Often in my yoga classes, I encourage yogis to be thankful for what they can do at that moment in the studio. My reason for this is two-fold. First, I assume many of my students are just like me and Angelica Schuyler; we are never satisfied. No matter how hard we are working or how much we have accomplished, our brains seem to focus on what we cannot do. By asking my students to appreciate where they are in the moment, I hope I am empowering them to feel good about their current abilities instead of some future (or past) success.
Secondly, many studies have demonstrated the power of integrating gratitude into daily life. Since it is not realistic to ask students to make a gratitude list at the start of each class (though I do occasionally offer a gratitude meditation), asking them to feel appreciative in a single moment is one small step in this direction.
So what can gratitude accomplish psychologically? Studies have shown that taking the time to acknowledge things for which you are grateful can increase happiness and empathy, reduce anger and aggression, and improve self-esteem and resilience. Moreover, when you share your gratitude with loved ones (or even just acquaintances), you are improving your interpersonal relationships. Finally, some research indicates that gratitude can improve health by minimizing aches and pains.
Personally, I know that whenever I am feeling depressed, anxious, or hot-tempered, working on my gratitude list generally helps alleviate these feelings and brings about a sunnier disposition. The issue is that when we are in thrall of these difficult emotions, it can be a challenge to accentuate the positive. This is why I take a few minutes each day to type up items for which I am grateful in my journal. Since it is a regular self-care practice, I am more likely to turn to it when I'm feeling down.
One of the things for which I am grateful is my yoga practice - even though it is hard sometimes. Not only has yoga brought me mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, it has also been the vehicle by which I have met some of my best friends and favorite people. Feel free to start your own journey toward gratitude by sharing things for which you are grateful in the comments!