Gratitude is the state of being grateful, and this state of being has the power to change our lives. As Thanksgiving Day approaches and the holiday season begins, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can be more grateful for my life and the relationships, experiences and environment that currently shape it.
I’ve learned that the more I take the time to practice gratitude, the happier I am. There’s no doubt in my mind that allowing for a few minutes each day to marinade in that state of being grateful makes my experience of life more satisfying and fulfilling. It even makes me more productive. The more I practice being grateful, the more benefits I realize there truly are. Want to live a more spiritual life? Practice gratitude. Want to reduce your attachment to material things? Again, gratitude is the answer.
So, I’d like to inspire you to think about all that you're grateful for because, as you can already see, the
benefits of gratitude are endless. To get you started, here are three
more benefits of gratitude you may not have realized before, plus two exercises you can add to your
Gets You Set for Seva
By developing an attitude of gratitude, we naturally become less self-centered and more selfless. And as it happens, this is one of the main aims of yoga: to practice seva (selfless service). The more we are grateful, the more we’re apt to set our own wants and goals aside for a moment to get out in the world and help others fulfill their own goals and desires.
Improves Physical Health
On a physical level, we also see just how real the power of gratitude is. The more grateful we are, the more healthy we are. Our stress levels decrease and we make less trips to the doctor. Our sleep quality is improved, which leaves us feeling optimistic and vibrant during waking hours. We’re more likely to exercise and move our bodies when we’re in a state of gratitude, and we even tend to live longer.
(Here's more on Mind-Body Health and Happiness.)
Increases Emotional IQ
Many studies in the self-improvement world show that greater resilience is an outcome of a regular gratitude practice. Being grateful helps us cope. It helps us bounce back in times of hardship. In fact, when times are tough, we can be grateful that "this, too, shall pass," and that we are simply developing greater and deeper character through adversity. There’s always a silver lining, and there’s always something to be grateful for. If we develop a habit of gratitude, it comes more naturally during the times when we truly need it.
Another emotional benefit of gratitude is its power to reduce feelings of jealousy and envy. When we’re in the act of feeling grateful, there’s no way we can simultaneously have feelings of wanting what we don’t have.
How to Practice Gratitude
So, how does one become more grateful? How do we cultivate gratitude on a daily basis in order to reap all these wonderful benefits? Since gratitude is the emotion of appreciating and wanting what we already have, rather than what we might want or desire, we can build our gratitude muscle simply by making a short gratitude list each day.
Each morning, carve out just a few minutes to jot down three to five things, people or situations you currently have in your life that you’re grateful for. There’s always something to be grateful for, no matter what. Maybe it’s as simple as the roof that’s over your head, the sun that’s shining in the sky today; or perhaps it’s a dear friend who you confide in whenever you need to.
Simply take the time each day to write your gratitude down on paper. This makes it concrete so that you can see what you’re grateful for with your own eyes. You might even consider buying a journal solely for your practice. Gratitude journaling is a wonderful way to bring greater happiness and well-being to your day.
(Make journaling part of your sadhana. Learn how in Savor Your Sadhana: A Guide to Creating Your Daily Spiritual Practice.)
The Gratitude Jar
If journaling gets old and you need a new way to practice, why not set a gratitude jar on your desk or bedside table? Each time something happens in your life that makes you feel grateful, write it on a slip of paper and place it in the jar. For example, last night my boyfriend gave me a massage before bedtime so that I’d sleep better. I could write that kind and generous act down on a slip of paper and toss it in my gratitude jar.
Every month, empty the jar and review those simple acts of kindness or whatever it was you were grateful for. This will no doubt increase your feelings of gratitude and motivate you to continue each month with a new gratitude jar.
Give Thanks, Get Gratitude
As you can see, gratitude is one thing you simply cannot do without -- not if you’re on the path of self-development and self-evolution. Have fun feeling grateful and watch your happiness grow!
(If you're on "the path," you'll be interested in reading on in The Genuine Seeker.)