Be grateful and happiness will come to you
This weekend I took a restorative workshop with an amazing teacher Lisa Sandquist and this time we explored gratitude. In Lisa’s invitation newsletter she quoted M.J. Ryan who in her book Attitudes of Gratitude says that “Gratitude is one of the only totally free, unbelievably simple ways to experience a sense of well-being and contentment on an ongoing basis… and… because it’s so simple…we believe it won’t work”.
By measuring the brainwaves, scientists proved that practicing gratitude reduces stress, improves sleep, and builds energy. Grateful thoughts shift the brain activity from beta pattern to alpha level, which are the same kind of brain waves experienced in meditation. When we think grateful thoughts, we activate the part of our brain that releases endorphins (the feel-good hormones), which is what accounts for the positive emotional boost we get; as opposed to our modern lifestyle putting most of us in a state of constant beta wave thinking. Beta waves are very rapid. They’re needed for linear thinking and high focus. However beta waves are also associated with stress and the ongoing release of cortisol.
Living in a beta brain wave world where we are constantly over-pressured and over-stimulated, our health, which is the most precious gift, and well-being are assaulted. We need to find ways to slow down our brain frequently each day.
For centuries meditation has been used as a way to slow down beta waves and stimulate relaxing alpha waves. That’s one of the reasons meditation has so many beneficial physical and psychological health effects.
And the best news is one of the easiest ways to slow down your brain is to take a few minutes and softly focus on what you’re grateful for. You don’t need to have any formal experience in meditation to know what gratitude is, but you should distinguish gratitude from thankfulness. We say “thank you” as polite phrase throughout the day but don’t always put the energy into it. Sometimes, it’s just a meaningless answer even without an eye contact. Other times, you are more aware and make an effort, send a smile to a person, perhaps wish them well in your mind. But try to really take your time when you are thanking people, it will create a much deeper feeling inside of you and send your light into the world.
If you feel stuck, just look at the situation from the other angle, change your perspective. Personally, I used to take my health for granted. Of course I exercised, cut out most unhealthy foods out of my diet, etc., but I have not realized how important it is until I had a brain tumor surgery this winter. It was quite an ordeal to go through all of this (you can read more about it in my first blog post) and I’m really grateful for all the support that I got during that time. My husband, friends and relatives, and the most surprising – total strangers, whom I’ve never seen after our first encounter – all gave me strength and really deep feeling of gratitude. I couldn’t thank people enough for what they did for me.
But as the time passed by and I got enough rehabilitation to start teaching yoga again, somewhere in between hospital visits and doctor appointments, chemotherapy cycles which are like a rollercoaster for the body and mind, I started to feel discontent and disconnected, irritated and grouchy. There was an episode, which occurred as a mistake and miscommunication between the two hospitals (one where I originally had a surgery and the one that I go to a neuro-oncologist right now) and I got admitted to the ICU for the night. Of course, it was a lot of waiting, trying to figure out what was going on, poking and prodding after a day of MRI, labs, and appointment with the doctor. It was all JUST to hear at 5am next morning: “No surgery is needed. Nothing can be done and nothing has to be done. Have breakfast and go home.”
But at Lisa’s workshop I realized that it wasn’t “JUST”. I got to hear that I’m doing good and my health is not in any danger, I can go back to my LIFE and to cherish it. It was a nice reminder that I have to be grateful for the miracle of life and things started changing for better: I had a few really productive days, went for a walk with a friend, truly enjoyed these sunny days before it got cold, wrote this post, etc. Take some time and savor the moment, really soak it into your body and mind and then when you have a bad day, just reawaken these feelings. Visualize every detail, feel the fragrances surrounding you, feel gentle breeze, the touch of the sun, the steam from a cup of hot tea or cocoa, the smell of fall leaves, whatever brings you back into your happy place.
Be happy. Be grateful. Just BE