Be Well Be Happy

During this time of year, we think about giving thanks. It is a great time to appreciate what we have in our lives: families, friends, pets, comforts, joys. Perhaps we make a toast at our Thanksgiving meal. It is a great reminder to put aside all that is not positive in our lives and to be grateful. 

Being grateful on a daily basis, 365 days a year, is a beneficial tool to cultivate contentment in our lives. There are actually scientific studies to back this up. If you are one to experiment and take your own study to see if something is real or not, and then put it into practice, that is great. If you need evidence, here it is:

“Feelings of gratitude activate the part of the brain that produces dopamine, a messenger molecule that stimulates your brain’s reward and pleasure center. . .”

“One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin (a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness).” The Upward Spiral: Using Neuro-Science to Reverse the Course of Depression - Alex Korb

The fact that practicing gratitude gives an overall feeling of well-being and contentment is proof in the pudding. Scientists seek answers and do find them as noted above, answering the “why.” The key to it is to practice a sustained practice of gratitude. We sometimes do it for a couple of days here and there, which is good in itself, but sustained practice brings a sustained result—a change in how we feel.

I do make it a practice every day to be grateful for all of my comforts: clean water, hot shower, comfortable, warm bed, good food, etc. I say it to myself when I’m taking a shower or eating or when I go to bed. I periodically contemplate my work, the yoga studio, and say to myself what I am grateful for in these parts of my life. I have an inner dialogue to say the words so that they become part of me. I know that my feeling of contentment is a result of my positivizing my thoughts. So one way to arrive at contentment is to practice gratitude daily, accepting and appreciating what we have and who we are at the present moment. 

In our yoga studio, we mostly practice asana (poses) and pranayama (breath practice) and we refer to some of the other “eight limbs of yoga.” One of them is the second limb of "niyama," which refers to inner observances and self-discipline bringing us to our own inner truth.  The second of the  "niyamas" is “santosh,”—contentment. A sustained practice of gratitude leads to sustained contentment. A sustained practice of contentment leaves us better equipped to deal with something that causes displeasure or dissatisfaction or unhappiness or pain or anything really unpleasant.

Make it a practice every day: in the morning, in the evening and throughout the day!

(Some of the thoughts in this column were inspired by “Yoga for Healthy Aging - The Biochemical Basis for a Gratitude Practice” by Nina.)

May you be happy. May you be free. May you be grateful. May you let go of things that do not serve you. May you have inner peace.

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