A Gratitude Meditation Practice to Bring into the New Year
Do you want to feel happier?
Are happy people grateful because they are satisfied with every aspect of their lives? Or are these joyful individuals happy because they practice gratitude?
Studies show it’s the latter. Researchers Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, asked three participant groups to write down a few sentences on different topics weekly. The first group jotted down what they were grateful for, the second what had displeased them, and the third group was instructed to journal about things that had affected them without guidance. After ten weeks, Emmons and McCollough found, “Those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.”
With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and arriving into a New Year, we need our gratitude practice more than ever.
7 Ways to Practice Gratitude This Year
Find beauty in the familiar
Take in your surroundings, notice the colors, the smells, and see where your eyes go. Can you find beauty in your favorite coffee mug or a beautiful tree outside? Pause and give thanks for the beauty that we often take for granted as we rush through life.
Start a gratitude journal
Daily, write down 5 – 10 things that make you feel grateful. What you jot down may vary day by day. You could be thankful for people, things, events, anything really.
Connect with a gratitude buddy
Then, agree to email each other 5 – 10 things that you’re grateful for at the end of each day. No response from your partner is required; just support and accountability! Involving friends or family in your gratitude practice can provide much-needed support and make the other person feel good too.
Write a thank-you note
To tell someone how much they mean to you or why you appreciate them. The act of writing down how you feel about someone else can take you out of your head and fill you with loving-kindness.
Savor a moment of peace, joy, or quiet
Find presence in mindfulness. It’s easy to think, “When x, y, or z happens, I’ll be happy” instead of celebrating what we’ve already accomplished.
Practice yoga & meditation
Whether it’s regular meditation, pranayama, or yoga asana, you can take refuge in the practice of yoga and find gratitude for yourself, your spirit, your heart, and your body.
Build a “Smile File”
Gather up thank-you notes, birthday cards, letters, or other tokens of appreciation you’ve received. Place these love-notes in a file or box. On days when you feel down, overwhelmed, or less than grateful, pull them out! Reading through your “smile file” can remind you of the gratitude you have for others and that they have for you.
Incorporating gratitude into your daily life can improve your happiness, resilience, and positive emotions. The following Metta or lovingkindness meditation can assist with soothing the mind to decrease personal feelings of suffering. Some Buddhist teachers and practitioners consider this meditation practice a pathway for cultivating happiness, appreciation, satisfaction, and ultimate acceptance (Bodhi, 2005; Shen-Yen 2001).
To start, take a comfortable seat or lying down position. Allow your body to relax and take a few natural breaths. Let the body and heart be open, and consider closing your eyes or finding a soft gaze.
First, send the following sentiment to yourself: May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be safe, may I live with ease.
Now, call to mind someone you care about deeply. Imagine this person’s face, their smile, how you feel when you’re around them. Send your person this loving wish:
May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe, and may you live with ease.
Next, envision someone you’ve struggled with and send them the same lovingkindness: may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe, and may you live with ease.
Lastly, send these wishes out for all beings. May all beings everywhere be happy, healthy, safe, and live life with ease.
Written for Pilgrimage Yoga by Kara Willingham