As we enter the season of gift-giving, we may find ourselves saying “thanks” more often than usual. Saying thanks can become habitual, but there’s an opportunity to feel thankful, too, if we choose it. Embodying gratitude is more than a quick “thank you” when a stranger holds a door open or a way to end a transactional conversation. Building your capacity for gratitude isn’t difficult but it takes practice.
The holidays can bring feelings of stress and anxiety, and as we may find it more challenging to tap into feelings of gratitude, here are five guided meditations to fill your heart and help you re-discover the simple joys of giving thanks.
5 Guided Meditations to Fill Your Heart with Gratitude
A 10 Minute Meditation to Notice, Shift, and Rewire Your Brain
1. Begin by finding a comfortable seat, your eyes can either be closed or open with a soft gaze for this practice. Be sure that you’re sitting comfortably and to the best of your ability, see if you can sit with a straight spine. To find that perfect point of balance, you might sway back and forth as well as side to side until you find your ideal seat. Feel your body settle.
2. Now, take a few slow breaths. Let go of any attempt to control or shape the breath. Let it move in and out naturally. Allow yourself to relax and let go of any tension or stress. Feel a sense of relaxed alertness, grounded yet present.
3. Start by noticing. Notice your current state of mind. What’s the current tone of mood? How are you feeling right now? See if you can simply notice with no judgments of good or bad.
4. Now, let’s shift by taking an inventory of all that you have in your life to be grateful for. Feel gratitude for the people and circumstances that led you to this moment here today. Offer gratitude to your parents and your grandparents. Feel gratitude for the opportunities you’ve had in life, education, travel and work experience.
5. Consider the health of your mind and body. Offer gratitude for the health of your body. Feel grateful for your mind and intellect. Feel your appreciation for the talents and skills you have. Now, consider your gratitude for the people in your life. Offer your gratitude to your immediate family members. Feel gratitude for your extended family. Feel appreciation for your coworkers and friends. Extend gratitude toward the mentors in your life who helped you grow into the person you are today.
6. Now, consider your gratitude for the earth. For water. Food. And the air that you breathe in every single day. And now, simply choose the one thing that you feel most grateful for in this moment. Relax every muscle in your body.
7. Let’s go deeper into the experience of gratitude through a short visualization. Begin by bringing to mind someone in your life who you care for deeply. A parent. A spouse. A child. Or a close friend. Imagine them in your mind’s eye. And recall a moment when you felt a particularly strong sense of connection with this person. This moment could be recent or in the distant past. Allow your mind to go back to this sacred moment of connection. Remember where you were. Picture the scene, the location, the people, the time of day, anything else that you see.
8. See if you can go back to what you were feeling in that moment. Love presence, contentment, or true connection. Notice any sensations or emotions that arise in your mind and body. And see if you can let go of any judgments. Good or bad. Try not to analyze. Simply allowing whatever you are feeling to come and go.
9. Focus on one aspect of this moment that you feel particularly grateful for. The person. The setting. Your emotional state. And let this experience of gratitude flood your entire mind and body. Take just a few more breaths. Continue to focus on this one quality of gratitude.
10. Let’s rewire the benefits of this practice. Savor this experience of gratitude for just 15 seconds. Really let it sink in. When you’re ready, open your eyes fully. Slowly come back into the room. Move any parts of your body that might feel stiff.
11. And as you go through the rest of your day, consider expressing your appreciation for the person you chose in this practice, it could be a text, an email, a card or simply a mental wish for them. Then notice how this expression of gratitude changes your day.
A 12-Minute Meditation to Cultivate Gratitude for Small Things With Steve Hickman
1. First, take some time to make a list, perhaps writing it down, or a mental list, whatever allows you to make some space to consider what you are grateful for and perhaps often overlook, wherever you happen to be. Focus on the small and seemingly insignificant things. Maybe you notice the smell of coffee in the morning. A particular view that you are fond of. The texture of a blanket, a genuine smile from your beloved. Buttons.
2. Let yourself savor each item on your list. Let it land, noticing what it can be like to simply acknowledge your gratitude, becoming “easily pleased.” I find myself feeling gratitude for fresh water that flows out of the tap and into the drain in a heartbeat, but brings joy, brings satisfaction, allows me to wash my hands or to have a drink of water. In a moment, it’s gone.
