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How and Why to Practice Gratitude When Times are Tough

Yoga Philosophy: How and Why to Practice Gratitude When Times are Tough

I believe that actively practicing gratitude everyday is an important part of maintaining good mental health.

However it is often most difficult to practice gratitude when times are tough, but this is when you also need it the most.

By focusing on the positives in our lives, the negatives which can follow us around relentlessly can be put into perspective and their impact reduced.

Why not start today, reflect on what you have, seek out the positives and embrace gratitude?

“By acknowledging abundance (aparigraha) we recognize the blessings in everything and gain insights into the purpose for our worldly existence.”

Sutra 2.39 translation by Nischala Joy Devi, The Secret Power of Yoga

“Aparigraha” is the last of the five Yamas of the Eightfold Path (or Eight Limbs of Yoga) in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra and it’s often translated as ‘non-greed’, ‘non-possessiveness’, and ‘non-attachment’.

I also love the translation of “Aparigraha” by Nischala Joy Devi, which is ‘awareness of abundance, fulfilment’.

If you are new to the Eightfold Path (called Ashtanga in Sanskrit – ‘ashta’ means ‘eight’ and ‘anga’ means ‘limb’) in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, these eight steps act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life.

I also love Nischala Joy Devi’s translation of ‘Yama’ which is ‘reflection of our true nature’.

She mentions in her book that the principles of the Yamas encourage us to live in peace with ourselves and one another.

Yamas is the first ‘limb’ of the Eightfold Path, and “Aparigraha” is the last of the five Yamas.

The key to this Yama is to recognize what you already have and not to focus on what you don’t have.

Abundance exists all around us all the time.

Instead of being attached to the outcome of a situation (where you start to focus on “lack”), start to focus on what you are actually doing right now as we work towards that outcome.

Every experience, situation and encounter has its value in the long run.

When you choose to acknowledge abundance in every situation, even those challenging ones, amazing things will start to happen.

I personally practice gratitude every morning after my morning yoga practice.

After I chant Om to close the practice, I would give thanks to all the things I’m grateful for in my life, silently.

I also then write down one thing I was grateful for that day, in the evening.

You can practice gratitude in different ways.

You can write down in your journal what you are grateful for, or you can practice it as part of your daily yoga practice. Or you can even practice gratitude with your partner or your family at your dinner table. Or with your friends!

I’ve tried many different ways before. Experiment and choose what feels best for you.

Some days, you may struggle to think of any. If that happens, take a pause, place your hand on your heart and close your eyes. And feel your gratitude.

Whichever ways you choose to practice gratitude, I encourage you to make gratitude practice a part of your daily routine, to remind yourself that your life is full of abundance, joy & happiness.