What did you think about when you woke up this morning?
Did you lay in bed and begin to make an endless list of things you hoped to accomplish today? Did you hit the snooze button a few times to try to get some more sleep, only to be roused by a hungry pet? Maybe you got up the moment you woke and headed straight to the coffee maker, anxiously awaiting your brew as you hovered over the coffee maker in your pajamas. How ever you begin your day, have you ever considered starting with gratitude?
It may sound strange, but what if you began every day by meditating on things for which you are grateful? You could think about a cherished family member, friend or pet. You could even be grateful for an experience, be it positive or negative, and the impact it made on your life’s journey. Whatever gratitude is to you, meditating on what you value most has the power to change your life.
In Tibet, many Buddhist monks start their days with gratitude meditation. They are even known to express thankfulness for their struggles and the role those difficulties have played in their lives. Gratitude meditation has roots in Native American Indian culture, as well. It has been said that the elders of some Native American tribes began their days with ceremonies of gratitude for the earth and all its bounty.
Gratitude meditation has existed, in some form, for hundreds of years. It has brought happiness to the sad, peace to the worried and rest to the hurried. This article will explore what gratitude meditation is, meditation techniques and the benefits of gratitude meditation.
What is Gratitude Meditation?
Before diving into this, it is important to have a solid understanding of the words gratitude and meditation. According to Google, gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. That is a good start, but understand that gratitude is not the same as thankfulness; gratitude takes thankfulness to another level by adding an element of recognition for whatever it is you are thankful for. True, authentic gratitude enables you appreciate and acknowledge all people, circumstances and things in your life.
Meditating is to think deeply or focus one’s mind in silence (or with the aid of chanting) to foster spirituality and relaxation. It is somewhat like prayer, but less goal-oriented in that you aren’t asking for something when you meditate, as is often done in traditional praying.
Put gratitude and meditation together and you get a focused practice of being grateful. You could be grateful for anything from people to places, experiences, possessions, and more. What you choose to be grateful for is truly limitless.
As you consider what it is you are grateful for, you may realize that you ought to develop an appreciation for things in your life that you once perceived as negative. This is not a natural human reaction to adversity, but exploring those areas of your life can open your heart to a whole new world of thankfulness. You may consider a marriage that ended in divorce but produced thriving children, or the death of a dear pet who left behind many cherished memories of joy.
Gratitude meditation enables you to truly be thankful for all things, the good and the bad, because it’s all happened for a reason. Every experience, heartache and milestone took place to specifically shape you into the person you are; what a thing to be grateful for!
Gratitude meditation is all about being intentional and thankful. It is a free tool that anyone can use at any time to increase their joy and decrease their stress. Who doesn’t want that?
How do you Practice?
Before beginning gratitude meditation, familiarize yourself with the basics of meditation. Meditation can truly take place anywhere, but it is most easily achieved when done in a quiet, comfortable room while seated or laying down. You may also want to make sure you are wearing comfortable clothes that won’t cause your mind to wander.
Choose something upon which you can focus. It could be the sound of a repetitive gong, the flame of a candle, or even repeating a single word or mantra. Start to focus on your breath and notice how it causes different parts of your body to rhythmically rise and fall. When you begin to wander, go back to your original point of focus, focus on your breath and empty your mind.
This is far easier said than done, especially in this fast-paced world of distractions. If you are new to meditation, consider a daily meditation that lasts just a few minutes, adding a minute or so to the meditation as your skills allow. The mobile application, Mindbliss, is a great resource to get you started.
Gratitude meditation is very similar to the concentration method of meditation described above. Follow the steps to prepare for meditation; when practicing gratitude meditation, your point of focus should be on something for which you are thankful. If you struggle to maintain your focus when silent, consider repeating a mantra like, “I am grateful,” to maintain focus in your practice.
If you’re struggling to get started, download the Mindbliss app for some additional assistance. In the app, you’ll find guided gratitude meditation tracks, which will help you focus your thoughts and quiet your mind.
If you would like to listen to Mindbliss meditations, download the app by clicking HERE from your iPhone or Android.
You could also complement this practice by writing a gratitude journal. This can help you narrow your focus while enhancing your experience. It also provides an outlet to deeply reflect on your life and why you should be grateful. The journal could also serve as a place where you write letters to the people who have, for better or worse, played an integral role in shaping who you are. Putting those thoughts on paper can be deeply therapeutic and may open your heart and mind to a whole new way of being.
What are the Benefits?
The benefits of meditation are well-documented. According to the American Meditation Society, 30 years of clinical studies on meditation have consistently demonstrated that it:
- Normalizes blood pressure
- Improves immune function
- Slows aging
- Reduces anxiety and improves stress-related disorders
- Increases relaxation throughout the day
- Decreases insomnia
- Improves psychological health and self-esteem
- Lowers incidence of depression, anger and irritability
- Improves concentration
- Increases positive thinking
- Enhances creativity
- Facilitates psychological development (http://americanmeditationsociety.org/meditation/benefits/)
Meditation, when practiced properly, certainly has the power to transform your life.
