Gratitude, thankfulness, gratefulness, or appreciation is a feeling or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive.
We’ve just finished Grateful April at the Lab and are still feeling the effects from all the love you shared with us. We feel so privileged to hold space for and be a part of this inspiring project with you all. To wrap up the month, here are some musings on the science of gratitude and why an attitude of gratitude is so important to living an elevated life.
Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield tells us that “gratitude is a gracious acknowledgment of all that sustains us, a bow to our blessings, great and small, an appreciation of the moments of good fortune that sustain our life every day.”
What does gratitude mean to you? In our busy lives we are so often rushing to the next milestone of our lives, getting one promotion at work and hungrily lusting after the next rung on the ladder. Our eating habits are a great example of how we forget to give thanks. Many cultures sit before a meal to give thanks to the earth for providing something that has been lovingly cooked and prepared, traditionally we sit around a table with loved ones to enjoy our food. Nowadays we are more likely lazing on the sofa or leaning over the kitchen bench, texting or trawling Instagram with one hand, casually munching on something convenient like toast and suddenly we’re at the last bite and just realised that we don’t remember eating the rest. Like where’d it go?
Gratitude is a practice that slows us down to notice the joy in life. We are constantly comparing our lives to others, coveting the perfect Instagram outfits, life style, holidays and bodies. But if we take a moment to look at our life through the eyes of gratitude, we have the opportunity to see how spiritually, socially and materially wealthy we really are. It might just be peanut butter on toast, but its fuel for your body and when you stop and be thankful for that you might notice the texture of the perfectly baked sourdough bread and relish in the crunchiness of the natural peanut butter that will give you protein and energy for the day. And you might appreciate the moment of calm before you rush out the door to start your commute to work, taking in your living space, admiring the environment you’ve created and smiling at a photo or something that reminds you of someone you love. And you realise how lucky you are, to have this comforting food, this welcoming home and the people you love. This is what Gratitude in our daily lives does; it brings you closer to everyday things and lets you really see them, to appreciate every aspect of your life, no matter how small.
Jack Kornfield also reminds us that it creates wonder in life. He says that “Gratitude is confidence in life itself. It is not sentimental, not jealous, nor judgmental. Gratitude does not envy or compare. Gratitude receives in wonder the myriad offerings of the rain and the earth, the care that supports every single life.”
There is a lot of research going into the power of gratitude, it isn’t just something Yogi’s and Buddhist teacher talk about. The science of gratitude and its effect on our lives is being studied in depth by doctors and researchers all over the world. In a study conducted by the University of California researchers found that higher levels of gratitude were found to be associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and less inflammation. This study was conducted with hospital patients, which shows that gratitude is especially important in times of hardship and discomfort and it can make a perceptible difference.
Robert Emmons, a leading scientific expert on gratitude, argues that intentionally developing a grateful outlook helps us both recognise good things in our lives and realise that many of these good things are “gifts” that we have been fortunate to receive. Seeing life this way means that we put more value on the things good things we have, and it makes them even more important for us to cherish the things that we are grateful for, whether it’s that promotion at work or our peanut butter toast. In her work on gratitude, Dr. Juliana Breines writes that by making gratitude a habit, we can begin to change the emotional tone of our lives, creating more space for joy and connection with others. Grateful April at the Lab was about pausing, observing and integrating gratitude and making it a daily habit, so that you can feel these positive benefits not only in the studio but in all other aspects of your life.
Many celebrities follow a gratitude practice, like Salma Hayek who says that “I feel so bad for people who are not grateful, they are missing some of the most sublime sensations in life.”
And Oprah is a big advocate for gratitude, famously stating that “opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.”
But we don’t have to look outwardly for evidence of the power of gratitude. It is all around us, in our very own studio and we were inspired and overwhelmed by the response of our yogis who shared with us the things they were grateful for. The simple things in life. Here are some things people shared that shoes how we can find joy and beauty and love in everything.
“Free soft serve from my friend”
“Holding my grandmothers hand”
“Watermelon on a hot day”
“Freedom of flying high”
“Believing in myself”
Gratitude improves our overall wellbeing, it gives us energy and make us more empathetic. We are so grateful for you, our Sky Lab community, and that you chose to share and experience your gratitude with us.
We want you to keep the momentum of Grateful April flowing, so here are some ways to continue the practice of gratitude outside the studio:
Take a few deeps breaths. Think about your lungs and your body and how invigorating it is to be alive. Appreciate the work your body does to keep everything ticking and to allow you to practice Yoga, run along the beach and enjoy delicious sensory experiences. First and foremost you need to feel gratitude to yourself, this will cultivate self-love and enrich so many aspects of your life.
Slow down. Look up from scrolling Instagram and take in your environment. Do you see how pretty those flowers are? Feel the sun on your skin and hear the sounds around you, instead of blocking everything out with headphones. Being grateful for the earth and our environment brings a new perspective to our lives. It brings more pleasure to the small things, such as a nice cup of ginger tea, or maybe you can even appreciate your morning commute a bit more when you change your mindset and admire the scenery. It’s a long shot, we know but it can’t hurt to try, you might surprise yourself and even start to enjoy that time before work.
Use mindfulness to break down an event or situation. Be grateful for your latest meal, the roof over your head, your friends. Especially if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, gratitude can be a powerful tool to bring you back into a calm space. When things seem too much, just notice the most basic things first, and let it grow from there.
Write it down
It sounds cliché but it really does work! Put a notepad beside your bed and write down the top 5 things that you are grateful for each week. It can be the main things that you’re grateful for in your life over all, the bigger picture stuff like friends and family and the things you love about your life or even the tiniest moments, like you were grateful to make it to your Yoga class or for a really delicious pizza or a pretty sunset.
Surround yourself with like-minded people
It’s true that your vibe attracts your tribe, and the happier and more thankful you are, the more you need to be around positive people. Those friends who are always putting others down, making judgements or have a negative attitude will pull you down into that headspace too. It’s important to be around people who make you feel uplifted, when hanging out feels as good as flying in the Lab.
Write thank you letters
You don’t even have to send them, although we always recommend sharing the love! We all have people in our lives who we are grateful for. Our family, besties and even our pets! It might go a bit deeper, was there a teacher at school who inspired you or taught you something valuable? Maybe someone has passed away and you never got to tell them how grateful you were for them being in your life. Write it down. Express how thankful you are for those moments.
We’d love to hear your feedback about Grateful April, and please keep sharing with us all the things you are grateful for or how you practice gratitude. You can comment below or reach out on Instagram @skylab_skywalker