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This is the perfect time of year to start a family gratitude journal. Here’s a suggestion to get things going: Starting on Thanksgiving Day, create a weekly ritual in which each family member offers gratitude for some act of kindness. Practicing gratitude connects us to ourselves and our loved ones, and models an openhearted life for our children.
Next time you are exercising or walking somewhere, reflect on those things in your life that you are grateful for—no matter how big or small. Appreciate that the sun is shining, the loved ones who support you, the health of your body, the book you are reading, the fabulous music you are listening to. Let it be simple: Remember that gratitude can be enjoyed anytime, in almost any situation.
The holidays are coming and as the mother of two young children, I anticipate it with a mix of excitement and sadness. It can be discouraging to see the holiday season used as an excuse to sell products and focus on material things. I find it helpful to practice the simple acts of meditating on and expressing gratitude for the gifts that are already in my life. Studies have shown that people who cultivate feelings of gratitude have better health, feel more connected, achieve more of their goals, exercise more, sleep better, improve their relationships, become more generous, and feel happier. On top of that, the practice of generating positive emotions, for just a few minutes a day, can shift the nervous system toward a calm state, which has profound effects on heart health. Rather than focusing on the negative, allow the holidays to awaken a deeper sense of gratitude for the joy, love, kindness, and beauty in your life. And make sure you put your own unique self at the top of the list!
Jennifer Young, Director, Kripalu Healthy Living programs
nutrition notes nourishing the body and soul
Food is life. It not only provides nutrients for our bodies, but it can also bestow love and vitality—prana—to our entire being. The holiday season is a perfect opportunity to offer our love to friends, family, and community by infusing the food we make and share with gratitude and good wishes (and to make Kripalu’s Pumpkin-Chocolate Pie!
In many families, when we gather at the table we begin by saying grace, an expression of gratitude for the life our food provides, and a blessing that honors our guests. The practice of saying grace not only gives voice to our appreciation, but also offers us the chance to harmonize with others and with the food we eat. Pausing before we eat to experience our food through the senses supports digestion. This cephalic (meaning “in the head”) digestion actually triggers the flow of digestive juices and prepares the body to receive food.
As you move through your holiday this year, be it hosting a gathering for friends, cooking for family trying new recipes—such as our Coconut Yam Soup or Avocado, Grapefruit, and Pumpkin Seed Salad—or serving a meal to someone in need, remember that your offering of food is an offering of life: an expression of gratitude to those you love and the world itself.
Here are two traditional yogic blessings to grace your next gathering:
Sahanau bhunaktu: Let’s share a meal together.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti: May peace prevail. (From Eat, Taste, Heal: An Ayurvedic Guidebook and Cookbook for Modern Living by Thomas Yarema, Daniel Rhoda, and Johnny Brannigan)
life lessons the grounding power of gratitude
Our mental time-travel away from the present moment is one of our primary dilemmas: Oftentimes, it’s much easier to focus on what might be happening, on what’s not happening, or on what has already happened than on what’s currently happening. Ultimately, it benefits us physiologically, energetically, emotionally, and spiritually to train our minds to return to what is happening right here, right now—and the meditative anchor of gratitude can ground us effortlessly back into reality.
Here are some ways you might practice gratitude:
- Notice. In any given moment, look around you. Offer yourself this blessing, “I am grateful for ____”. Fill in the blank.
- Write. At the end of a day, write down three things that occurred that day for which you are grateful.
- Share. Share your gratitude with another—in person, over the phone, or via e-mail. Notice the power that a positive connection can offer.
- Commit. Offer yourself the gift of gratitude for two weeks, selecting a specific time of day at which to practice.
As you practice, notice any shifts inside you. Try utilizing this filter of gratitude as a mindful experiment for a few days. See if the practice is something that can rest comfortably in your toolbox of healthy living skills—it’s a good one.
The following heart-based meditation comes from the Institute of HeartMath
, in Boulder Creek, California, and is a wonderful technique to redirect the mind and replace negative emotions with positive ones.
First, get your body in a comfortable, relaxed position and focus on breathing slowly and rhythmically, so that the length of your inhalations and exhalations are about the same. Find a breath rate that feels sustainable for you. Next, bring your awareness to the center of your chest and imagine your breath flowing in and out of your heart center. As you continue to breathe in and out of your heart, remember a time when you felt a positive emotion such as gratitude, joy, or love.
Think about being with loved ones, a beloved pet, appreciation for the good things in your life. This associative memory generates a positive emotion. If you can’t recall such a memory, then simply imagine a positive feeling moving in and out of your heart as you breathe. If your mind wanders, gently return to the positive feeling, allowing the sensations of gratitude, love, or joy to flow with your breath. Continue to circulate this heartfelt feeling for a few breaths, or even for a few minutes. Then pause to notice the effects of the practice.
healthy living program yoga for life
Whether you are new to yoga or looking to revitalize your practice, this immersion in Kripalu Yoga provides you with the tools and inspiration you need to make yoga, and its benefits, a regular part of your life. In this program, you learn to create a yoga flow appropriate to your needs, and also how a yogic lifestyle that incorporates meditation, breath, mindfulness, and conscious communication can foster health and vitality.
Find out more about the Yoga for Life program.
healing arts highlight stone therapy massage
Native Americans used hot stones as part of their healing rituals for relieving stress and pain. Taking a cue from this time-honored practice, stone therapy massage offers the same benefits, and when alternated with cold stones—as done here at Kripalu—it can boost the immune system and improve circulation. When stones are combined with the skill of a massage therapist, they can provide calmness to the mind, allowing you to go into a deep state of relaxation. This, in turn, helps replenish the body and re-energize the mind. The Kripalu Healing Arts
hot stone massage combines specific chakra energy-work and therapeutic essential oils to provide a well-rounded, rejuvenating experience.
Find out more about the Kripalu Stone Therapy Massage.