Gratitude is oftentimes an overlooked part of the human experience. Being more grateful is a powerful way of living more beautifully and wisely. It’s easy to take things for granted when you start getting accustomed to everything in your day to day life.
Simple gratitude towards life and all its diversity can help you in more ways than you can imagine, as recent scientific studies are now increasingly confirming.
What does this mean for you?
Do you just go around saying thank you to existence and everything in it? It could very well mean that, in fact, that is indeed one of the best mantras for stress and anxiety relief.
Gratitude can mean many things, or put in another way, you could be grateful for a lot of things in your life, especially when you take a moment to stop and consider them for what they are. Some of these things that would initially seem counterintuitive to be grateful about, like for example seemingly negative things like painful occurrences in your life or moments of sorrow and grief, could nonetheless become objects deserving of gratitude.
With that being said, if you’re feeling stressed out, anxious or a little bit on the depressed side, here are a couple of exercises that I’ve found to relieve myself from these undesirable states.
1. Give thanks to anything
Give thanks or say thank you to someone or something, whatever it may be. It could be a friend, family-member, the weather, a stranger, a movie, a piece of music, a scene out in nature. Whatever sparks that sense of gratitude in you, let it be expressed, either silently in the privacy of your own mind or physically by expressing it through words or a gesture.
You’d be surprised how much gratitude can enhance your life in the most beautiful way. By regularly thanking life and the universe is almost a spiritual act and the benefits can be immense, and contrary to what many people may think you don’t really need to believe in a God or a supernatural entity to do this. Simply place yourself as the subject and the rest of the cosmos as the object, and give thanks.
How to do it
- Find a place you can sit, stand or lie down comfortably.
- Become aware of your body and the waves of breath coming in and going out.
- Proceed then by taking a moment to contemplate on those things that you are most grateful for. It could be anything and everything really.
- Become aware of the energetic changes (feelings, mood, grace) that take place in your mind.
- Stay present.
- Finish off with three deep breaths and a concluding feeling of thankfulness towards the whole experience.
One thing you can think about is the casual stuff that you’re perhaps taking for granted, these are definitely things that could be objects of your gratitude. In fact, when this exercise is done “properly”, its most often the little things in life that one ends up being thankful for.
For example, I find myself end up thanking life for the availability of fresh drinking water and a decent healthy meal to keep my body healthy and strong. When you consider these simple things and show gratitude towards them, negative energies like stress, anxiety and depressive feelings/thoughts tend to disperse into oblivion. At least they have shown to do so in my experience.
Another thing that I’ve found quite fascinating is that when this exercise is done earnestly it can gradually give rise to an expanded sense of being, which you realize not only through the immediate things in your surroundings, like having a family, friends, water and food but also things that seem more remote to your immediate experience. Heck, I’ve found myself being grateful for having the chance to see mountains from a distance or the stars at night or the crescent moon shyly gleaming down at me.
In other words, you’ll find plenty of things, if not most things, to be grateful for the more you practice the art of being thankful.
2. Keep a gratitude journal
A gratitude journal can be a great way to remind yourself to be more grateful each day and thus reap the many benefits associated with gratitude. A gratitude journal is a smart and handy way to improve your mental well-being and the various relationships in your life through mere appreciation and giving thanks. By regularly writing down what makes you feel better, you’ll start feeling even better.
3. Count your blessings
Count your blessings is a wonderful phrase in the English language. We’re all blessed, to be alive, to have a family, friends and what have you. Even if you don’t have some of the things that most people have, you shouldn’t let that bring you down. I can guarantee you that you still have enough things in your life to be grateful about. Recognize them and give thanks.
Praying is often associated with religion, but it doesn’t really have to be. To pray can be directed towards the life, nature and cosmos without any reference to a specific god. From my rather secular perspective, prayer is the act or activity of a subjective being towards existence itself. The prayer doesn’t have to be something personal, in fact, the best kinds of prayers are impersonal prayers. Prayers that merge your sense of separateness with the inherent unity of existence is comparable to a meditative practice. This is a wonderful way to gain perspective and to increase gratitude in your life towards everything under the sun.
Meditation is the process of observing without identifying and attaching yourself to the fluctuating contents of the mind and body. When done correctly and sufficiently, meditation naturally brings you to a state of gratitude, especially to the mere fact of being an alive, intelligent and conscious being. The miracle of life becomes more apparent to you when you realize what’s actually going on in the mind and body. I recommend that you start cultivating a meditation practice or try certain meditation techniques out and see what works for you.
6. Thank you mantra
The “thank you” mantra is a powerful way of aligning your mental process’ with life and its inherent abundance. This is a mantra which some spiritually attuned people like Mooji consider to be among the best mantras for any individual wishing for a deeper sense of fulfilment and joy.
Another thing about the thank you mantra is that it can lessen arrogance in certain individuals. An arrogant person most likely would and could not perform this mantra without in some real sense losing a sizeable chunk of that arrogance. In other words, this mantra not only brings relief to your busy and frantic monkey-mind but also has the power to dispel arrogance in your heart.
How to do it
This one is very simple:
- Simply sit, lie down or walk around saying the words “thank you” in your preferred language.
- You don’t need something specific to thank as you can direct thanks to existence itself.
- You’d be surprised what serenity may come over your mind when doing this simple exercise.
My own experiences with gratitude
I remember the time just before I left my apartment in Gotland, Sweden. It was an intense experience of gratitude towards that place because I had realized that it had been a sort of modern cave which I had used to retire to in order to sort out personal discrepancies, problems while simultaneously growing wiser in a spiritual sense.
Even though I was on the island for 9 months to study liberal arts, I ended up spending most of my time there in deep meditations for many hours at time.
I was almost obsessed with finding something stable in my consciousness, having realized that all things are subject to change and transformation, for good or for worse.
I ended up finding that which I was looking for, or rather “found where I was looking from” as St. Francis would put it.
When the time had arrived to move back to Stockholm, I spent the last couple minutes walking around in my apartment with prayerful hands uttering the words: “Thank you, thank you…”
Gratitude is not to be underestimated. It could be used as a way to find relief from stress, anxiety or depression just as well as a powerful spiritual tool for deeper explorations of consciousness.
Do you have any experiences with conscious gratitude? If so, feel free to share your own experiences below!
Daniel Seeker is a wandering dervish and lifelong student of the past, present and future. He realized deep relaxations of the psyche when meditating in his hermit cave on the island of Gotland. His writings are mostly a reflection of that realizaton. Daniel currently studies history and philosophy at Uppsala Universitet, as he is currently writing his B.A. thesis in history which explores how Buddhist, Yogic and Hindu texts were first properly translated and introduced to the western world in the late 18th and 19th century.