The concept of practicing gratitude is pretty commonplace now, but have you ever wondered how to apply it to your wellness journey specifically?
“Reflecting upon gratitude helps reduce the impacts of stress on our bodies, enhances our mood, invites optimism, and enriches our relationships,” says Rashmi Bismark, MD, MPH, a Yoga Medicine® instructor and the award-winning author of Finding OM.
“Reconnecting with a sense of appreciation gladdens the heart. It helps us remember our innate ways of caring for ourselves and others,” Bismark explains. “When we can lean into that natural sense of care from within, we can become our own best champions along the path of wellness.”
Joree Rose, LMFT, a marriage and family therapist and author of A Year of Gratitude, says gratitude plays an integral part in a wellness journey.
“Our brains are designed to focus on the negative, and when we are seeking to create lasting change in our lives, it’s a habit to dwell on and focus on what isn’t working, what’s not going well, or even what feels too big to accomplish. Gratitude is an antidote to that negativity bias, and when strengthened, can help you to look for, and then find more easily, the good that is occurring in your life,” Rose says.
“It’s easy to stay stuck on what is hard, partly because it’s a habit, and change, such as meeting a weight-loss goal, developing a daily exercise routine or even reducing the toxic relationships in our lives, can feel insurmountable or near impossible … to achieve.”
But even the smallest bit of gratitude for the baby steps you are making can make a difference. Gratitude can also shift your energy and attention for what you are wanting to bring into your life, rather than focusing on what you are giving up, she says.
“When we practice daily gratitude, it literally rewires our brains, making it easier to develop new habits and patterns that are in alignment with how you want to be living your life. When you stay stuck on the negativity bias, you are stuck on autopilot; gratitude can be the path to more conscious living.”
How to Practice Gratitude
Some of Rose’s favorite ways to practice gratitude include:
- Celebrate your successes
- Look for the blessing in the hardship
- Be grateful for the people in your life supporting you on your wellness journey
- Take it one day, one breath at a time
Bismark says her favorite ways to practice gratitude are inspired by nature and her family’s indigenous spiritual practices from India.
- Connect with nature
“Every morning, while still in bed, before taking her first steps of the day, my mother says a short prayer in Sanskrit to express appreciation to Mother Earth for supporting all of life. Nature can be such a nourishing way to reconnect with a sense of gratitude, especially during those times when it feels hard to find something to be grateful for. And a pause for appreciation doesn’t have to take too long,” Bismark says.
Here’s one way you can try to do this:
“Invite a remembrance of something in nature you feel connected to,” says Bismark. “As you envision it, allow it [to] be a sensory experience. What do you see, feel, taste, hear, smell? What do you notice unfolding in your body as you invite this remembrance? Does a quality of appreciation arise? How does your body tell you that you appreciate this experience? Can you let yourself soak in this embodied sense of gratitude for three to five cycles of breath? What do you notice?”