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Make gratitude a habit for your health and wellbeing

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

Thanksgiving is a time when people gather with friends and family to offer thanks and appreciation to people who have brought blessings into their lives.

Some say that giving thanks shouldn't be confined to just one season. Spending time every day focusing on gratitude can have a huge impact on health and well-being throughout the year.

I often finish my yoga classes with a short, silent gratitude practice. We spend a few moments sending our bodies a little gratitude; for the body’s capacity and strength in practice. Perhaps the body’s ability to heal or our current state of health and well-being. Whatever comes to mind. I encourage my participants to add a silent “thank you” to the body. Then we bring the attention to the heart and send a little gratitude for our own beating heart; (that beats for you without you having to do anything in particular). A little silent “thank you” to the heart’s ability to practice with a high quality of care and attention. Then we bring the attention to the mind and add a silent “thank you” to the mind. Your mind has the capacity to organize moments of care for yourself and others. A heartfelt thank you is always nice.

Today, after my class, one of my participants approached me with her own story of gratitude. Her father had passed away several years ago. She was able to be by his side during his passing. Even though he never used words of gratitude in his life, she told me that he showed his love and his appreciation for her by making her meals, and silently supporting her whenever she needed. She knew her father’s love was present, even without the words.

On his final moment of life, he told her he was ready to go. Before he passed, he thanked his heart for being his companion throughout the years and expressed gratitude with a simple “thank you” to his heart.

Tears streamed down my face as she told me this. It reminds me of the importance of cultivating a sense of gratitude for the small and big things in life. We can incline our minds to more joy and appreciation in our days by being grateful for the little things. Maybe for the fact that you showed up for a moment of self-care, that you have a warm house and a cup of tea on a cold and grey afternoon, that you have friends, loved ones, furry friends who care deeply about you.

Expressing gratitude is associated with a host of mental and physical benefits, according to the Mayo Clinc. Studies have shown that feeling thankful can improve sleep, mood and immunity. Gratitude can decrease depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain and risk of disease.

So, as you approach this season of giving thanks, take a moment to pause, and notice what you can be grateful for today. Lather, rinse, repeat, and watch the heart-healthy benefits of a gratitude practice develop in your own life.

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