We know, we know, seems like everyone is talking about mindfulness and practicing gratitude these days. Let’s be honest – gratitude feels like it’s on trend right now and a lot of the imagery is not relatable, like you have to be in a field of daisies wearing white to practice gratitude. You don’t. And that’s the beauty of it. You can practice gratitude anywhere and we’re telling you, trendy or not, it works. Our CEO Old Man McGarry pulled together 3 simple tips to kick your gratitude practice into gear in this week's Lovers & Fighters blog post...
"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful."
If you’re reading this then you’re breathing. If you’re breathing then you’re alive. If you’re alive there is more right and good with you today than is wrong. How you choose to view your current situation in life heavily influences your mood and mental well-being on a daily basis. Practicing gratitude and positive thinking are a choice and science has heavily backed up the benefits. Just as we hit the gym to strengthen our muscles & increase lung capacity we have the ability to rewire and make chemical changes in our brains by practicing gratitude.
For most of us, it’s challenging to remain positive all the time and we often take simple things for granted like our health, jobs, community and the simple fact that we are alive. Our brains have evolved to constantly scan for threats in the world and that leads to a tendency to focus on negative thought patterns. What used to be an important survival instinct that kept us alive back in the day is now messing with our wellbeing by always tipping us into a state of worry and discontentment or only seeing the glass half empty vs. half full. The good news is it can be redirected and the benefits are awesome.
The YORK Athletics team recommends the following guide to kick your gratitude practice into gear:
- Gratitude Journal. Take 5 minutes before bed to write down 3 specific things that you are grateful for from your day. No matter how hectic or challenging your day was you can always find some good in your day and this will put you into a positive and peaceful state of mind before falling asleep. This will improve sleep and your overall mood over time.
- Meditation. When you roll out of bed in the morning, sit upright for 2-10 minutes with your eyes closed and just breath. Focus on your breath. Some people find that counting helps; inhale 1, exhale 2, etc. When you get to 10 just start over again and repeat. You’ll notice that your thoughts will creep in and pull your attention away from your breath -- this is normal and just how our brains work. The only goal of meditation (if there is one?) is to notice that specific moment when you get distracted and simply return your focus back to the breath. Repeat this process and over time this strengthens your ability to stay focused on the present moment and you’re less likely to get tugged around by negative thoughts and emotions throughout the day. It also deepens your connection with the people and world around you.
- Practice Mindfulness Throughout the Day. Check in with yourself 2-3 times during the day. For example, whenever you take a bathroom break, take a minute to close your eyes and observe your mood and what kind of thoughts are hijacking your mind. Are they negative? If so, reset before you cruise back to whatever you were doing.
Give it a try. The cool thing is there is nothing that needs to be acquired or obtained in order to feel happier and more at peace with yourself. Your reservoir of gratitude is already full, you just need to tap into it.
Mark’s writing explores mental & physical conditioning and mindfulness meditation. He is the CEO and Co-founder of YORK Athletics Mfg., a training footwear brand that honors the fighting spirit. His work can be found on our on-line journal, Lovers & Fighters, where you’ll discover healthy living tips and inspiring stories from his circle of athletes, professional fighters, meditation teachers and entrepreneurs.
Mark is married, a father of two boys, a surfer and co-owner of YORK Athletics MFG and MCGARRY&sons. He trains with the Rajasi Muay Thai martial art team and is a student of mindfulness meditation at the Benson Henry Institute at Mass General Hospital. He lives in South Boston, MA.