3. Consider the infinite sources of those little things you feel grateful for. Water is beautiful, but what of that water, where did it come from? It fell from the sky and gathered in creeks and streams, then rivers and lakes, and perhaps evaporated and rained again, and gathered somewhere, and entered into pipes that came to my house and let the water out of the tap and into the drain, and was gone. All of the people, all of the causes and conditions, the construction, the gathering, the forces of nature that converged for this one moment: What are you grateful for? To whom are you grateful, perhaps acknowledging the people known and unknown that contributed to this experience, to this particular cup of tea? To this comfortable chair?
4. Ask yourself: How do you feel? What do you notice is present for you right now? This is a practice you can do any time, on a regular basis. For now, do you notice any joy, any comfort? Savor that.
5. Notice if anything unpleasant arises. Perhaps you’re feeling badly because you’re not feeling enough gratitude, or the feeling doesn’t bring you as much joy as you would like—could you let go of that? Could you acknowledge your intentions to simply open up to things in your environment that you’re grateful for? Let go of needing to have a certain feeling. As we close this practice, pat yourself on the back for having intentionally let go of striving for at least a little while, and know that this practice can build on itself with time. One key to knowing joy is being easily pleased. We allow ourselves to be easily pleased, and let gratitude land. Let it make its mark on our hearts, in our awareness. Could it soften and warm our hearts, our experience? Our way of encountering the world?
A Guided Meditation to Savor the Moment with Elaine Smookler
1. Use the breath to anchor yourself in the present moment. Our minds are always so easily pulled to busyness. Bring particular attention to feeling the breath, or something in the body, as you bring your shoulders down and orient your attention toward gratitude.
2. Next, bring to mind a sight you are grateful for. Move through your senses, and find one thing to start with that you appreciate that comes to you from the world of sight, if you have this available. It could be a color…a shadow…a shape…a movement. Remember, it will never be like this again. What do you see right now, and can you feel grateful that you get to see this, whatever it is?
3. Now, shift to a scent you appreciate. As you continue to work with your senses, now take time to tune in with appreciation to an aroma. What do you notice? What about that glorious or interesting or subtle smell is making you smile? It could be gratitude for something familiar: a scent that brings comfort, upliftment; or maybe it’s something you’ve never smelled before, and it just piques your curiosity, ignites you, enlivens you.
4. Moving on, tune into any sounds around you. Allowing the world of smell to gently recede into the background, on an in-breath, shift your attention to your ears and the world of sound. Maybe notice what it feels like to really listen. How many sounds can you notice, and can you feel grateful that you’re able to experience sound, if you are? What can you notice about these sounds—far away? close? Perhaps you could play a piece of music that brings you joy, and have gratitude that it’s so available? Or maybe it’s the sound of children laughing, the sound of loved ones breathing, the sound of the beating of your own heart.
5. The world of touch and texture beckons us next. We find so much to be grateful for in touch! If there’s someone near who you can hug or who can hug you, notice how this makes you feel filled with gratitude for the joy of human contact. Or perhaps you have a beautiful pet that you can stroke and cuddle, or some lovely material with a texture that feels warm to the touch, soft, evocative. Let your senses ignite your gratitude! There’s so much to be appreciative of.
6. Shift to noticing and appreciating objects around you. Now take a moment to look around: Look down, look up, and from side to side. Appreciate how much effort must have gone into anything at all you own or use. Someone conceived of the need and many people worked on the details of the design. Much care even went into the packaging to deliver your item to you safely. What do you feel when you let yourself be grateful that all that talent went into making your life a little easier?
7. As you end this practice, carry this attitude of gratitude with you. One last little grateful tip: Why not offer your thanks to each person who does anything at all for you today? Even if it is their job to help you? When you’re grateful, when you let your heart open up and be filled with appreciation, notice how being grateful makes you feel.
8. Close with gratitude. I’m so grateful that you tuned in to this gratitude practice, and I appreciate your time, your effort, and your energy to be present, awake, and alive to your precious life. Have a beautiful day.
A 12-Minute Meditation to Cultivate Embodied Gratitude with Shelly Tygielski
1. Let your body relax and soften. Bring your attention to your breath, breathing deeply into your belly. Your body is beginning to settle. You can either close your eyes or soften your gaze. Taking a long, slow, deep inhale, remind yourself of your body’s inherent awareness, ease, and vitality.
