In these times of change, stress, fear, and anxiety for many, I have been contemplating the nature of difficult emotions more than usual. Specifically, I have been reflecting on the practical tools and habits we can adopt to help us manage and process our emotions when they challenge us.
In writing my newsletter last week, I considered what might be helpful and useful, and to be honest, I didn’t think a new smoothie recipe was going to cut it.
Instead, I decided to wanted to share a meditation practice that has helped me address my nights of insomnia and mental stress for many years now.
In my recent article on Self-Care Practices and Habits for Spring, I came clean about my newfound love of and passion for meditation. It’s become a real guidepost for me… and especially in times of turmoil.
Most nights my bedtime routine includes time for a few short, beautifully guided meditations, and it’s not uncommon for me to fall asleep to one, especially if there is background music to soothe me. Other nights, I’m wrestling with the day’s events—and my actions or inaction in relation to them—and sleep is ultimately elusive.
On those nights, this meditation practice that I’m calling my “Whole Body Attitude of Gratitude” is a favourite, and suddenly sleep is much less difficult! It also doubles as a self-care practice because it intuitively combines meditation AND gratitude.
Scientists have studied gratitude and concluded that it offers numerous health benefits, including stronger relationships, better physical and psychological health, greater empathy, better sleep, higher self-esteem, and greater mental resilience, to name a few.
My Whole Body Attitude of Gratitude practice is simple and there is really no wrong way to proceed. Variations of it probably exist, but I like to think I invented it, because in many ways, I see it as a love letter to my body.
I typically like to start this meditation practice at my feet and work my way up. However, you could just as easily start at your head and work your way down. Either way, it has been very rare for me to actually make it from head to toe before falling asleep!
There is something about focusing my mind, distracting me from my other “Monkey Mind” problems, combined with a sincere gratitude and appreciation for everything my physical, emotional and spiritual body successfully accomplished (or simply survived) that day that I find deeply, deeply restorative.
Here’s how I do it:
Starting from my feet, I focus my attention on a specific body part, bone or organ and sincerely thank it for whatever it has enabled me to do that day. It’s that humble, and it can be as simple or as scientific as you like.
So, it could look something like this:
Dear feet, thank you for giving me a solid foundation to stand on today. I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off and you made it possible for me to go where I needed to go and get where I was going.
Thank you to my long legs for enabling me to reach the cereal on the top shelf of the pantry. You know it’s my son’s favourite and it helped us avoid an epic meltdown this morning!
Thank you to my pelvic girdle for literally helping keep my physical body connected. I am grateful to you for providing the structure and stability to keep this body moving through this sometimes crazy, exhausting life.
Dear small intestine, thank you for helping me assimilate all of my food today, helping me absorb nutrients so that I have maximum energy to tackle the day’s challenges, reduce stress, and bring a sense of appreciation, peace and patience to my role as a caregiver to one of the most important people in my life. --> That’s the nerdy nutritionist in me in case you missed it!
And so on.
If you’re not asleep by the time you get to the top (or bottom) of your body, you can repeat the same body parts or challenge yourself to identify and send gratitude to different ones that supported you throughout your day.
This is a real-life practice, whether you’re care-giving for others or just yourself (and that’s just as important), and I always give myself permission to say anything I feel moved to. It’s not always pretty, but it can feel healthy and cathartic! In the end, my gratitude notes are always original, always sincere, and often a little bit funny.
Please experiment with this Whole Body Attitude of Gratitude meditation practice. It is infinitely flexible and always unique, depending on your personality, your knowledge of the human body, and your own connection to the habit and practice of gratitude.
If you try it, let me know how you like it, or let me know what your favourite body part is and why. I’d love to know!
Life is a plate… Eat up,