A Practice of Gratitude

Meditating on what she's grateful for, journaling, and setting intentions, helps Erica Rodefer Winters start the day on the right foot.
Gratitude poses

If you use Facebook, you've probably seen one or more of your friends participating in 30 Days of Gratitude—a public gratitude journal of sorts where people share something they're grateful for each day of November. It seems like ALL of my Facebook friends are participating. It's great to be reminded of all the good things happening for people every time I log onto my account (and let's be honest, I log on a LOT). Of course, this is nothing new. Counting your blessings each day is a powerful tool that can help shift the way you see the world—especially if you often catch yourself focusing on the negative. And posting your gratitude in a public forum holds you accountable and inspires others.

This outpouring of public gratitude reminds me of a morning meditation I've been doing off an on for a few months now. The ritual, which came from Amy Ippoliti, mixes the idea of a gratitude journal with visualization and meditation to help get the day started out on the right foot. First, you meditate for a few minutes and write down 3 to 5 things that you're thankful for that come to mind during the meditation. (For me, the same things come to mind nearly each and every time.)

The next part is what makes this ritual different than simply keeping a gratitude journal. You spend time meditating on things that went well the day before and write down 3 to 5 of those things. This part of it is even more interesting, because while it's relatively easy to think of external things I'm grateful for, it's a little more difficult to pinpoint things about myself that I appreciate or that I did well. After a few days of this practice, it became clear that I'm critical of myself. It also become clear that this is a practice I need. It cultivates confidence and helps me get clear about my intention and what character attributes I want to cultivate in myself.

The last step is to spend a few minutes setting an intention for the day (which is different than making a to-do list, Ippoliti says) and visualizing what it feels like to accomplish what you set out to do and be.

For me, this short meditation is the perfect complement to the Facebook gratitude month. Together, they're the perfect mixture of community and quiet self-reflection, technology and the old school (who writes with a pen on paper anymore?), appreciation for others and for myself. It's a balance that I seek in my asana practice, too. And with Thanksgiving approaching, I'm thankful for the yoga practice that inspires me to dig deeper. I'm thankful for the traditions that make yoga more meaningful. I'm thankful for the innovations that make the practice more accessible. But, most of all, I'm thankful that we can benefit from the best of both worlds—the old and the new.

How do you show your appreciation this season?