Being grateful seems the easiest thing to do, however, we often forget the powerful and simple mind tool. Why? Because we’re highly tuned to negativity and our thought easily drift to focus on the things that are bothering us – the exercise we didn’t do, the things we don’t like about our bodies, the issues that are making us frustrated and angry.
I remember, at a crucial time in my career as an athlete, when I felt my goals of being a champion were so far away and almost out of reach. In one of those moments of despair, my coach told me I needed to switch my thinking. I was to stop focusing on how far away my goal was and start being grateful for all of the things that were going right in my life – everything I had already achieved, not to mention the fact that I woke up each morning. I started being grateful for what had aligned me, in a positive way, to what I wanted to achieve.
Buddhist monks use gratitude as part of their mindful practice. It’s not a new concept but more recent research shows that people who count their blessings are happier and less depressed. A study at UC Berkeley shows that gratitude may even have lasting effects on the brain and that practising gratitude helps to lessen negative thoughts. So, kickstart that gratitude practice and begin each day by listing everything you are grateful for – be grateful for your body and all that it does for you, allowing you to feel good while working towards your goals.
Try this now: Meditation
One of the most magical things meditation has taught me is the feeling of returning home within, and I love sharing this with my clients and students. We get caught up in our own thinking and, often, this can disconnect our mind and body, causing more stress. We let our logical mind rule our lives and stop listening to the signals our body is giving us – powering through when we need to rest. Unfortunately, it often takes feeling stuck or unwell to make us realise it’s time to connect with the guidance we are feeling in our bodies, especially our hearts and gut. Here’s a meditation to try if you are feeling out of balance and in need of reconnecting with your inner self.
1. Sit somewhere relaxing and place one hand on your heart and the other hand on your belly.
2. Take a few deep breaths, focusing on how the breath is flowing through your entire body.
3. Imagine a bright light slowly flowing down through your body, from the top of your head to the tip of your toes.
4. As you connect with the light flowing through you, allow yourself to tune into how your body is feeling. As the light flows down, if you notice you are holding any tension in the body, ask yourself what it’s representing and then let it go.
5. When you catch yourself thinking, simply return to how you body is feeling and mentally repeat the words ‘I am returning home within and I am listening’ with each breath.
What to read this month
Buddha’s brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom by Rick Hanson with Richard Mendius
This is one of my favourite books! I recommend it if you are trying to get a greater understanding of how your brain works – how the mind affects the brain, and the negative or positive power behind the thoughts that we think. The authors tie science and research into their teachings perfectly, explaining how we can start to take charge over our minds. If you have been trying to make positive changes in your thinking and life, but perhaps have found yourself reverting to thinking negative thoughts, this book will explain why this is happening and how to work with the mind to overcome it. It’s filled to the brim with practical advice and tools, such as mindfulness exercises. If you could only have one book about the mind that will help improve your life, this is it. The authors explain how we can change negative patterns and replace them with positive ones, plus the benefits of loving, kindness and compassion practices. This truly is a book you will treasure forever and be able to use to seek guidance at different stages of your life.