Additional research has been conducted on how meditation, specifically gratitude meditation, can benefit your health. Although it has not been studied as extensively as meditation at large, clinical research has found that it has many of the same benefits – and more.
The benefits of gratitude meditation were explored in a 2016 edition of the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. In this study, Online Training in Specific Meditation Practices Improves Gratitude, Well-Being, Self-Compassion, and Confidence in Providing Compassionate Care Among Health Professionals, researchers trained medical professionals how to use different meditation techniques, including gratitude meditation, and examined how it impacted their patient care. This is what they found:
These practices (including gratitude meditation, positive-word-focused meditation, loving kindness meditation, and others) benefit patients with chronic pain, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety, but could also be useful for health professionals. According to Fredrickson’s ‘‘broaden-and-build’’ theory, positive emotion leads to better cognitive function, social support, and mental health, all of which can contribute to an overall sense of well-being. Even a fleeting experience of positive emotion temporarily broadens thinking and allows individuals to consider ideas they would not have otherwise considered. Positive emotion gives rise to greater creativity, attention, and ability to integrate many sources of information; in other words, meditation focused on increasing positive emotions could improve clinicians’ cognitive functioning (http://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Rao_Kemper2016.pdf)
What does this mean? The patients whose practitioners received gratitude meditation training had an increased sense of well-being. As a result, their patients received better care and ultimately had better prognoses. It found that gratitude meditation helps doctors, nurses and others charged with patient care have better interactions with their patients, which in turn makes the patients happier and ultimately, healthier. Incredible.
Another study, The Effects of Two Novel Gratitude and Mindfulness Interventions on Well-Being, found that respondents who practiced gratitude meditation on a regular basis (four times a week for three weeks) experienced reduced levels of stress and depression and increased levels of happiness, these participants also kept a gratitude diary (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25826108). Many other studies have discovered similar patterns; regularly practicing this meditation, even for as little as a minute a day, will increase your overall well-being.
Not surprisingly, most of the research on gratitude meditation has shown that the more you practice gratitude meditation, the more grateful you will be. Certainly, if you are making a concerted effort to be grateful when meditating then you will become a more gracious person. But have you ever considered the benefits of simply being gracious?
Another recent study examined how gratitude impacts patients with chronic illnesses. In this study, Gratitude Uniquely Predicts Lower Depression in Chronic Illness Populations: A Longitudinal Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Arthritis, researchers found that gratitude was negatively associated with depressive symptoms in patients with chronic illness. They also found that those patients were less stressed and didn’t have as great a sense of helplessness. These patients also had positive assessments of their own health and were more willing to accept their diagnoses. Not surprisingly, gratitude was also strongly correlated to good psychological well-being (http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/104189/1/Gratitude%20%26%20chronic%20illness%20HP%20rev4%20FINAL%20preprint.pdf).
Even though this study did not specifically deal with gratitude meditation, it provides valuable insights on the role of gratitude can play in your life. In the case of these people who are struggling with chronic illness, their diagnosis doesn’t define them. They have gratitude for the path they are on and are able to lead fulfilling, productive lives because they are grateful.
The benefits of gratitude meditation are many. These benefits, which have been proven in countless clinical studies, have revealed that practicing gratitude meditation will:
- Decrease depression and suicide
- Increase happiness
- Increase sleep quality
- Increase levels of gratitude in day-to-day life
- Help you overcome obstacles and hardships in a healthy, positive way
In addition to these benefits, gratitude meditation is completely areligious. You do not have to be a part of a religious group or sect to meditate. Although some religions, like Buddhism, use it as a tool to enhance spirituality, it can be used by any person be they a Jew, Muslim, Christian or Atheist, to clear their mind and control their thoughts.
Tomorrow, when your alarm goes off, what will you do? Will you start to start to think about the day’s to-do list, or will you close your eyes, quiet your mind and say, “I am grateful”? Will you hit the snooze button to get five more minutes of sleep, only to get out of bed frustrated by the demands of the day, or will you sit up when that alarm goes off and take a minute to be thankful for a restful night’s sleep? Will you hop out of bed to make your java, staring blankly at the coffee maker, or will you use that time to be grateful for the job you will soon head off to, even though it’s not your dream position?
No matter how you begin your day, consider starting it with gratitude. Gratitude meditation will open your eyes to all that you have to be thankful for, ultimately offering a more positive perspective on life. Start your practice today and see first-hand how gratitude meditation enables you to marvel at the mundane, have hope for the helpless and find peace in persecution.
The Mindbliss Team.
If you enjoyed the Daily Gratitude Ritual meditation and would like to listen to more Mindbliss meditations, download the app by clicking HERE from your iPhone or Android.
At Mindbliss we have a large and diverse range of 300 (and growing) quality meditations. We are always hard at work curating the best ones for you. 🙂 We hope you love them. 💜
Let us know how this meditation worked for you, we would love to hear about how your daily gratitude ritual has impacted your life 🙂