Mind & Body

Find Your Gratitude

To feel more joy, calm and balance, give thanks.

Find Your Gratitude
Pin it courtesy of Shutterstock

If there’s such a thing as a spiritual shortcut, it probably lies in those two magic words found in all human language: thank you. The ability to recognize the good things in life and express gratitude for them is the most direct path to happiness. Admittedly, research suggests everyone has an optimism set point. But think of that set point like flexibility; you may have an innate range of motion, but you can certainly practice stretching yourself within that range and strive to stay at your highest possible level of gratitude and joy. Here’s how:

Practice joy » Since joy and gratitude are so closely linked, one of the ways to develop your capacity for gratitude is to expand your capacity for joy. The first step in rewiring your brain, thus making it more likely to recognize and embrace joy, is to train yourself to notice when you’re happy, says Pam Lancaster, a body therapist at Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, Ariz. Think about what you can do to consciously evoke positive memories. Once you’ve acknowledged joy, you can really luxuriate in it and express gratitude for the experience.

Meditate on thankfulness » Settle in and take a few slow, conscious breaths. When your body has begun to relax, picture a beautiful spot in nature, real or imagined. Ask yourself: What am I grateful for? Note the first thing that comes to mind, whether it seems grand or small. Ask the question again, and then again. Simply saying “I am grateful for…” over and over may constitute your entire meditation, or you can contemplate certain categories of blessings—focus your gratitude on your body, or let your mind move through the events of your day, expressing gratitude for each one.

Try integrative therapies » Lancaster’s techniques combine bodywork in the form of Thai massage, Chi Nei Tsang, shiatsu and the powerful vibrations of traditional Tibetan bowls to create a state of pure peace. Integrative therapies can release tension, thus realigning our energies and rebooting the joy centers of our brains. The healing, Lancaster says, often results in an outpouring of gratitude at the end of the session. “This is not a modality where you find what’s wrong and analyze how things got that way,” she says. “This is a massage therapeutic ceremony where you celebrate your body’s natural capacity for healing, balance and joy.”

From Mindful Living Miraval (Hay House, 2013).