We might work out our bodies and even our minds, but, we can also work out our feelings. It is comforting to think of our feelings as being within our control, like a muscle to be trained. For example, if you are prone to negativity and you are aware of that, then you can start to monitor your behaviour and your attitude in situations where this arises. One feeling you can train that will help you become more mindful day to day, and feel that smile from within, is gratitude.
When I was a little girl one of the things I was taught to do before I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep, was to say thank you for everyone in my life. Thank you for my mum, thank you for my dad thank you for my brother and sister, thank you for grandma thank you for ……. My family is big, so I never got to thank all the uncles, aunts and cousins, and I was asleep before I knew it.
Gratitude is a tendency towards appreciating the positive in life, either we are more naturally inclined that way, or we have to realise that it is a quality, a way of being, that requires some effort to cultivate. Whoever we are there is always room for improvement.
Sometimes in the yoga class I will ask people to take a moment to think about three things they are grateful for. I see that within moments they relax more in their posture, and a gentle smile emerges. The reason being, when we are grateful, we feel joy. Gratitude is linked to kindness, it lifts the heart, we are saying thank you from the heart. This could be for the sound of birdsong, the kindness of a neighbour, or a child’s laughter. So many things.
Numerous studies have shown a strong association between higher levels of gratitude and wellbeing, including lowered stress levels, more fulfilling relationships, better sleep and overall greater resilience.
A way to train this feeling is to cultivate a regular practice of being thankful. It can take just a few minutes each day, you could do this before you go to bed. Think about, or write down, at least 3 things you are grateful for today. The more you do this the more you notice the many wonderful things in your life and you can’t help but smile and say thank you. Over time you start feeling grateful during the activities or experiences you are having, before eating your dinner and during the meal, when listening to a loved one, giving your whole attention and being grateful for that person in your life. Really experiencing the sights and sounds of nature instead of being lost in thoughts.
Gratitude is strongly linked with mindfulness, the more aware you are, the more you notice what is going on with your mental and physical state moment to moment. Train the muscle of mindfulness and gratitude and live a more fulfilling life. Like with a physical yoga practice or gym practice, the more you do it, the more you notice a difference.