How to Meditate for Gratitude
Gratitude is one of the hot topics that are being discussed by psychologists and well-being professionals these days. But it is much more than a passing fad. Research has shown that feeling grateful for what you have, rather than focusing on what you lack or what you desire, is one of the keys to happiness, fulfillment, and positivity.
It makes sense that focusing on the positive in life is beneficial to our well being, but how exactly does one become a more grateful person? Meditation has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to not only become happier but also physically rewire your brain and change the way that it works. So if you want to be more grateful, meditate on gratitude.
But how exactly do you go about meditating for gratitude? Read on to find out.
How Does Meditation Change the Brain?
Recent studies on meditation have shown that it can physically change the way that our brain works. According to research conducted by the University of Massachusetts using a group of stressed workers, they found that meditation shifted brain activity from the stress processing right frontal cortex to the calmer left frontal cortex, physically reducing the impacts of stress, mild depression, and anxiety. Meditators also show less activity in the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that processes fear.
So if you literally want to change the way that your brain works, meditation is a viable tool for making that transformation.
A 4-step Guide to Meditate for Gratitude
If you are specifically looking to rewire your brain to be more grateful, then you need to not only meditate, but meditate for gratitude. Here are four simple steps to get you started.
Step One - Decide What You Are Grateful For
If you want to start meditating for gratitude, the first thing you need to do is decide what exactly you are grateful for. So what exactly is gratitude?
Put most simply, gratitude is a feeling of being thankful for what you have and what you receive. It generally replaces the feeling that you lack something or a yearning for more than you have
According to the Harvard Medical School, gratitude is:
“... a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives… As a result, gratitude also helps people connect with something larger than themselves as individuals - whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”
What you are grateful for will be very individual to you. Some people may be grateful for the same thing every day, such as their family or their health. For others, it may change regularly as they focus on the little things like a hearty meal or a great conversation.
Step Two - Start A Gratitude Journal
You want to make what it is that you are grateful for tangible and accessible. One of the best ways that you can do this is to start a gratitude journal. This is simple, it just involves regularly writing down what you feel grateful for (even if it is the same thing day after day). Some people like to do this morning and evening, while others might only record something on a weekly basis. When you are just starting out, writing on a daily basis is a good idea. You can get more tips on keeping a gratitude journal from Berkeley University’s Greater Good in Action program.
Their research has also provided strong evidence for the positive impact of practicing gratitude, with participants in tests starting to throw off depression and feel more positive after just two weeks of gratitude journaling.
You may also want to collect objects that you associate with the things that you are grateful for. They too can help make intangible gifts feel more tangible.
SEE ALSO: How to Start a Journal in 2020
Step Three - Integrate Gratitude into Meditation
You are now ready to integrate gratitude into your regular meditation practice. The best thing that you can do is replace whatever it is that you usually focus on during meditation, such as your breathing, with thoughts of what you are grateful for.
It can be a good idea to come up with a bit of a gratitude mantra before you begin. Something that you can repeat over and over in your head. Take what you are grateful for from your gratitude journal, and find a short and simple way to express it. For example, you might say: “I am grateful for my family, I am grateful for my health, and I am grateful that I have time to focus on myself.”
Now, once you have reached a relatively stable state of meditation, replace your meditative focus with this gratitude mantra.
Step Four - Try Visualization
Many people find that they build a stronger connection with what they are grateful for when they visualize that thing, rather than simply using words. This can be more challenging if you aren’t used to it but involves the same process. Have a clear idea of what you are grateful for, taken from your gratitude journal, and a clear idea of what best represents this for you. That way, when you reach a comfortable meditative state you already know what you will visualize, and aren’t distracted trying to come up with something.
Tips for Gratitude Meditation
While the process for gratitude meditation is relatively simple, making it work for you can be more challenging. Here are some top tips that might help you on your journey.
Develop A Meditation Practice
When you start meditating for gratitude, it is good if you already have a strong meditation practice. But if you are just starting out, this is not a barrier. However, you will need to learn how to meditate before integrating gratitude into your practice.
On its most basic level, meditation involves sitting quietly and trying to quiet your mind. The easiest way to do this can be to focus on something else, most commonly your breathing, putting all else to one side. This doesn’t mean that thoughts don’t come, just that when they do, you recognize them for what they are, put them to one side, and don’t worry about them.
When you are just starting out, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. No one can maintain a zen state for an hour their first time out. Start with five minutes. Once that feels comfortable, you can start extending the time. Also don’t be hard on yourself if you have bad days. This is normal, for even the most experienced meditators.
Consider Using Objects
If you have collected objects as part of your gratitude journaling, you may want to bring them into your meditation. Holding an object in your hands that you associate with whatever you are grateful for can help ensure that it is at the front of your mind.
Focus on Emotions
If you aren’t starting to feel a bit lighter after a few weeks of gratitude meditation, it could be that you are not connecting enough with the emotion of gratitude. For most people, simply thinking of what they are grateful for is enough to trigger that emotion. But others need to focus more actively on the emotion itself.
If you are using a verbal mantra, perhaps adjust it to something along the lines of: “I am blessed to have my family, they make me feel… I am lucky to have a job I enjoy, it makes me feel…”. When you state how it makes you feel, take a moment to focus on the emotion of gratitude.
You can do the same thing with visualizations. Once you have a clear image of the thing that you are grateful for in your mind, then switch your focus to how that thing makes you feel.
Be careful when doing this, as if you have other emotions attached to the thing that you are grateful for (which we almost always do), they can try and creep in at this moment. You need to be extra vigilant about recognizing these interruptions and putting them to one side.
Deciding that you want to be a more grateful person is the first step needed to make that transformation. Simply having the desire to change can have a huge transformational effect.
Hopefully, this simple guide has given you all the information that you need to get started meditating on gratitude. But do have realistic expectations. You are unlikely to see dramatic progress overnight. To truly feel the positive change, we need to practice with consistency, where most of us fail at. Let Habitify help you stay on track and remove distractions that hold you back from reaching your life goals.