Come November, we start to hear a lot about what people are grateful for. The attitude of gratitude is what makes Thanksgiving my favorite holiday.
I believe that practicing gratitude is a key aspect of a happy, healthy lifestyle, just like a healthy diet and exercise. It’s really hard to be feel both grateful and angry at the same time. If you fill your heart with gratitude, it pushes any negative feelings aside. It’s easy to get sidetracked by all the things that go wrong in daily life, but you’ll feel better if you can bring your focus back to all the things that went right. Your stress level will decrease and your muscles will relax. It’s been proven that happy people live longer than unhappy people, and practicing gratitude is a simple way to increase your general happiness.
My friend Amy recently started a photoblog about daily gratitude. She says on the blog, “I find I’m much kinder, more fun to be around and genuinely happy when I’m grateful.”
Isn’t that the truth for all of us? I want to be a kinder person every day, and like her, I’m more fun to be around if I focus on the positive. I’m friendlier, I can see the good in others, and I let the not so good roll off my back easier if I’m grateful for the good stuff.
My favorite way to practice gratitude is on my yoga mat. I start my practice by being thankful to be there, in that moment. I’m thankful for my body, that allows me to practice even though it’s far from perfect. I’m thankful for every teacher I’ve had up until that point, and for the knowledge they’ve imparted. And if I’m teaching, I’m thankful for the opportunity my students present me tome, to share something I love so much. I end my practice in the same way. It’s traditional in yoga to close with ‘namaste’, which roughly translates to ‘the good in me recognizes the good in you’, or, gratitude for each other.
There are other ways I practice gratitude. When I’m having a crazy day, and I feel myself getting irritated, I try to find something to focus gratitude towards. Sometimes it’s traffic. I focus on the fact that I drive a Jeep that I enjoy and that I own outright. Sometimes it’s doing the dishes. I focus on the meal, the warm water, and the feeling of closure a tidy kitchen brings to the day. These shifts in focus keep me from getting stuck in the mumble grumble about things I don’t particularly enjoy, and allow me to feel better for dealing with them.
And then there is opportunity. I’m so grateful for the opportunities life brings, especially this military life, and I make the most of them. Life is full of opportunities, but to really live, you’ve got to take advantage of them. I’ve travelled all over the world with my husband. I’ve met wonderful people. I’ve learned skills for my independence that are invaluable. When the schedule gets tough, I try (though I admit I don’t always succeed) to focus on the amazing aspects of this life for which I am very, very grateful. Did I mention I live in paradise, thanks to the military? Just a look out the window to the palm trees, a rainbow, or a tropical shower can bring me back to that contented feeling of gratitude in this life.
Today, I am especially grateful for the opportunities military life provides. I was lucky enough to meet Michelle Obama! She was giving a speech about Joining Forces and Hiring Our Heroes. She shared how grateful she is us for us – the families of the military members. For our dedication and perseverance to our service members through all the challenges this life brings us, she is grateful. She is excellent at expressing her gratitude, and I truly appreciated hearing her supportive words. Knowing that your life is appreciated by another, especially someone for whom you have so much respect, feels amazing. When I had the chance, I shook her hand, and thanked her. Gratitude shared is a powerful thing, even if it’s only through two words. Mrs. Obama is an excellent role model for turning gratitude into positive change, and I hope to follow her lead.
This year, I encourage all of us to treat Thanksgiving like a New Year’s of gratitude. Make it a time to make goals and commitments regarding our practice of gratefulness for the year to come. Maybe you’ll keep a journal, make a habit of shifting focus, express more thanks in your prayers, start a blog, or offer more words of gratitude to others on a daily basis. Maybe you’ll do them all! If you make a concerted effort to be more grateful for the every day things in life, I promise you’ll feel better – mind, body, and soul.
Happy Thanksgiving, and Namaste!