In the world of wellbeing there is always the latest buzzword or fad food, we see things like kimchi topping menus (and for good reason, as you know), tantric sessions for couples (also very handy) or crystals for whatever being marketed and sold everywhere – things are often cyclical, everything gets a re-hash. One thing that has had a constant play throughout human history (even before there was a wellness industry) is GRATITUTDE …
You can look to the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, Buddhist philosophy, the Koran or the Torah for inspiration in gratitude, but recently there has been a great deal of scientific research into gratitude - in the last few years, they’ve found your brain floods with happy reward chemicals when in an “Attitude of Gratitude”
The Greater Good Science Centre at Berkeley have found the chemicals released are the same as when you have sex and eat chocolate – combine the three, and hey!
They’ve also noted that because of this work in gratitude test subjects have become less anxious and all round happier with their lives.
Gratitude is also found to activate a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, this part of the brain is responsible for bodily functions like sleep, metabolism and healthy clear, glowing skin! - Seriously, who would’ve ‘thunk’ that being grateful would help your skin look great?!
I like lists so I’ve included seven things you can do to get your gratitude mojo on
I started gratitude journaling about 10 years ago, I keep a little journal next to my bed and write 5 things I was grateful for from the day – things that actually happened that day. I find it keeps me alert throughout, always keeping me present and watching for the small things, I note butterflies and flowers, small gestures between strangers – everything is quite beautiful when you’re watching for it. On top of that, gratitude journaling at the end of the day is a nice send off to go to sleep from.
As you may know, I teach yoga – I’m also a qualified Holistic Kinesiologist. I deal in bodies and I quite fancy myself a body language reader. Slouched shoulders and hanging head usually tells me someone is sad. Someone with their hands on their hips when chatting with you is usually exerting authority and someone biting their lip and playing with their hair means you’re being flirted with (so cute). There is actually body language to bring about gratitude! Resting your hand on your heart has you in an instant state of thankfulness and is a natural pose when seeing or speaking from the heart. Having your palms together in a prayer (or what we call Anjali mudra in yoga) will bring you into a heartfelt submission, these two are my favourite for being awestruck with life and life’s situations. Try a yoga class, we yoga teachers work with postures that you build upon, when you start you might not be able to do them – eventually after enough practice you’ll get it and then comes the gratitude, yoga is cathartic. I love it.
People in an attitude of gratitude always seem to speak with high end superlatives. I always note the words: amazing, incredible, fabulous, divine, magnificent and wonderful. If you don’t speak like this, you should... the worst that will happen is you’ll end up sounding amazingly incredibly fabulously divine and magnificently wonderful. The best that will happen is that your skin will glow – if you’ve seen ‘Three Wise Cousins’, you’ll understand the importance of having a shiny face.
Meditation and Prayer
Someone asked me the difference between prayer and meditation the other day, I used a quote from Deepak Chopra which I find to be true:
“To pray is to talk to God, to Meditate is to sit in the presence of God”
You can use one of the many verses about gratitude from the bible, your copy of the Bhagavad Gita or whatever your faithful book might be, it’s always helpful to have some tried and tested prayers on hand from one or many of the divine books available.
With meditation you can use a Buddhist meditation consisting of three questions known as: Naikan
These questions are:
What have I given _____?
What have I received from____?
What troubles may I have caused_____?
You may be wondering why these questions?, they are to keep you in balance, it’s an important facet of gratitude to stay balanced and know that gratitude comes not just from being grateful all the time, it comes from reflection and the knowledge that everything shall pass – being present is being grateful.
Use your eyes and a series of prompts
We’ve all done affirmations, the things we tell ourselves to make us happier, doing this constantly rewires the brain, making it real. When I was a depressed teen I felt quite ugly and different to everyone else (I now realise lots of teens go through this), but I saw a counsellor and she suggested I make an affirmation up for myself and say it every time I checked the time, or saw a white car – I found myself doing it all the time and in no time I felt attractive in myself and embraced my differences, I’m so happy I’m different – You can use this technique with affirmations of gratitude – Maybe use the words “I am Grateful for all the beauty in my life” and say it every time you breathe he he he. No. Seriously.
Try new things
Coming to live in Samoa has been an eye opener for me, I am trying so many different things and the list of things I want to try keeps growing as I meet new people and start new passions. Trying new things with new people will have you saying thank you a lot. People love to share and there is so much for us here in Samoa. Get into a new activity. Try something new every day. Get your heart rate up, feeling the heart pump is a great way to feel alive.
I am absolutely grateful to be here in Samoa! To have you reading these words, to feel the warmth of the Sun, to drink this fresh niu and to have my gratitude practice...
Rachel Laulu is a Dionysian Epicurean who loves good food, good friends and the freedom to be grateful for everything - you can contact Rachel with enquiries about her yoga classes, fermentation workshops or just for a little chat via her facebook community page at: Yoga Juice Samoa or email firstname.lastname@example.org