Greeting students as they come into class, I often ask, “How are you.” People usually respond, “good,” without much thought. There are, however, a few people who look me straight in the eye, smile, and say with conviction, “Glad to be here.” With those few words and that look, they speak volumes. Often, but not always, these students have been through something traumatic. The aftermath is an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for everyday life and a deep appreciation for even the most common and banal activities. This wash of gratitude is evident just being in their presence. Of course, it is possible to live with gratitude without prior suffering.
Gratitude is very powerful. Academic studies on the effects of gratitude show that people who live a life of gratitude are happier, more energetic, nicer, and have better relationships. They are even healthier. It is speculated that these people revere life and therefore treat their bodies kindly with healthy habits.
To incorporate gratitude into your life, you must cultivate it. There are many ways to do this. Try running through the things you are grateful for when you wake up in the morning and/or before you go to sleep at night, keep a gratitude journal, or incorporate gratitude into your meditation practice. For the past year I have been integrating gratitude into my yoga classes. I often start class by asking students to think of three things they are grateful for. I end class by inviting students to feel gratitude in their hearts and their minds just before the final Namaste. Think of things you are grateful for.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
– Annie Dillard