Study after study asserts that the highest marker for happiness is--wait for it--gratitude. Not money or health or job satisfaction--gratitude leads to a happier life.
So how do we cultivate an attitude of gratitude (see what we did there)? We polled our Yogaja herd to discover how they practice mindful gratitude.
1. JOURNAL ABOUT WHAT MAKES YOU GRATEFUL.
Jotting down the little things--a free cup of coffee--to the big things--the love of your family--helps remind us of all the good and beautiful things in our lives. It’s human nature to focus on the bad; forcing ourselves to record the positive things each day reminds us of the good in our lives.
Shauna Gilsdorf explains, "I practice gratitude by writing in my journal what I am thankful for every day."
Buy a special journal--The Yogaja Shop carries cute journals and pens--and carve out some "me" time in your day to record your thoughts. If you need more of a focused prompt, there are numerous gratitude journals that can help direct your thoughts, including The 90-Day Gratitude Journal and Good Days Start with Gratitude.
2. VERBALIZE WHY YOU ARE GRATEFUL BEFORE A ROUTINE.
Whatever your daily routine includes, pick one of those things and attach mindful gratitude to it. After you brush your teeth, practice yoga, meditate, pray, or drink your morning coffee, mentally list or verbalize the things for which you are grateful. You will start or end your day with a renewed sense of joyfulness.
Lisa Morlock says she alternates between writing and verbalizing her gratitude list: “To remind myself to be thankful, I like to make a gratitude list. Many items on the list are the same--health, family, @Ashtanga Yoga Toledo, Alcoholics Anonymous--but I like to add small specific things, too, like seeing the sunrise this morning, eating a good meal, calling a friend.”
Lisa continues, “When I'm feeling upset, I either write it down or say it out loud to shift my perspective to be more positive. If I can focus on what I have, it will be easy to be thankful. But if I focus on what I don't have, it will never feel like I have enough. This little habit helps me stay appreciative of my wonderful life!”
3. FIND A FAMILY ACTIVITY.
Find a book on gratitude or devise a plan to practice gratitude as a family. Ann Heckler, one of our Yogaja teachers, explains their family ritual: “While on vacation with my adult girls, we bought this awesome book, Everyday Gratitude: Inspiration for Living Life as a Gift.”
“Once a week I send a copy of a page, which includes an inspiration and a reflection, to our family of four: my husband Tim, my daughters Meredith and Gillian, and me,” continues Ann. “Then we read, reflect and share. This helps me not only feel grateful and gain perspective, but also to feel connected to my family...AND still parent my adult children by cultivating everyday gratitude in us all. Easy, fun, loving, and connecting!”
4. WRITE NOTES OF GRATITUDE.
Expressing your gratitude to another not only reminds you to be grateful, but it spreads the love to others. The world could ALWAYS use more positive reinforcement.
Our Yogaja teacher Erin Marsh says, “Writing little notes to express my gratitude is my personal favorite way to remind myself to be grateful for the little things. Sometimes I send a text, other times I share my thanks via social media--usually Instagram--and every now and then I will send an email.”
“I think sending a random note helps drive home the point that you are truly thankful. After all, you’re thinking about that person at a random time--not just immediately after the kind deed--and taking the time to send them a note,” finishes @Erin.
Shauna echoes, "I let people know how much they mean to me because life is too precious to not do that."
5. PRACTICE RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS.
Spreading positive energy to complete strangers is a simple way to encourage gratitude. When we practice a random act of kindness, the stranger (hopefully) experiences gratitude from the altruistic act, and we are reminded to be thankful for the time/money/ability that allowed us to bestow this courtesy.
Erin laughs, “If I were rich, I’d give random gifts all the time. I love giving people things--food, baby hand-me-downs, small gifts--and I do it whenever I can.”
“Just a couple weeks ago, the neighbor girls babysat my two little ones and refused to take any money, so I bought them two super cute and inexpensive necklaces from The Yogaja Shop. Because of their kindness, I was able to gift them necklaces AND support a local store. Win win!”