In Buddhist teachings, true awareness is being aware of the abundance in our lives. It is said that a lack of gratitude means we are not paying full attention and we are taking existence for granted.
Gratitude is celebrated throughout philosophy and religion. Now we are seeing scientific studies that suggest it carries significant benefits for our mental and physical health. People practicing gratitude report fewer physical symptoms of illness, are more optimistic, and have decreased anxiety and depression.
Neurologically speaking, the areas of the brain associated with gratitude are those also associated with social bonding and stress relief, which aligns with the health benefits received.
Gratitude and kindness are habits and attitudes we can cultivate and I believe they should be cultivated from an early age. This is something every parent and every teacher should be incorporating into the daily life of a child.
A gratitude practice is a form of self-care but the affects are much wider than this.
When we practice gratitude, we find that concerns slowly shift from being mostly about ourselves and those close to us, to being about all living being.
Gratitude leads us to have more compassion and more awareness for those around us. We become sensitive to the interconnections. Every moment we are receiving a breath, that breath comes from the atmosphere we all share. The food we eat comes from the earth, the plants and the animals a gift from the planet.
When I am teaching someone to develop a mindfulness and meditation practice I always include a gratitude practice.
As we cultivate our mindfulness practice we learn to identify and be grateful for small things. We are slowing down, we are more aware, we notice more and appreciate more. The changing of the seasons, the way the light shifts during a day, a particularly interesting crack on the pavement, a smile from a stranger, an act of kindness, the warmth as you stroke your pet, the list goes on and on.
When we are aware, we are more conscious, we are grateful. We feel fully awake.
Gratitude as a norm can change our lives in a profound and miraculous way. It also allows us to feel more energized, more resilient and more empowered to be able to make positive change. This is essential, particularly right now.
Brogan Ganley is an Integrative Therapist specializing in Mindfulness and Meditation for stress and anxiety management. Brogan works with both children and adults. She is also a Registered Yoga teacher and Reiki Master.