Starting the new year with gratitude. By Jamie Isaac
The start of a new year is a perfect opportunity for a new beginning. Often we are away from work, with an opportunity to slow down, gather with friends and family, nourish connections and enjoy festive, yet grounding experiences. With this space away from the hustle and bustle of daily routine, take the opportunity to instil a few healthy habits. Start with each new day; short simple practices are much easier to incorporate into our routines. Practicing gratitude can help us create abundance, and release stress. Gratitude is associated with happiness.
Practicing gratitude in all forms (saying thank you, becoming aware of simple things that bring us joy, becoming aware and acknowledging our own body or breath) can create feelings of hope and encouragement. Connecting with our self, and expressing gratitude to ourselves and to others, can help us improve relationships, overcome adversity and become more resilient.
By practicing gratitude, setting healthy expectations, and being compassionate with ourselves, we can often feel more present, more focused, and better able to deal with challenges that arise.
In practicing gratitude, and by nurturing and nourishing positive connections (receiving gratitude from others), our brain releases neurotransmitters, which elevate our emotions. Gratitude practices produce serotonin and dopamine, which enhance our mood almost immediately. By consciously practicing gratitude, we can strengthen neural pathways and create a more mindful and present state, creating ease and happiness.
It is also important to acknowledge when practicing gratitude, that it's okay if feelings of stress, sadness, or anxiety arise, or are present. The goal is to shift our focus to acknowledge the good, by using the breath to find focus and calm. This might help you become more able to focus on the care you need; set boundaries, and be more connected in your mind, body, and help you identify more nourishing relationships.
By the simple practice of breathing, supporting our nervous system, and inviting calm, and practicing gratitude for each breath, then shifting our focus to other things we feel grateful for (such as loved ones, opportunities), the day can unfold before us with a more positive focus.
Simple breathing meditation for gratitude:
Take a moment to sit or lie comfortably, in a quiet space. Drop your shoulders, and sit with the palms of your hand open.
Close your eyes and bring your focus to your breath.
Think of one thing that you are grateful for at this moment. It can be anything that you feel, as big or small as you want.
Thinking of someone you are grateful to have in your life can be a good place to start, or perhaps something positive or uplifting that you have experienced. If you are drawing a blank, you can make it something as simple as just being in that moment and having the ability to stop and breathe.
Keep this thought of gratitude in your mind as you close your eyes. Inhale deeply. Hold for two beats, then exhale long and controlled, pausing at the bottom of the exhalation to bring the thought of gratitude back to the front of your mind.
You can then repeat this for a count of up to 10 breaths.
Slowly come back to your body, gently open your eyes.
Another wonderful way to bring gratitude into your life and to develop positive practices can be to take time for yourself to reset and recharge. You might set up a weekend filled with nature, healthy food, and yoga, or if you have the opportunity, take some holiday time to travel to a retreat. You can focus on mindful movement, connection with others, and developing/ resetting healthy lifestyle habits.
A retreat programme helps us take space from our daily routine and to awake each day with positive intentions, whilst feeling encouraged by other like-minded people.
Jamie Isaac (azulfit.com)