‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding. — Alice Walker
Gratitude comes from the Latin word gratus, which means “pleasing” or “thankfulness” (Merriam-Webster). The practice of gratitude is showing or expressing thankfulness for the gifts and lessons that are offered. Pausing and recognizing a gift that was given and received is a moment of connection with our heart, our feelings, out emotions, and with the other person. To be caught in a moment of gratitude is to feel the warmth of the heart breaking open and spilling out of the corner of the eyes.
Research on gratitude indicates that developing a daily practice of gratitude improves overall mental health. In a 2003 study conducted by Emmons & McCullough, participants were asked to focus on one of the following conditions: hassles, gratitude listing, or neutral life events. Participants then kept a record of their moods, coping & health behaviors, physical symptoms, and life appraisals. In general, participants involved in gratitude listing reported elevated well-being as well as greater optimism. If you wish to read more, Emmons provides a brief overview of research on gratitude in a 2013 research article.
In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, aprarigraha, “non-grasping,” or “non-covetousness.” Through the practice of “acknowledging abundance (aparigraha), we recognize the blessings in everything and gain insights into the purpose for our worldly existence” (Nischala Joy Devi, The Secret Power of Yoga). The yoga practice of trataka is the act of gazing at a candle flame until the eyes water, thus cleansing themselves. Trataka is also used as a meditation practice. In LifeForce Yoga, trataka is adapted to include looking at an object of beauty from nature, or your surroundings, and bringing it into your heart. For example, after a breathing practice, a meditation practice, or your yoga practice, open your eyes and find an object of beauty or from nature. Offer thanks to this tree, or that flower, or bush, that has witnessed your practice and your devotion to yourself. Place that vision of nature on the altar of your heart, where it will always be available to you at any moment you need to reconnect.
2 Simple Daily Gratitude Practices
- Take a moment to pause and experience this moment. What are you feeling in your feet, your hands, your face, your heart? In this pause, offer gratitude that you have the ability to come into the present moment.
- At the end of your day take a moment to reflect on your day. Acknowledge 5 things that you are grateful that happened during your day. Strengthen this practice by writing it down in your journal.