2. Begin by directing your attention to the top of your head, and as thoughts arise, just let them be. Be aware of any tension in your scalp, and on your next inhalation, pause and breathe out gratitude. Place the palms of your hands over your eyes gently. As you breathe in, see if you can soften your eyes. As you breathe out, let go of all the hardness, the tightness around your eyes.
3. On your next inhalation, bring your awareness to your nostrils, to the place where you can actually feel the air entering and passing out of your nostrils. Let your concentration deepen.
4. Take your time as you continue moving down through the body, inhaling, accepting any tension, and exhaling as you soften and relax. Soften your mouth, your throat, neck, and shoulders. Continue on to relaxing your arms, your fingers, your spine and chest, feeling your ribcage expand as you inhale. Move your awareness all the way down your legs, into your feet.
5. To complete this practice, slowly bring your awareness back upward, from your feet to your legs to your pelvic area and stomach… your chest, your heart… your shoulders, your neck, your face, breathing in and out smoothly as your awareness travels up and through your body. When you’ve reached the top of your head, return your awareness to your breath.
6. From this place of physical gratitude, bring to your mind’s eye somebody who you feel a great amount of love for. Notice how this feels in your heart. Notice the sensations around your heart: warmth, openness, tenderness.
7. Let this individual know how grateful you are for what they mean to you, what they’ve given you, completing the sentence: I am grateful for your presence in my life, and this is why… And just take a moment to list the reasons. Allow this person to embrace you, and feel the joy in your own heart as they accept your gratitude.
8. As you depart from them, bring your attention to a person you barely know at all. Maybe it was the woman who checked out your groceries at the supermarket yesterday, or the server at the restaurant you frequent.
9. Let this individual know why you are grateful for them: I am grateful for your presence in my life, and this is why… And take a moment to list the reasons, embracing them, feeling the joy in your heart as if they’ve accepted your gratitude.
10. And then, departing from them, envision yourself standing in front of yourself, and say to yourself: I offer my gratitude for the safety and well-being I have been given. I offer my gratitude for the blessing of this earth that I have been given. I offer my gratitude for the measure of health I have been given. I offer my gratitude for the family and friends I have been given. I offer my gratitude for the teachings and lessons I have been given. I offer my gratitude for this life that I have been given. And let yourself know: I am grateful for who I am and for this life, and this is why…
11. Wish yourself safety and joy and happiness, feeling that your heart center is filled with compassion and gratitude and that you’re looking forward to what’s to come, because no matter what you have to face or who you have to face in your life, you can do so with gratitude in your heart for every day that you wake up and are given another day here on Earth.
12. In closing, become more conscious of your breath. You can wiggle your toes and your fingers, and slowly open your eyes or widen your gaze. Feel free to sit in this space for a while. You are free to just be.
A Guided Loving-Kindness Meditation with Jessica Morey
1. Start by taking a moment to listen to your body. Is there anything that you could adjust? Is there anything that you could soften or invite to soften? Do you soften your heart, your chest, your belly?
2. Allow yourself to surrender to gravity. Allow yourself to surrender and connect with the feeling of being supported.
3. Bring your hand onto your body. You might bring it onto your chest, your heart or maybe somewhere else on your body. Let your hands be a soothing, kind support as we continue to go through this practice.
4. Allow yourself to feel the support and kindness from just the touch of your own hand, and wish yourself well. It can be difficult to wish yourself well, so feel free to try a few different ways. You could take a moment to think of all the qualities you love about yourself, or you could think of someone who really loves you and sees your goodness. It could be a partner, a friend or even a pet. Take this moment and connect with your own goodness.
5. Take a moment and repeat phrases of loving-kindness and self-compassion. You can try some of these phrases and see what resonates with you. May I be happy just as I am. May my body be healthy and strong. I love myself completely.
6. Repeat one word or phrase while remaining connected to your body and feel yourself soaking up these well wishes, washing every cell of your body with happiness and ease.
7. When you’re overflowing with feelings of love and gratitude, you can begin to shift these feelings to someone else. Bring into mind someone in your life that makes it easy for you to love them. Wish for them to be well, to be happy, and to be at ease.