Gratitude, not just a platitude
The simple act of feeling grateful improves our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. It sounds trite and hard to believe, and yet studies have demonstrated the very real benefits (see one analysis by the Harvard Medical School and another from the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley).
In addition to bringing about immediate positive changes to one's mood and overall outlook, being in a state of gratitude effects the resonance of our energetic bodies. Energy healer Jonathan Goldman of the Essential Light Institute calls gratitude "a vibration, not just an idea," and "the antidote" to guilt, shame, and feelings of deprivation (The Gift of the Body, 2014).
While gratitude can and often does occur spontaneously, it can take practice to make it integral to our daily lives. Especially when we are feeling particularly down.
If you find yourself regularly bubbling up with anger, resentment, cynicism, guilt, shame, or anxiety, consider trying one or all of the simple exercises detailed below that are designed to recalibrate your system. Perhaps thinking of gratitude as an energy or vibration rather than simply a feeling will help you internalize it more deeply.
Exercises to increase gratitude
"Chakra Holding & Cradling"
In her definitive book "Energy Medicine" (2008), Donna Eden writes that feeling grateful "lifts your energy," and that directing this positive energy inward can instill peace and confidence.
For this exercise, place both hands over one chakra. Bring your mind's eye into that area, and breathe deeply. Cradle your chakra lovingly like a baby and send thanks for its service. Do this exercise for each of your seven chakras. While this might feel a bit silly at first, notice how your body responds to this love and attention.
"Three Good Things"
This practice has been researched, studied, and championed for years. Every evening, write down three good things from your day and why they happened to you. They can be small things (a great parking spot, because I got lucky), or big things (a positive prognosis, because I take care of my health), or anything in between.
Attributed to the founder of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, regularly doing this practice, also known as the "Three Blessings," has led people to experience greater optimism, better sleep, fewer reported health symptoms, more generosity towards others, and a sense of deeper overall connectedness.
Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield leads this short, simple guided meditation. Just seven minutes to access and express gratitude and raise your energetic vibration.
Another four-part Buddhist practice starts with sitting in a relaxed posture and taking a few deep, calming breaths:
1. Let your awareness move to your immediate environment: all the things you can smell, taste, touch, see, hear. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”
2. Next, bring to mind the people in your life: your friends, family, partners. Say to yourself, “For this, I am grateful.”
3. Next, turn your attention to yourself: you are unique, blessed with imagination, the ability to communicate, to learn from the past and plan for the future, to overcome any pain you may be experiencing. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”
4. Finally, rest into the realization that life is a precious gift. That you have been born into a period of immense prosperity, that you have the gift of health, culture, and access to spiritual teachings. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”