November brings a holiday in the United States to give thanks, but the act of being grateful deserves more attention 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 underestimate gratitude, but research shows that people who exercise gratitude are more likely to be productive, optimistic, generous and compassionate.
Some of the most compelling science to show the benefits of gratitude has explored its expression 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?
Initiating meditation by setting an intention of gratitude, 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, refocus until you settle upon 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.
To your happiness and success,
— Search Inside Yourself