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How to Practice Gratitude in Any Situation

“There is not much talk about the clouds that are visible up here. No one seems to think it remarkable that somewhere above an ocean we are flying past a vast white candy-floss island that would have made a perfect seat for an angel or even God himself in a painting by Piero della Francesca. In the cabin, no one stands up to announce with requisite emphasis that if we look out the window, we will see that we are flying over a cloud, a matter that would have detained Leonardo and Poussin, Claude and Constable.”Alain De Botton

I think it’s very easy to forget just how fortunate we are in every situation in our lives. We can easily fall into the trap of ‘Woe is me!’ and feeling like somebody somewhere has it much better than we do. Especially when people just love to glue their eyeballs to instagram and facebook where we can all too readily view the lives of the rich and famous. How useful is that?

Mindfulness is the absolute best guide to living a better life. Not by changing anything that actually happens. But by teaching us to accept and then appreciate everything as it is. Practicing gratitude is like working a muscle and no matter how weak it is it can be practiced nonetheless and the more you do it the better you get at it.

Yesterday I hit a funk. Do you ever hit any of those? You know where you feel you’re not getting anywhere? It can feel like you’re belting your head off a brick wall. I felt tired, beaten up and frustrated. There was a difference to these feelings as opposed to how I used to associate with them though.

I have had a practice of gratitude for almost a year now. Every morning I write down 3 things I am grateful for as I start my day. You can call it journaling, affirmations whatever you like but I do it, without fail, every morning.

Now here is what I noticed was happening to me yesterday and this morning when I was cycling to work at 6am in the freezing cold. When I had a negative thought my brain immediately through a positive from the situation into my psyche. I didn’t even have to think about doing it. It just did it!

You might be thinking I am super positive and you can’t do it? Not true! The me I am more familiar with would have gone deeper into that negative, got angrier and my head would have felt tighter if you know what I mean. I’m certain it is this new habit of writing down what I am grateful for every morning that has transformed my inner life.

Of course I don’t know but I’m guessing pretty much everyone has their fair share of negative thoughts arise. I know that I do anyway. The miraculous thing I’ve noticed is that out of nowhere when a negative thought arises my brain automatically puts a positive right after it and I don’t have as many negative thoughts at all. I’m certain this is down to a daily gratitude practice.

It’s very much this ‘re-framing’ that really really helps me. So here’s an example from today:

This morning at about 5am I wrote down ‘Today I am Grateful for’

  1. Early Mornings.
  2. A New Day.
  3. Yoga.

This might sound super positive. And it is! Here’s the truth of it though and the power of re-framing. Ok so

  1. Early Mornings. Man I was up at 5am. I was tired. I didn’t feel so good. The week has flown by (again). And it can feel like I’m not getting fricking anywhere. Who wants to be up at 5am? So when I arrive at my new habit I have to think what I’m grateful for. The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that I’m up early. So I write down ‘Early Mornings’ And then I realise there is a lot to be thankful for within early mornings. Like I get a lot of work done. I get to keep a gratitude practice. My morning coffee. My morning is not rushed. I’m up early because I have a job to go to. I work a lot but where I work and what I do are super cool. Do you see where I’m going with this?
  2. So then we arrive at number 2. And the second thing that comes to mind is ‘A New Day.’ Seems super positive again? Well if yesterday wasn’t great you always get another chance at it. Whatever mistakes you make you have a chance to correct. To do it better today. And if you don’t?? Well you’ll get another go at it the following day! So no matter how shitty yesterday was. No matter what happened or didn’t happen for you even. If you are lucky enough to have woken up you have another crack at another day.
  3. And number 3 is Yoga. I got up at 5am to do some work before I have to go to teach a class at 7am. My body is already hurting from another class I taught yesterday. My entire existence was (up until very recently) absolutely consumed with trying to figure out how to make a Yoga business survive. I allowed my passion for Yoga get buried under all the trappings of running a limited company for the first 3 years of YogaHub. I’ve had panic attacks. Sleepless nights. More stress than is good for anyone. So when I am not feeling it so to speak about ‘Yoga’ or ‘Early Mornings’ or ‘Yesterday’ for that matter what my brain seems to do in this practice of gratitude is re-frame the whole thing so that I am grateful for the very things that are annoying me right at that moment. Perspective shift or what! Yoga has given me the opportunity to learn to be more mindful which benefits every single aspect of my life. I thought that running a business would get easier but my experience is the opposite and that’s OK. The powerful learning is in the times when you are not in your comfort zone.

And it’s not within the easy times that this practice of gratitude will be of it’s most value. It is within times when it is harder to find things to be grateful for. This daily habit has made it much easier to deal with family illness and a lot of other things that life has thrown at me.

It is such a simple habit to instill that will be exponentially rewarding in your life. It is so easy to just be going through the motions and we all know that time passes by whether we’re mindful of it and ourselves or not! I’m certain that a daily practice of gratitude started at any time be it good times or not will help in my,  your and everyones’ lives.

So now it’s your turn! Today You are Grateful for………

Thanks for reading and I am grateful to have the opportunity to share things I find of value in my life.

Until next time 🙂

Matt

Author Matt

I started YogaHub out of a room at the back of someone else's house back in 2012 with nothing more than an idea. I'd been teaching Yoga since 2008 and had no intention of opening a Yoga Studio. I think, like everything I've done, I just decided one day I was going to give it a try. And try I did and if you're reading this I guess I'm still trying.

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Join the discussion One Comment

  • Neil Kelders says:

    great post. I have introduced ‘tiny’ habits to my daily life, especially morning times. One of my morning habits is my gratitude list. I have a small notebook beside my bed, dedicated to this. I reflect on what I am grateful for, especially from the day before, and write it down. It took me some time to get used to this strange, out of my comfort zone habit.

    But this along with my other ‘tiny’ habits I have begun to turn my life around.

    Thanks

    Neil

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