Finding Gratitude

How different would life be if we approached every day with more gratitude in our hearts?  I believe contentment in our lives comes from being grateful for what we have instead of focusing on what we are lacking or perceive we are lacking.  The second Niyama, Santosha, asks us to find contentment, and experiencing gratitude is the key to living a happy life.

Not only are we happier when we have an attitude of gratitude, we seem to attract more positive events into our lives.  Let’s say you gave your teenager a well-cared for, dependable, used car, and he tore it up and constantly complained because it wasn’t a new sports car.  Would his ungrateful attitude compel you to give him the desired new car?  No!  Of course not!  On the other hand, if he took care of the vehicle and showed his appreciation, you might later help him get a different car that better suited his taste.  I believe the Universe works the same way.  If we aren’t grateful for what the Universe has already given us, why should we be given more?

How do we Find this Sometimes Elusive Gratitude?  

We all have days where we could easily give in to negativity, but we have tools to help us pull ourselves out of despair and set ourselves up to feel gratitude in our hearts! Here are a few suggestions for developing gratitude.

Mantra – During your Yoga practice, develop a mantra that reminds you to be grateful for your practice, at whatever level you are currently practicing.  I like to simply repeat the word “Contentment” or “Gratitude” to myself when I am in a challenging posture.

Closing Practice – I close nearly every Yoga practice with a few seconds of silence, asking everyone to focus on one thing they have to be thankful for that day.

Gratitude Board – Cut things out of magazines for pasting, draw, write, print, color, etc. onto a poster board as many items as you can that represent things for which you are grateful.  For example, a photo of a house reminds you to be thankful you have a home.  A picture of the family reunion reminds you to be happy that your family is alive and healthy.  This is a great project for children and helps teach them about gratitude.

Gratitude List – Grab a notebook and jot down at least 10 great things in your life.  Each day, add 1 or 2 more to the list and read the list often, especially if you are feeling down!

Thank You – Write thank you notes and say thank you to others.  This helps remind us that other people are doing nice things for us and it is wonderful to show gratitude to someone else.

Negative People – Sometimes, we are forced to be around someone who is negative, be it our cubicle neighbor at the office or an in-law.  Hearing someone complain and gossip isn’t conducive to feeling gratitude in our hearts.  If possible, minimize contact with these people.  For example, if it is a co-worker, try wearing a headset so you aren’t as available for chatting.  Try not responding to negative comments or gossip, because when Negative Nancy doesn’t get a rise out of you, she’ll probably opt to take her drama elsewhere.  If that fails, try gently telling her you’d prefer not to gossip or that you prefer to remain positive.  If contact is necessary (for example, dinner with a negative in-law), try to meditate beforehand and use a mantra to keep yourself centered in gratitude throughout the visit. You can also focus on the gratitude that you feel for not being a negative person!

By Mary Irby, M.S., RYT, founder of White Crow Yoga (  Mary is studying at a college in Chennai, India to earn her Yoga Therapy certification and offers Yoga Teacher Training, including Aqua Yoga Programs.

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