With Americans celebrating Thanksgiving this week and Christmas just a few weeks away, making the time to ruminate on what we are grateful for could not be more profound this year.

Acknowledging we have all had a challenging year is a good place to start. Many have suffered the loss of loved ones, all of us the loss of our lives as we had come to know them. There’s a collective grief and period of mourning we are still living through and whilst that may feel like darkness, we can begin to move towards the light, through mindful thoughts and actions.

We all have worries, troubles and challenges in our lives however the rollercoaster of stress and anxiety takes its toll on our health & wellbeing. So, the simple act of ‘counting our blessings’ enables our mind and body to slow down, to soften, to give ourselves permission to give thanks for what comes to mind.

The daily act of saying thank you out loud whether that’s to the person that made you a coffee this morning, your child who was ready to leave for school on time or out loud to the universe for the warmth of the sun, supports us to open our hearts to gratitude.

There is evidence to suggest that simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain. Positive emotion has been associated with improved self-regulation as well as helping self-motivation. Expressing gratitude has been shown to foster positive mindsets and reduce stress levels . These factors all add up to thanksgiving and gratitude supporting our mental health

The ancient sages told us that the aim of physical yoga (asana / yoga postures) is to allow the body to relax and to make it easier for us to sit in stillness to meditate. A gratitude meditation brings us into the present moment, to the here and the now. A pause to breath and connect with our internal dialogue.

Moving away for the thoughts and actions that we are chasing or analysing from the past or into the future.

I’ve recorded a Thanksgiving Gratitude Meditation for you to try at home. I would encourage you to listen and be guided by the voice rather than actually watching the video to avoid distraction and support your focus.

Before you practise this meditation take a little time to stretch the body and then find a comfortable seated position. If seated on the floor or a yoga mat I encourage you to have some support; either sitting on some height to bring space to the lower back (yoga blocks/bricks or some firm cushions or chunky books) or using a wall to sit against, to support your back.

Alternatively, sitting on a chair can feel better for many, with the feet parallel and grounded so you have sense of the earth through the soles of your feet.

Cultivating thankfulness for being part of life blossoms into a feeling of being blessed, not in the sense of winning the lottery, but in a more refined appreciation for the interdependent nature of life. It also elicits feelings of generosity, which create further joy.

Gratitude can soften a heart that has become too guarded, and it builds the capacity for forgiveness, which creates the clarity of mind that is ideal for spiritual development. — Phillip Moffitt

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