cultivating a sense of contentment with being in the present moment. (The attitude of contentment is valued in yoga philosophy, called santosha in Sanskrit, it is one of the niyamas or ethical observances.) An attitude of contentment helps us to find inner peace, no matter what challenges we are facing.
Here are five techniques to empower yourself and uplift your spirits through the art of gratitude:
- Begin and end your day with gratitude. This sets the tone for both your waking and your sleeping hours. Even if it’s been a rough day, try acknowledging something simple. You might place one hand on your heart and one on your belly and close your eyes to feel grateful for your heartbeat and breath.
- Practice seeing blessings in disguise. The ability to see good in all things opens the gateway for receiving insight, even from life’s seemingly unpleasant circumstances. The lens through which you view your experiences can color your relationship with them. For example, your day’s agenda may suffer from circumstances beyond your control. Let’s say you had a lengthy to-do list, but your car broke down. Take the opportunity to breathe, recover, and realign with your greater purpose. Trust that the universe is conspiring for your greater good.
- Offer any of your routine activities—bathing, cooking, driving to work, or even washing the dishes—as acts of gratitude. Dedicating your ordinary tasks can turn almost any act into something sacred and even meditative. It allows you to be present and not take that activity for granted, finding and exuding happiness wherever you are at the moment. While walking throughout your day, try remembering Thich Nhat Hahn’s simple words to inspire, “Walk as though your feet were kissing the earth.” Through this attitude, infuse love and care into any chore, allowing it to become joyful.
- Choose positive inner dialogue that acknowledges blessings. Observe your inner dialogue as you react to events throughout your day. How might you respond with words of encouragement, affirmation, and gratitude? Instead of complaining about how sore you are after a hike, try thanking your body for its ability and delight in the opportunity to walk. In The Hidden Messages in Water, Japanese Scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto confirmed the power of positive and negative words to transform water (which constitutes 70% of the human body) at a molecular level into either beautifully symmetrical crystal formations or into distorted asymmetrical shapes.
- Be present and intentional in your expression of gratitude. Throughout your day, witness how you show thanks to others who extend kindness to you in any form. A simple, “thank you for… (specific act of kindness)” with eye contact and genuine tone of voice can inspire an exchange of joy. Pausing to look, breathe, and show acknowledgement can make a difference in how you both internalize and express gratitude. One place you can practice this is at a restaurant where it can be easy to overlook the efforts put into providing your order. When the server brings your food, take the opportunity to connect by pausing to look the the server in their eyes, and smile genuinely with a word of thanks.
The more you exercise gratitude, the more you can cultivate a state of contentment and peace amid all of life’s circumstances. It has an impact beyond yourself: This infectious practice catalyzes a ripple effect of giving and receiving with the universe.
Michelle Chua is a yoga instructor and professional dancer. Born around the Thanksgiving holiday, she’s indebted to the power of gratitude: Root2RiseYoga.org