The Practice of Gratitude

All of us go through tough times—breakups, divorce, major disappointments, sickness, the loss of people we hold dear. Sometimes that means we enter the holiday season less than joyful. And that’s okay. Yoga is about showing up as we are.

It’s easy to be grateful when everything is going our way. The real work begins when our lives take an unexpected turn.

“Gratitude is a practice,” says Kripalu Lead Nutritionist and faculty member Annie B. Kay. In yoga, finding santosha, or contentment, is a lifelong exercise of waking up again and again to what we take for granted.

Kripalu presenter and master meditation teacher Sally Kempton says one way to cultivate gratitude during a difficult time is to consider all the hard times in your past that brought growth or unknown boons. You might ask yourself, "How has something that seemed painful or disappointing at the time turned out to have opened the door to something beneficial?" She suggests making a list of examples without sugarcoating the pain you might have experienced.

A tried-and-true way to cultivate gratitude is to count your blessings. On Thanksgiving, Sally tries to call or e-mail at least three friends to thank them for something they've done or said during the past year.

Maria Sirois, PsyD, who coteaches Kripalu’s Certificate in Positive Psychology, focuses on beginning her Thanksgiving Day from a place of appreciation—without high expectations. She says it’s helpful to remember that, over the course of a lifetime, some holidays are going to be wonderful, some terrible and some okay. No matter how the day goes, she ends it by taking time to really savor that one great moment.

According to Maria, when we look for the great moment, we always find one. It’s a nice way to take a holiday—and every day—out of the realm of what we think it should look like, and into the realm of what’s actually worth paying attention to.

How will you practice gratitude this holiday season?

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