Cultivating Gratitude

Photo by  gabrielle cole  on  Unsplash

Words by Blanka Priddle

Happiness cannot be travelled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude
— Denis Waitley

I have been writing now for many months about rituals, habits and small changes in our everyday lives that may improve how we physically feel in our bodies. And yet, we are not merely muscles, organs and bones. These are but carriers for our spirit, the vehicle that our soul drives through this life experience so that we may prosper and have the presence, the will and the energy to feel the joy of being alive and having the opportunity to play at this playground called Earth – and to achieve our life’s purpose.

Just as in the physical realm, we consider ourselves too busy to find time to exercise or, indeed, to rest, to make healthy meals or take care of ourselves the way our bodies need and deserve, so too can we be ‘too busy’ to take care of our thoughts and the wellbeing of our mind.

We seem to move through life almost as if in a trance, unaware of our inner voice as we go trough the day. Our thoughts, rambling at the back of our mind, go mostly unnoticed, left unchecked. Often, unfortunately,  they do not do us any favours. In our ever-faster moving world, with more and more demands on our time and attention, bombarded by the media with what we need to strive for, we miss the whisper of our inner voice. The voice that tells us that we are not good enough, slim enough, fast enough…. the inner critic, that keeps talking to us with a quiet persistence until we start to believe it, though we did not consciously hear the words.

It is not easy to control this subconscious voice, and it takes practice to even try, as we attend to so many things and people every day. But it is possible to change what our innermost ‘me’ hears. It is possible to press a pause button on the stream of negativity, complaints and criticisms, and switch to a more positive and optimistic inner broadcast.  And while there are multitudes of techniques and therapies that can help us to direct this inner voice of ours, there is something that we can try on our own, right now.

Something so innocent and small and yet very powerful; something that I strive to practice, and when I do, even a little bit, can feel the effect on myself and people around me. Something that can be a start to greater things, stronger bonds, deeper feelings and bigger results; something that may be the simplest but most important step to help you open new doors and realise that they are open, and open for you. Something that will help you realise and know your blessings, and in the process create a wave of calmness and joy that will spread like rings on a lake where a tiny pebble was dropped in.

I am coming with all this to the simple act of expressing gratitude.

Scientific evidence suggests that expressing gratitude makes us healthier. More specifically, it changes the biochemistry of the brain; switching off anxiety and turning on the parasympathetic nervous system response, the healing and renewing element of the central nervous system. It also makes our telomeres, the ends of our DNA chromosomes longer and smoother, which leads to better health and wellbeing.

And we can lengthen these invisible-to-the-eye-but-no-less-important-for-it parts of our DNA by being grateful.

Grateful for what we have, what we experience in our lives. For the people we meet and how they enrich the journey on this planet for us. Grateful for a roof over our heads, for the food that nourishes our bodies, for having the opportunity to even sit here, with a cup of coffee at my elbow, sharing ideas over the magic of internet. Grateful for the magic in our lives, and grateful for the basics, that so many on this planet are struggling to meet. I know, as I have practiced gratitude – on and off – for many years now – that some days you are sitting there, with your journal, pen at the ready, and nothing comes to your mind to be grateful for. It always surprises me how may things I take for granted! The simple fact that I am sitting here, in the safety and warmth of my house, with a beautiful journal and a pen I love to write with, are all things I can, and should, be grateful for.

Even on a day when everything seems to go wrong, if you are reading this article, you are living in a corner of the world that you can find some good in your life.

Of course, writing things down amplifies their effect, but if you are really short of time, you can think these in your mind. Maybe spend the walk to the tube naming what you are grateful for in your head, or make a game of it with your family as you sit around the dinner table together at the end of the day. Ask your little ones what they are grateful for as you put them to bed. If you enjoy writing things down, keep a journal on your night table and write them down before you turn the light off.

Whatever way you choose to give the practice of gratitude a try, trust me when I say that you will soon feel its benefits. We create with our mind. Like attracts like – so once we start focusing consciously on positive aspects of our lives and people around us, we will attract more of the same. By expressing gratitude consciously, you will slowly change the unconscious stream of thoughts, giving you a deeper peace of mind. And as you start riding this upward spiral, you may find that you are able to deal with life’s challenges with more grace and calmness, too.

 
Even on a day when everything seems to go wrong, if you are reading this article, you are living in a corner of the world that you can find some good in your life.
 
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Blanka has been passionately learning about all things natural and alternative since her teens and has been on this exploring journey for almost three decades now. She discoved essential oils back in the 90s, fell in love with raw living foods in the noughties, and played with many other things in between. She is a Kundalini as well as Hatha yoga teacher, enjoys cooking, makes her own beauty products, and is always on a quest to find the best coffee in town.

Originally from the Czech Republic, she now lives with her Husband and a cat called Chloupek in SE London, where she teaches from her cosy yoga studio.

If you enjoy her Balance Garden musings and are looking for more, find her on her website or over on facebook, twitter, or instagram

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