As we enter the holiday season, we’re encouraged to reflect upon the blessings that surround us – the people or things that enrich our lives. A vast and growing body of research suggests that acknowledging the things for which we’re grateful increases happiness and improves our overall wellbeing. Here are four easy ways to strengthen recovery and foster gratitude in our lives:
1. Journal. Jotting down a short (or long!) list of things we’re grateful for each day can be a great tool to remind us of all the wonderful things and people in our lives when we’re having an off day. Helpful hint: be as specific as possible so your list doesn’t get stale. Daily journaling also gets us into the practice of thinking positively and identifying the good in our lives.
2. Meditate. We love the Metta meditation and practice it often. The word metta comes from Pali, an ancient Indian language. The word loosely translates to loving-kindness or friendliness and is thus frequently referred to as the Loving-Kindness meditation in English. Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or an expert at calming and focusing your mind, this brief guided meditation is scientifically proven to :
- increase positive emotions
- decrease negative emotions
- support feelings of connection
- increase mental health
- activate empathy
- decrease stress
In recovery, it’s common for us to feel guilty about our past and blame ourselves for broken relationships. While this meditation is often thought of as forgiving those around us who have caused us pain, it’s equally focused inward and encourages us to forgive ourselves for the pain we have caused. Click here for a guided loving-kindness meditation video.
3. Practice yoga. It’s easier to center ourselves, find balance and calm our minds while placing a focus on one specific activity. For some of us, that’s holding a yoga pose – or passing through a series of poses.
- Before we even begin our practice, we try to set an intention to be mindful of the positive forces around us and let the negative thoughts or judgments melt away. With each breath in, we acknowledge just one thing we’re thankful for – even if it’s the current moment or our current breath. With each breath out, we allow toxic thoughts to escape our minds.
- Both Anjali Mudra – commonly referred to as ‘prayer pose,’ in which your hands press together in front of your chest (or ‘heart’s center) – and Savasana – commonly referred to as ‘corpse pose,’ in which you lay flat on your back with your eyes gently closed – can be meditative poses that allow the time and space needed for reflection and gratitude.
- Supported chest / heart opener. In a seated position with legs straight in front, place one or two blocks (or a chunky blanket) underneath the middle part of your back and one or two behind the back of your head. Slowly roll down until you’re fully resting face up, palms up. Breathe.
- Bridge or supported bridge pose. Lying flat on your back with your knees bent and arms straightened towards your feet with palms facing upward, lift your lower torso off the floor. If you’re looking for a more restorative pose, place a block beneath your lower back. Breathe
4. Share a thoughtful ‘thank you,’ rather than a quick ‘thanks.’ Taking a momentary pause to acknowledge the kindness and compassion around us can be therapeutic and improve happiness for both the person (or people) we’re acknowledging as well as ourselves. Show your appreciation for even the small things!