Last updated on 13/08/2021
The Benefits of Gratitude are Well Documented
Writing letters of gratitude – even if not sent – creates positive changes in the brain
The more we put our attention on what’s going well, what we are grateful for and what we appreciate, the more these things grow. Gratitude also enhances our resilience
When we focus on what we’ve lost or wish we had, it’s a less expansive energy and we can quickly become overly focused on problems, unable to see all the things that in spite of everything are working wonderfully.
Pollyanna gets a bad rep in terms of gratitude – in her case, the Glad Game she was taught as a small child. Her practicing reframing life’s challenges stood her in good stead when she needed to draw on every last fibre of resilience she could muster.
But Sometimes, Gratitude can Feel a Bit Punitive
If you ever got the message that you ‘should’ be grateful, the idea of connecting with gratitude energy can bring back memories or at least feelings of not only not feeling grateful for whatever you had but guilty for being dissatisfied.
Food is a common example. Our forcing ourselves to eat everything on the plate because people elsewhere are starving a) doesn’t help the people who are hungry or even starving and b) over-rides our body’s natural wisdom around what we need or want to eat.
I’m obviously not suggesting wasting food but by connecting with genuine gratitude and allowing ourselves all the feelings, we’re more likely to only make, take or buy what we need, want and will feel genuinely grateful rather than guilty.
Welcome to my Gratitude Grid
I’ve been creating crystal grids since I started my crystal therapy training in 2001. Very sporadic, when I felt like it. Usually on the size of an A4 piece of paper or smaller.
I’m rewilding the back field (and attempting to grow / allow a wildflower meadow at the front).
A few weeks ago, I thought putting in a labyrinth (maybe next summer) would be a delightful way to create space for walking meditations and also look good year round.
When I mowed the paths the weekend before last, I realised I was creating a bit of a grid and could create an enormous crystal grid.
While I’d buried crystals with each of the trees I’d planted and the shrubs and even wildflowers, I loved the idea of creating a crystal grid and then burying the stones at various points but them working together in a way the others aren’t.
I initially put it together on a small patch of grass thinking it would be charged by the glorious sunshine before I buried them.
And of course they were cleansed by the downpour instead.
Just as wonderful!
A few hours later, I dug small holes and popped them all but the top centre one in. I brought that back to have some of it inside. It is such a wonderful path to walk even now.
I imagine that the more the time passes and the trees, shrubs and natural grasses and wildflowers grow, the pathways (including neural pathways) will become more deeply anchored and embedded.
After just a few days, my own energy shifts at the start of it as I connect with the deep gratitude that I already felt looking at the mountain but am now more conscious of.
At some points, it’s an easy walk, keeping an eye out for nettles. At other points, it’s more bumpy and rocky and I take inspiration from the lambs in terms of jumping down or up where needed.
Walking Mindfulness Meditation with a Gratitude Twist
Beneficial as the slow, deliberate walking mindfulness meditation is, while I love it on some days – it’s luxurious and a wonderful way to slow down and connect with each breath and step – sometimes, it’s too slow for me.
Younger Me would have beaten myself up but now I either make it easier to stay focused by making it more of a stompy meditation (not just gently lifting and lowering each foot but pressing very firmly).
I did this version for much of the grid the other day and it was a great way of connecting with the larger muscles in the thighs and honouring the cranky but still grateful energy I was in at that moment.
If you have a garden, hallway, pathway or simply a yoga mat, I encourage you to experiment with this simple but effective way to inhale Thank and exhale You.
As demonstrated in the video, simply lift the foot you’re starting with and inhale as you think Thank and then lower it, exhaling with a You.
If you’re familiar with ujjayi breath it adds a depth to this practice but if not, don’t worry at all.
Walking Meditation Modification for When We Can’t Walk
If, for whatever reason, walking isn’t an option, we can use our fingers. Mark out a little space on a table or tray and imagine your index finger is your right leg and your middle finger the left (or the other way around).
