My article originally appeared in BadYogi.com.
When I first began implementing gratitude into my life, I felt a little silly as I said things to myself like:
“I am thankful for this piece of bread I’m eating…”
“I am thankful for having a warm, comfy bed to sleep in…”
Or, my favorite:
“I am thankful for having a boyfriend who shares his Netflix account with me so I can binge-watch Gilmore Girls, over and over to no end.”
Silly or not, gratitude is something that we usually learn about, and maybe explore for the first time, in yoga class. We’re taught with each inhale and exhale to cherish the mat we sit on, the earth beneath our feet and the people in our life we encounter everyday.
Yet what usually happens is we lose this positive train of reflection the moment we step off the mat. Suddenly, our to-do list—the one that was momentarily forgotten during class—has resurfaced again. Now we’re too lost in thought to be thankful for having a car to bring us home or for the person who just held the door open for us.
Whether you’re a yogi, into meditation or just someone who wants to go through life feeling happier and more grateful, this practice is for you. To make it easier, I’ve complied just a few of the reasons why you should practice gratitude each and everyday, as well as the situations you can utilize it in, both on and off the mat.
For the positive health benefits
One major reason to practice gratitude every day is the physical and psychological health benefits that come with it. Yes, I said physical. According to a 2012 study that was published in Personality and Individual Differences, researchers found that people who are consciously grateful end up taking better care of their health. This means more exercise and more regular check-ups at the doctor. As for the mental health benefits, the results are astounding as well as almost immediate.
Practicing gratitude helps to banish the toxic emotions we’re bombarded with everyday, such as anger, envy, resentment and anxiety. Multiple studies were done by leading gratitude researcher, Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., who found that there is a major link between gratitude and well-being. The results of his studies confirmed that practicing gratitude works in increasing happiness and reducing depression.
For warding off a bad day or situation
Implementing gratitude may be the last thing on your mind when you’re in the middle of a heated fight or when someone just cut you off during traffic. Yet, it’s the number one thing you should be doing as tapping into this practice—the moment you’re feeling frustrated—will help to reduce the negative emotions.
It won’t be easy, but try to start off light. Tell yourself that you’re thankful for the person who cut you off because maybe they’re truly in a hurry or maybe by cutting you off, they prevented the chance of you moving too quickly and getting into an accident later on down the road. As for fighting with someone, be thankful that they care enough to argue with you and that you’re brave and assertive enough to stand up for yourself.
For starting a day off right
Did you know that the average person has approximately 60,000 negative thoughts per day? Crazy, right? Well, sadly it’s true but with regular implementation of gratitude into your life, you no longer have to wake up and go about your day feeling tired and depressed.
Right now, you may be starting the day off something like this: you’re thinking of your long to-do list, of the crappy weather outside or of the looming thought that you have to drive in heavy traffic just to make it to a job you don’t enjoy. Instead of all that, try this: Simply think of all the things you’re thankful for in this moment. If it’s hard to keep it all straight in your head, especially after just waking up, grab a notepad or journal and write it down. A list of 3-5 items to start is usually a good starting point.
With time, make it a habit of starting each day like this. Soon, the crappy weather outside will make you feel grateful that you can cozy it up by curling up later with a cup of tea and a good book; the traffic that usually fills you with anxiety and frustration will serve a more positive purpose as being “you-time” where you can sing loudly to the radio or listen to a book on tape; and that job you used to hate even thinking of will soon become something you’re grateful for as it gives you a purpose in life, as well as your income for paying the bills and enjoying the experiences that make life more fun.