It’s scientifically proven that gratitude — the simple act of focusing on the good things in life — can make you happier and healthier. And after another year of navigating the unknown, I think we can all agree that finding ways to increase positivity, contentment, and groundedness is essential during this transition into 2022.
Part of the reason these past 19 months have been so challenging is that in addition to continued uncertainty, your body and brain are coping with the effects of prolonged physical and emotional isolation and stress.
When you endure any kind of chronic stress, be it working remotely, juggling parental and home responsibilities, or just getting through a nearly two-year-long pandemic, your autonomic nervous system (the body’s command center for everything from digestion and breathing to socializing and your sleep cycle) can become dysregulated.
In this state, the sympathetic nervous system (also known as fight-or-flight mode) takes over, which leaves you feeling more frazzled, stressed out, and even more disconnected from friends, family, and the world around you.
Gratitude Regulates the Nervous System
On a purely neurobiological level, gratitude conditions the brain to filter out negative thoughts, making it easier to focus on positive ones. Acknowledging what you’re thankful for causes a release of the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, allowing you to feel lighter, less isolated, and more resilient. It’s also been proven to reduce cortisol levels, lower inflammation, decelerate the effects of neurodegeneration, and improve insomnia, glucose control, and blood pressure.
It’s no wonder cultures around the world have been practicing gratitude for thousands of years.
According to Dr. Robert Emmons, psychology professor, author, and the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, this feeling includes two stages:
- Realize the good in your own life, noticing the elements that make life worth living. It’s the recognition that you’ve received something gratifying that enables more peace and contentment.
- Recognize others for your happiness. You acknowledge that feeling and those who sacrificed for your well-being in this stage.
By mindfully appreciating the things and people that bring you joy regularly, you help strengthen the neural pathways that reinforce the connection between gratitude and good health.
How to Create More Moments of Joy
Originating from the Latin word gratus, gratitude is a feeling of appreciation. It’s a willingness to increase your ability to be present and experience every moment as a gift — even the difficult ones.
That’s why it’s so important to celebrate everything good in your world. It’s your capacity to practice self-compassion, cultivate more moments of joy and inspiration, and reconnect with yourself and others that will allow you to thrive in times of uncertainty.
8 Ways to Embrace Gratitude in the New Year:
- Journaling. Write down 3-5 things you’re thankful for every day. It could be as simple as the fact that your heart is beating or that you have air in your lungs.
- Meditating. Sit quietly and reflect on the people and things for which you’re grateful.
- Saying “thank you.” Practice saying it and really feeling it.
- Hand-writing a letter. Studies show that writing a detailed letter about something important to you can lead to greater happiness and satisfaction.
- Showing kindness to others. Give an unsolicited compliment or help out in your community.
- Celebrating your victories. Most people are programmed to focus on their failures. Instead, give yourself a theoretical (or actual) high-five to acknowledge your achievements.
- Breathing and movement. Set aside time to reconnect to your breath and move your body regularly.
Curate Your Immersive Practice at Sanctuary
Having a private meditation and yoga space allows you to experience all the beauty, contentment, and appreciation in your life with the freedom to infuse some of your own gratitude practices. Each session is personalized based on your preferences with immersive on-demand classes taught by world-class teachers and filmed in the most tranquil locations. You control the content, the soundtrack, the room temperature, and the scent.
Three classes we specifically recommend for those seeking renewed positivity and happiness in 2022 include:
- Gratitude is a 50-minute private meditation that focuses on gently exploring wonder and appreciation in the body, your surroundings, and for others. The class begins with gentle movement followed by a seated meditation and rest.
- Space for Rest is a 50-minute restorative yoga and prenatal class and is beneficial for anyone needing to unwind, pregnant or not. In this practice, you’ll hold poses for 5 to 8 minutes, which calms the nervous system and gives the body and mind a safe space to rest.
- Still Waters is a 50-minute gentle flow that includes moving meditations, circular movements, and creative sequences to open the body to new beginnings.
You can even use these sessions to set intentions for the coming year since gratitude (being thankful for what you have right now) is a big part of attracting more of what you want. Book your session by clicking on one of the links above, or peruse Sanctuary’s menu of other yoga, meditation, dance, or sound healing classes that honor movement, creativity, and self-expression. New guests can also receive two sessions for the price of one.
Even during this time of uncertainty, practicing gratitude allows you to return to a sense of peace, relaxation, and inner knowing. It’s all about noticing the beauty of the here and now and enjoying the sheer pleasure of what the body and mind can experience. When you shift away from negativity and focus on what feels good, you start to feel lighter, less stressed out, and more connected. Just taking the time to breathe and appreciate that you’re alive can be completely revitalizing.
We invite you to do more things that remind you of your connection to the present moment — whether that means journaling, being more mindful, showing kindness to others, or joining us for an immersive class.
From all of us here at Sanctuary, we wish you a safe and happy new year that’s filled with love, hope, and gratitude.