As Thanksgiving approaches, we begin thinking about the many things we’re grateful for, from friends and family to jobs and other opportunities. Once the end-of-year holidays come to a close, though, our motivation to reflect on the things we’re grateful for tends to fade away as we return to our busy routines. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to practice gratitude year-round.
We connected with four yoga instructors to learn how they stay thankful every day and how they set intentions for gratitude throughout the year.
They take time to reflect in the morning
I grew up with cancer so a lot of times I like to start off my day with a simple thank-you that I’m awake, that I’m alive, that I woke up today … I take a moment of pause to reflect on even the mug that I’m sipping my tea out of, remembering that my sister gave it to me and that I’m thankful for my sister.
We can all think of three things we’re grateful for in the morning — nothing is too big, nothing is too small … Starting in the morning is super, super important because it sets up how we progress.
I write down happy times in a journal — a combination of simple moments celebrating life as well as milestones and accomplishments: everything from my 4-year-old staring at yellow leaves falling off trees in a magical daze to my 6-year-old swimming by himself (for a second) when for years he was afraid to put half his body into the pool. When I look at the journal after a year passes, I see just how full my life has been.
— Yvette Jain, yoga instructor who teaches online classes at Ompractice
They notice the little things
If I’m sharing honestly, I would have to say that this last year presented the greatest gratitude challenge yet in my life. Usually you can make choices about how much you will or will not engage certain issues in life, but all of a sudden I had a parade of challenges … My husband was unemployed and then we discovered a stomach tumor, we had two failed rounds of IVF and haven’t been able to start a family, just to name a few.
Prior to this last year, if you asked me about gratitude in daily life you would have gotten a warm and fuzzy response about meditating and taking warm baths or using essential oils. But now I can give you a much more real and honest answer. This year I practiced gratitude in the smallest ways: a TV show I love, a warm meal, or looking at my dog’s innocent face. The hard stuff actually made those more mundane things stand out; they were little islands throughout the day to remember that not all is lost. Other days I had clarity, and I saw that challenges are a universal human experience — that I am not special, but I am strong. There were days where just a stranger smiling at me in the elevator made a difference, and then days when I was short with someone for no good reason. But the roller coaster reminded me that I can be that person who smiles in the elevator for someone else, and I’ll never know if it made a difference. But it’s sure worth the chance that it will.
— Roni Elissabeth Sloman, yoga instructor and owner of Bella Prana Yoga in Tampa, Florida
They connect with their friends
I practice gratitude on the daily by thanking those who spend their time, energy, or attention with me — even for just a moment. Whenever possible, I acknowledge it in person, but text, email, and DM works, too. Sometimes I send my gratitude via meditation. And when I really want friends to know just how grateful I am to have them in my life, I handwrite a note and mail it, or better yet, get coffee or dinner or work out with them.
— Yvette Jain
They let go
For myself, gratitude is about being thankful for the calm, the storm, and the passing of the storm. Recognizing where in my life and in my practice I have agency and choice, and taking responsibility for those, and where I have no control and must practice letting go and embracing the unknown.
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Submissions have been lightly edited for clarity. Feature image by Kristina Kokhanova/Shutterstock.com