November brings a day in the United States to give thanks for Thanksgiving, but the act of being grateful deserves than only one day of the year. Even during difficult times, most of us still have something or someone in our lives to appreciate. It’s easy to neglect and underestimate gratitude, but research shows that grateful people are more likely to be productive, optimistic, generous and compassionate.
Some of the most compelling science to show the benefits of gratitude has explored it in a variety of ways: asking participants to think about a living person for whom they are grateful, to write and deliver a letter to someone for whom they are grateful or to keep a gratitude journal. In all of these studies, participants demonstrated increased happiness over time.
Like gratitude, it’s also easy to underestimate the power of intention. Without intent, we couldn’t scratch our noses, get out of bed or call a friend. What we manifest begins with intention, so cultivating gratitude through meditation can be especially rewarding.
How do you combine the two?
Setting an intention of gratitude before meditating, such as “I intend to practice gratitude for …” or “My intention is to appreciate …” is a good place to start. Be sure that you can visualize the intention clearly in your mind and that it generates a positive, warm—even giddy—feeling. If it doesn’t, try again until you find an intention that resonates. Then take a few breaths to focus on the things, people or situations for which you are grateful.
Once you release this gratitude into your consciousness, it will flourish. And if you focus on the same intention frequently, it can become a habit that guides all of your behavior. Imagine if we all moved through the world guided by simple gratitude.