Many self-help books advise about gratitude journaling to create a grateful and happy life. Psychology studies have provided much research in recent years on the benefits of a gratitude practice. Often a yoga retreat will discuss gratitude to acknowledge the good around you as part of the yogic path.
Yoga’s Approach to Gratitude
The concept of gratitude appears in all religions and various ancient texts as a virtue and blessing from a higher power. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras it is set out at 2.39:
“Acknowledging abundance (aparigraha) we recognize the blessings in everything and gain insights into the purpose for our worldly existence.” ~ translation by Nischala Joy Devi, The Secret Power of Yoga.
This is a two-part practice of (i) acknowledging abundance and, (ii) recognizing the blessings in everything. In yoga, it is understood that this practice connects you to an appreciation of the abundance around you, this enables you to see the gifts of the world. As you practice gratitude and acknowledge the role of others in that thanks, there is a space to tap into thanking something behind all external: a Divine source.
Appreciation is the First Step of Gratitude
The standard definition of GRATITUDE in English is “The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”* Thus, gratitude is similar to aparigraha with two-steps:
The first is appreciation. Second, is an acknowledgment that you are the recipient of something from an external source.
APPRECIATION* is “Recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something” and it provides “a full understanding of a situation”**. We use appreciation to remind us to see the value around us and its inherent qualities. It is light yet strong and stands alone in valuing abundance and beauty without another.
Benefits of appreciation can bring about:
– A positive outlook
– Being more present in your life
– Improved attention and focus
– Letting go of negative thoughts and beliefs
– Improved wellbeing
WHEN TO USE APPRECIATION ALONE
It is essential to build your own inner strength, esteem and willpower. A positive value without interdependence on another is vital for this self-building process. This applies especially where relationships have a power imbalance: you want to recognize your self-worth. For example, you may not feel that you can be grateful to your boss when they approve your leave because it is in your contract to receive leave for your work, but you can appreciate the approval if it is at a busy time of the work calendar. You do not have to be grateful in all situations.
Select any subject, but start with something simple like: “I appreciate that I have water to hydrate my body”.
Gratitude Is a Social Exchange
The second aspect of gratitude is key to being a human: that you acknowledge the role of others in your positive experiences. Through valued reciprocity in social interactions, we build and maintain relationships, which connects us all and drove our evolution. Studies demonstrate that gratitude brings us:
– New and better relationships
– Larger social networks
– A larger spread of gratitude and abundance
– Positive social emotions to a larger group of people, reducing ‘them vs us’ feelings
WHEN TO PRACTICE GRATITUDE
If a relationship in your life is struggling, it can be positive to stop and reflect on what that person brings to your life. When you have something, express it to them.
But have no fear. If you can’t be grateful to someone with honesty, then go back to appreciation. Appreciation is often simpler and more achievable an emotion to obtain. You can still express appreciation to another that will begin to take you toward gratitude.
You can pick any subject, but something neutral can help to start. Try: “I’m grateful for these three blue things: …”
Appreciation and Gratitude Become Spiritual
To see the inherent wonder in something draws us into the creation of the universe. To see the amazing diversity, uniqueness and perfection in all that exists is a recognition of something greater than us. Whether you relate to this as science or a specific God, it is an extension of appreciation that moves into gratitude for something Divine.
About the Author
Nid loves all her incarnations as an energy healer and coach, massage therapist, teacher of mind-body movement through yoga and Pilates, and blog writer. She is a passionate messenger on how to find your truth and live in alignment with your soul. Her work attracts people going through major life changes, long-term pain or health issues to discover how to live life with joy in mind, body, and spirit. She can be found working on retreats and online worldwide at http://www.omegamovement.org/.