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Gratitude as a Mindfulness Practice

So, there’s little we can actually control.

Here’s the very short list:

  • How we show up
  • How we respond

And yet, we spend most of our time obsessing about what happened or what might happen. You know, in a constant state of fear, worry and stress. (Probably not you, but some people.)

There’s an amazing line from Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning that sums this idea up nicely.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a moment, and in that moment lies our freedom.”

Between something happening, something not happening, someone saying something hurtful or even helpful, and in how we respond in that precious moment, lies our freedom. Ah, but it also potentially contains our jailer if we allow. It’s just a choice that’s become a habitual reaction.

Gratitude is the secret to letting go.

The first practical thing to know about expressing gratitude is that it’s impossible to be thankful without being mindful. So that’s that.

For me, it’s the tonic or kick in the pants that snaps me back to a state of peace or at least something like calm. It helps me to stop feeling sorry for myself, to let go of irrational fears, to remember how amazing it is that I’m alive.

It’s not that pain, grief, guilt, and doubt aren’t real. It’s just that when we feed them, they become unreal and damage our focus, our relationships, and our health.

Gratitude introduces perspective. Nothing is as bad or as good as we might imagine.

Practicing gratitude has become trendy in business circles. Just Google it and you’ll find articles in Yoga and Mindfulness blogs, but you’ll also find them in Inc and Forbes.

So, how do you practice gratitude?

Most people are aware of the everyday practice of saying grace before a meal, well there you go. You might take that idea for granted because it became a habit in your household, but it’s not any more complicated than that. (Ooh, and it might invite more mindful eating.)

I practice gratitude in 3 ways

  • I add thanks in my journal each morning
  • I express thanks before every meeting throughout my day
  • I mentally go through a list of people I’m thankful for in my life and wish them peace, joy, and happiness as I fall asleep each night.

Here’s a weird thing about gratitude. It helps me make better choices.


Breathing as a Mindfulness Practice

Breathing is perhaps the most mindless act we take and yet if we stopped doing it we would die. It’s something that people do somewhere between 15,000-30,000 times every day.

Intentional focus on the breath is one of the simplest mindfulness practices you can do and you can do it anywhere, anytime.

Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and start by taking a big, perhaps exaggerated breath and exhale. Then just tune in to the air coming in and going out. You may notice differences in your inhale and exhale. Some find it helpful to count their breaths.

After a bit, what you’ll probably also notice is how much your mind wants to wander. It’s a good reminder of how much we need to practice mindfulness to develop the habit of quieting the mind.

There are countless breathing techniques and ever apps designed to help guide and keep you focused on your counts. Experiment with a few and see if you can develop a breathing technique you can tap in your morning routine and anytime you need to relax and reduce your level of stress.

If you really get into this idea, you might want to study a little about a breath control method referred to as Pranayama breathing. You can find a beginner’s guide here

As breathing is essential to life, intentional focus on your breathing is a great tool for practicing mindfulness.

Breathing Resources

Mindfulness Books