Thanksgiving is the one time a year where gratitude and giving thanks is on most Americans’ agenda for the day, but why stop there? Beyond being just a nice thing to do, being grateful has been scientifically shown to increase our personal happiness quotient. The more thanks we give, the more joy we get. It’s a win-win proposition.
One powerful way to create more gratitude in your everyday life can be found through the practice of mindfulness. Any time you experience something fun, enjoyable, loving, beautiful, and so on, do the following practice, feel your gratitude, and start to rewire your brain for more happiness and resilience.
Take In the Good
This mindfulness practice is fun and easy. You don’t have to carve out special time for it (as you would with meditation, for example); all you need to do is tack it onto whatever wonderful experience is already happening. Here’s how it works:
1. Notice that something good is happening, whether it’s a beautiful sunset, the sound of the forest as you walk through the woods, the relaxed comfort of holding your partner’s hand by the fireside, or any other experience that touches your heart, moves your soul, or makes you smile.
2. Take a few deep, mindful breaths. With each breath, let the gratitude for this moment and all the other good feelings you are experiencing really fill you up. Fill your whole being with all this goodness! If deep breathing is uncomfortable, allow the feeling of goodness to marinate in you for a few moments. The breath isn’t as important as savoring the good feelings.
3. Write it down for two bangs for your buck. Take a minute to scribble what you are grateful for — or what you enjoyed and are grateful you enjoyed — in a gratitude journal or on a slip of paper that goes into a gratitude jar. That’s a win-win for your mental health!
4. If you need to change the channel, do it. Next time you find yourself in an emotionally challenging situation, name the emotion you are feeling and notice where it is located in your body. Soothe yourself by placing your hands where you feel constricted, or placing your hands over your heart. (You are being kind to yourself because you are suffering.) Then, you can change the channel by calling up one of the good experiences you’ve planted in your memory and tap into those feelings of joy or gratitude. While you may not instantly transform into the epitome of calm amidst whatever chaos you are experiencing, you will be pleasantly surprised how effective this tool can be in creating more peace and less reactivity when you need it most. This is a great trick; you are stopping the discursive loop of ruminating and worrying.
We all know the holidays can be joyful and stressful, so take in the good this Thanksgiving — and every day. Focus on the moments that bring you the most joy or peace, feel those feelings and your gratitude for them deeply and mindfully, then use those experiences to help keep your cool during life’s more challenging moments. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to living a more grateful life, and the proven benefits that come with gratitude.
Mindfulness expert and author Julie Potiker is an attorney who began her serious study and investigation of mindfulness after graduating from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of California, San Diego. She went on to become trained to teach Mindful Self-Compassion, and completed the Positive Neuroplasticity Training Professional Course with Rick Hanson. Now, she shares these and other mindfulness techniques with the world through her Mindful Methods for Life trainings and her new book: “Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos.” For more information, visit www.MindfulMethodsForLife.com.
Mindfulness expert and author Julie Potiker is an attorney who began her serious study and investigation of mindfulness after graduating from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of California, San Diego. She went on to become trained to teach Mindful Self-Compassion, [...]