Note: This post was originally posted on Girlvana Yoga and was written with a teen girl audience. However, I figured everyone, regardless of age, can benefit from a little more gratitude.
..Because it works.
My own experience with gratitude is a recent one. Not that I was a "Negative Nancy" throughout my childhood/teenage years/undergrad, I just never really gave it all that much thought. However, once I really got into my yoga practice, I came across one of the aspects of the second "limb" of yoga- Santosa, aka contentment. (There are eight limbs of yoga according to one of the great grandfathers of yoga. The eight limbs of yoga provide a guide for how yogis act both with themselves and in relationship with others).
When I first heard about Santosa, I thought- "Well.. if we simply sit content with what we have, then we won't be improving or learning or growing as people! What about goal setting? What about chasing dreams??" My initial reaction could not have been more off. Santosa is learning to be content with what you have, even if things are feeling pretty rough at the moment. Rather than striving for the future, it is feeling comfortable in the belief that everything happens for a reason. It is the idea that every challenge is an opportunity to learn, to evolve, and develop compassion for ourselves and others. It is having faith that in hindsight, as stronger girls (and guys), we will be able to see just why things worked out the way they did.
For example, and here's an example I'm sure many of you can relate to, let's talk about a breakup. Breakups are hard- whether they're with your best friend or your boy/girl friend, ending a close relationship with someone after however long or short of a period of time is a shock to the system. There are usually tears, anger, and lots of ups and downs in terms of emotions. Santosa is the calm amidst all of that. Practicing Santosa means sitting (as calm as you can) and truly experiencing the waves of emotions that you feel. Rather than rushing to put a bandaid on it and telling everyone "it's okay, i'm okay", or instead of wishing you could fast forward to a time when you feel good again, why not find the good in the current situation?
Here is where gratitude comes in. Gratitude comes hand in hand with Santosa. As Alex mentioned in her prior post, there is always, always something to be thankful for. Even in the worst of moments, you can still find something to be grateful for. Focusing your energy and thoughts on the positive will help make it much easier to stay content in the moment, no matter what this moment brings you. I won't get into the nitty gritty science but studies have shown that practicing gratitude makes you a happier person. And if you had the choice to be happy- why wouldn't you take it?
Going back to the breakup example- perhaps there can be gratitude for having close friends to talk to, or gratitude for having had that relationship to begin with. Gratitude can even be something as simple as "I am grateful that I didn't have to walk home in the rain today."
I invite you, to start your own gratitude practice. I say "practice" because gratitude, like yoga, dance, or any other team sport is an ongoing practice that requires commitment. A good way to start is with a gratitude journal or gratitude emails. Take some time each day to write 3-5 things that you are grateful for that day. Remember that it doesn't have to be big, life changing moments. Start small, start simple, and begin to notice a shift in your perspective. It might feel daunting at first but I promise it gets easier.
(If you found this interesting, inspiring, or helpful. Feel free to share this with your people.)