Gratitude: Flex Your Good-Finding Muscles

Teacher Spotlight: Alexandra Sullivan 

We will be sharing monthly articles from Supersoul Yoga teachers on a variety of relevant topics. We hope you enjoy reading their words and through them, learning more about your teachers and their insights. 

"If you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you." Jon Kabat Zinn

This month I will start a gratitude journal, a daily practice of writing down 5 things I am grateful for each night before bed. At any given moment we seem to have the choice to focus on what's "good" in our lives and in the world or what's not. Unfortunately there's a catch. The human brain has evolved with a negative bias to scan the external environment for threats, a part of our reptilian brain that is wired for survival from predators or other dangers. Cultivating a gratitude practice can encourage my brain to tilt toward looking for, and appreciating, the good stuff around me, in others and in myself.

 "Grateful attention is the key to joy." says Brother David Steindl-Rast, co-founder of a A Network for Grateful Living, "If we can shift our lens to be more cognizant of what's happening for real in the space around us and among the people around us, as opposed to what we're worried about, we're set up for more happiness".

This is not Polyanna talk. Research has shown that it takes five times more positive feedback to the brain to counter the negative bias it has toward seeking out "the bad stuff" in life. The great news is that just as a regular physical yoga practice can recondition my body-mind to be relaxed, strong, stable and flexible, I can train my thinking to see more of the light than the dark, to be more appreciative and less critical, to be open hearted and happy. As one gratitude expert puts it "This doesn't mean that life is perfect; it doesn't ignore complaints, burdens and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life." 

I know it's easy to be grateful when things are going well, the harder part is learning to be grateful when they aren't. So in addition to keeping a gratitude journal this month I will challenge myself to also look for ways of appreciating the not-so-good stuff, remind myself to appreciate others in my everyday life, appreciate myself and become less dependent upon praise from others and use a gratitude tool in difficult situations such as asking myself "what can I appreciate in this situation?" or "what lesson can I learn from this?". 

This way I don't have to wait for Thanksgiving to be grateful, I can experience it everyday this month...without the vegetarian turkey and pumpkin pie!

Alexandra teaches Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6pm.