Mindful Gratitude Exercises

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As Thanksgiving approaches, it's a great time to talk about gratitude. 

The further we get away from the “peak of the pandemic”, the lockdown days, the social distancing days, the more life starts to feel normal again. This is a wonderful thing in so many ways, but can also mean returning to a busy and chaotic lifestyle.

The pandemic created a situation where many people got to slow down, stay home, take walks outside, and take up some hobbies. People were both intentionally and accidentally practicing a lot more mindfulness - appreciating long walks ion nature when nothing else was allowed, spending more time with pets, and savoring every small human interaction when few were allowed.

Now that our lives returned to normal, did we lose some of that mindful gratitude for the small things? Did we lose our appreciation for nature walks, human interaction, and new hobbies? Likely, many of us did.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, this is a great time to take a moment to slow down and be present with the things and people and opportunities we have.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Remind your loved ones to do the whole “go around the table and say what you’re grateful for” thing. Encourage everyone to come up with at least 3 things, no matter how small.
  2. Try to find 3-5 things at the end of each day that you feel grateful for. You can tell this to someone, journal it, or just think it as you fall asleep. Journaling tends to create a healthy habit, however. If you have a day where you struggle to come up with things, look for the positives in even some of the negative situations (e.g. lessons learned, the fact that the negative situation is over, etc).
  3. Think of some things you did during the lock down. Are any of them worth trying to integrate into your life again? This could be daily walks, bike rides, or hobbies (remember tie-dying clothes and baking bread?).
  4. Take a walk. Take a walk as if it’s the only thing you’re allowed to do. Feel gratitude for the air you breathe, the people you see along the way, the freedom of being outside. If you’re having a thanksgiving meal, encourage some loved ones to go for a walk with you between courses. It helps digestion and it’s a great time to talk about gratitude!
  5. Write notes of gratitude for those in your life to whom you are grateful, no matter how small the reason. This could include obvious ones like a partner or a parent, but don’t forget kids, co-workers, and bosses. One of the most powerful gratitude practices is showing gratitude and kindness toward someone who has wronged you, as well.
  6. Write a note of gratitude to yourself. What are you proud of yourself for, in the last year or so? What kindness can you show yourself?
  7. Practice loving kindness meditation. This type of meditation encourages sending positive energy and kindness toward yourself and others, and with regular practice has substantial impacts on mental health and wellbeing. Some excellent examples can be found here: https://positivepsychology.com/loving-kindness-meditation/

This Thanksgiving, I challenge you to ground yourself in the present moment and look around with a sense of wonder and gratitude. Channel the version of yourself that took pleasure in the simpler things during the pandemic, and bring some of that energy into your current life.

Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving!

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