With Thanksgiving right around the corner, everyone seems to have gratitude on their minds. From the inspiring Instagram captions or family photos posted to Facebook that exude love and thankfulness, this is the time of year that this mindset is observed by all of our family and friends. While some individuals use this time of year exclusively to practice a constant state of gratitude, for yogis, it is more of an extension of a mindset that already exists.
It’s only natural that you’re wondering why it is that yogis have been lucky enough to harness gratitude. Today, we’ll fill you in on the details! It all comes down to the regular practice of yoga and, thus, the happiness that comes with that practice.
What is the Connection between Happiness and Gratitude?
Psychology Today reported that students who wrote in gratitude diaries weekly for 10 weeks noted after the conclusion of the experience that they felt more positive about their lives, more optimistic about the upcoming week, reported less negative physical symptoms, and even stated that they were exercising more regularly. If that’s not happiness, we don’t know what is.
Furthermore, the Huffington Post wrote about a student at Boston College who conducted a similar experiment. He had a group of students fill out a happiness survey. Then, he had them each write a letter of gratitude to someone they cared about, read it to them, and then retake the survey. The second set of results revealed that the students were much happier after writing the letter of gratitude!
As you can see, happiness and gratitude have an intricately related relationship, which is part of the reason that yogis exude such a great spirit and have an aptitude towards happiness and gratitude.
What’s the Significance of Gratitude in our Lives?
First things first: why does the ability to harness gratitude even matter? There are physical benefits to feeling grateful such as: experiencing fewer aches and pains (as reported by Forbes), a higher likelihood to start taking better care of one’s physical health, the tendency to exercise more, better sleeping habits, and an increased chance of attending regular check-ups.
Furthermore, actively displaying gratitude can have an effect on our mental health, such as an enhanced ability for empathy, reduced feelings of aggression, increased self esteem levels, and a reduced tendency towards “toxic” emotions, like envy, resentment, frustration, and regret.
As you can now see, being a naturally grateful person is nothing to sneeze at! It comes with some pretty impressive perks, so keep reading to learn how yoga can help you become someone who is effortlessly thankful (and happy!) all year long!
How Yogis Harness These Emotions
Now let’s get to the exciting stuff! Even though you practice yoga, you may not actively realize the different ways the practice harnesses these feelings as you’re going through the motions. After all, yoga yields a wide range of awesome benefits, so this may be one that you have never really thought about before! Keep reading to learn about the different things we do as yogis that promote a deeper sense of happiness and gratitude.
Yogis Practice Mindfulness
An increased aptitude for gratitude is said to be a result of practicing frequent mindfulness. Yoga is the perfect way to do just that! The breathing exercises and meditation associated with yoga is an effective way to increase mindfulness, and furthermore, is a wonderful time to focus on gratitude. Taking the time to focus on nothing besides breathing and the gift of life enhances one’s ability to appreciate life itself, which isn’t always something we take the time to do!
Yogis Take Time to Reflect and Accept
A lot of yoga revolves around deep reflection that doesn’t always occur in other aspects of everyday life. Each time yogis hit the mat, they’re faced with a time to reflect on what has transpired in their life since the last time that they slipped into downward dog.
With that reflection comes the urge for yogis to accept things as they come, to come to terms with the way things are, and the ability to accept life for what it is at any given moment. In conjunction with recognizing and acknowledging feelings surrounding yogi’s reflections also comes the idea of gently diminishing negative feelings, thoughts, or emotions that come up during a yoga session and training the mind to think happy thoughts.
Yogis Use Mantras
Mantras are a huge part of yoga, and thus, a huge part of harvesting feelings of gratitude during the practice. Repeating mantras such as, “I appreciate the abundance in my life and wish to expand my gratitude”, or just a repeated, “Thank you for everything I have, everything I am, and for everything that’s coming” is a powerful act that will do wonders to inspire a long-lasting feeling of appreciation and happiness.
Gratitude Beyond the Yoga Mat
With Thanksgiving upon us, there’s never been a more perfect time to ensure that this sense of peace and happiness is not only in effect when you’re striking a yoga pose or taking action on the mat. Instead, use this special time of year to apply this mindset to the rest of your day-to-day life.
Start by being mindful of your breathing throughout the day, as each breath that you’re aware of can be used as a form of meditation. Another way to be mindful off the mat is to take the time to be aware of your senses. This can come into play with something as simple as pausing to enjoy the taste and aroma of your morning coffee as you take a sip. Remember that, oftentimes, a little effort goes a long way!
Making this a habit takes a little work, but it’s worth it! Try keeping a journal - even if you only write a couple lines a day—and writing in it at the same time every day to get into a routine. Getting your thoughts out on paper is a powerful way to stay in tune with your feelings and to help you accept life as it comes.
Finally, start to use the same mantras you use during yoga during your daily routine. After all, who says you can’t use them all the time?! Either use the same statements that you use during your regular yoga routine or tailor them to fit the different ebbs and flows of your day. Either way, this is another powerful way to change your state of mind and emotional state.
As if you didn’t love yoga enough, realizing that it helps you to feel an eternal sense of happiness is certainly the cherry on top! Maintaining a grateful mindset is good for your mental and physical well-being, so take solace in the fact that yoga benefits you in this way as well as so many others.
This Thanksgiving, spread your yogi love around the table by suggesting that the family game of flag football be traded for a yoga session. Before the pumpkin pie is served, everyone will be on their way to a more peaceful, appreciative, and all-around happy state of mind, just like you showcase every day!