Inhale as you lift and mentally say Thank, exhale as you lower and mentally say You.
Faster Walking Gratitude Meditation
One of the reasons I love yoga and mindfulness so much is that I’m an inherently impatient soul. I shudder to think what I’d be like without my daily practices.
As a result, most days, rather than the slow mindfulness walking meditation I’ve filmed and described above, I do a walk and talk gratitude grid where I thank Divine Love / the Universe / Nature / God/dess for whatever springs to mind with each step.
I started doing this a few years ago when I was walking by the sea in Frinton, Essex. Every week, I’d go early enough for a sea swim or (in winter) paddle before my evening clients.
I’d walk the length of the beach in all weathers and especially in bad weather, was alone enough to thank the Universe for all the things I was grateful for.
I do this on my daily government allotted walk now, too and love it when it’s spontaneous as well as the more deliberate pause at the start of the Gratitude Grid where I consciously connect with that grateful, appreciative energy.
I love bringing gratitude into some of my yoga practices too and one of my favourite classes to teach is one with a gratitude focus. This, again, is so so easy as I set the mat out overlooking the mountain.
Then, in each pose, I notice the thing I’m most grateful for in any moment (sometimes, it’s the delightful stretch, other times, recognition of improvements I’ve made, sometimes, no pain, other times gratitude coming out of less loved poses!).
To experiment, simply pause in each pose you’re doing yourself and notice what feels best.
What are you most grateful for right now?
In some ways, I appreciate my introduction to yoga – back in 2001 – being so tough both in terms of having a chronic pain condition and being unaware of trauma sensitive approaches While I appreciated the pain relief, I hated the sobbing and shaking that I didn’t, at that stage, understand.
Apart from that, I was living in a tiny attic studio flat in north London and didn’t even have room for an outstretched yoga mat so I’d do standing poses next to the futon and supine and seated poses on the mattress.
All the yoga I’ve done since has benefitted from more space.
Tapping on Things We’re Grateful For
One of the things I noticed when I started doing EFT on myself every single day, back in 2018 (having been a practitioner since 2006) is that often, there’s nothing wrong so it’s a gratitude tap instead.
This feels delightful.
If you’d like to try it, simply start with a set up statement like, ‘I’m so happy and grateful and I deeply and completely love and accept myself.’
Then, as you tap around the points, you simply name different (or repeat the same) things you’re grateful for.
With all tapping, I recommend rating the issue before you begin so you get a sense of the movement of energy around it.
I use 0 for feeling pretty neutral, -10 for (as Anne of Green Gables might say) in ‘the depths of despair’ and +10 for amazing.
When tapping due to feelings we’d rather not be feeling, we often start at a -something number.
With the gratitude tapping, we’re often already at a +something so it might only take one or two rounds to get to +10
If you’re not sure how to do this, there are lots of online guides including this video I made to accompany 365 Ways to Feel Better
Oprah popularised these decades ago along with Sara Ban Breathnach. My gratitude journalling is up and down. I journal daily but while there’ve been years where I routinely find three things a day to be grateful for, my personal preference at this stage, is the moving gratitude practices I’ve outlined above.
This may well change and the benefits of having many self care ideas in our toolkits means that we can adapt our approaches depending on what we need in any given time.
If you’re new to gratitude journalling, you can buy one of the many planners available these days or simply write about the things you’re most grateful for.
If that feels too much, simply listing three a day is a wonderful starting point.
Thank You Notes
You can listen to me talking about these on BBC Radio Wales a few years ago.
Apart from being good manners, a study found that the participants who took the time to write a note (or card or email or whatever makes sense for you) benefitted the writers (as well as the recipients feeling appreciated).
What are YOUR Favourite Ways to Connect with Gratitude
I’d love to hear what works best for you.
And if you’d like my support as you make gratitude a bigger part of your life, using that sense of joy as a GPS, do get in touch to find out how we might work together.
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