The Secret to Happiness: Saying “Thank You”

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Happiness never decreases by being shared.

Ayurveda, the sister science of Yoga, teaches that “like increases like.” This inherently applies not only to what we eat, but our actions and thoughts as well. Time has proven to me that gratitude is no different. Showing gratitude for our many blessings, no matter how big or small, only adds to our list of things to be grateful for.

Here are some things I’m grateful for right now:

1. A warm home to take refuge in when the temperature (finally) drops for the winter.
2. A loving and supportive family who encourages and supports me on my path.
3. The community of creative and inspiring yoga teachers and students who are making their way across my path and into my life.

I was lucky enough to grow up with a mother who encouraged the lost art of letter-writing to me and my brother and sister. She cultivated my love for the written word since I learned to write by insisting we write thank you notes for every birthday card and Christmas gift… I had pen pals across the world, and wrote a Christmas letter to my kindergarten teacher until I was well into my 20’s.

I read The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren when I was in high school. The last chapter encouraged us to hand-write a few letters to people who had inspired, encouraged, and directed us on our path. It was the first time I had ever written a thank you card to someone who hadn’t given me “stuff”- there was no “thank you for the ___, I will use it for ___” template. This was a little more abstract, a little harder to define.

Handwritten thank you’s at the end of every year have been a whole-hearted practice of mine for some time now. I’m constantly overwhelmed by the generosity of others, but there are usually a few standouts that immediately come to mind when I think of what I’ve accomplished and where I’ve been in the last year.

Take some time to meditate on who you might consider writing a thank you note to this year. If no one immediately comes to mind, here’s a few questions to ponder:

1.  What is one major goal that you’ve crossed off of your list this year, and who helped you get there?

Regardless of what anyone says, we need each other’s support to reach our highest achievements. No one gets to where they are entirely on their own.

A few years ago when I was finishing my teacher training, a recent graduate, I’ll call her Steph, came back to help with a workshop where our teacher taught to a group of our friends and family while we trainees assisted. My participants weren’t able to make it to class, so Steph was lovely enough to step in for me. After class, I got to talk to her for a bit and she generously offered to contact her higher up at the gym she was teaching at to get me on the sub list/schedule. She didn’t know me outside of that one encounter, but she went out of her way to do me a favor. She didn’t have any idea that she was setting the path for my entire career, and neither did I.

Kind and generous people don’t go around performing acts of generosity to show how great they are, and expecting thanks in return. So, giving them thanks, even if it’s as small as a card or a note, is an unexpected kindness in return. Because of the kindness she showed me, I am quick to show that kind of solidarity and generosity whenever I get the chance.

2.  What is one smaller goals you’ve crossed off your list this year, and who helped you get there?

Did your sister come over to help you finally clean out your closet and haul all of those sweaters you haven’t worn in 5 years over to Goodwill? Did your work colleague check in with you every day for a week when that project was due to make sure you weren’t wasting away on Facebook? Celebrate the small victories with gratitude as well.

3. What is one relationship that’s been neglected over the past year, but that you want to nurture in the year ahead?

In 2013, families celebrate birthdays and holidays via Skype and FaceTime and the most we talk to our spouses or kids during the day is a quick text to find out what we should pick up for dinner. We go to college and move away, and travel and make friends and end up with loved ones all over the globe. Unfortunately, with all of the technology we possess to be dialed in 24/7, it leaves very little room for intimate, personal contact. Writing a thank you note to a friend you haven’t seen or heard from in a while, thanking them for their friendship and promising to make the effort on your part to make that relationship grow could be all it takes to find a long lost friend again.

Cultivating gratitude in our yoga practice can mean more than setting an intention each time we step on the mat. Set an intention now to cultivate gratitude and honor each new blessing as it comes.

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[Editor's note: This is a guest post from DCOY contributor Sean Devenport. She is currently completing her 500-hour RYT.]

540217_698781320137845_1802831051_nA quiet and curious observer by nature, Sean was drawn to human psychology as an undergraduate at Ripon College. Determined to learn just what it is that makes people “tick”, she travelled the globe studying some of the ways we, as humans, can be – spending a semester on the golden beaches of Australia, and another in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Sean returned home to discover the key ingredient  to understanding others was first to understand the Self. Since 2009, Sean has been a dedicated practitioner of yoga and life, dabbling in every style from Bikram to Kripalu. As a former dancer and dance enthusiast to this day, the fluidity and dance-like quality of Vinyasa was what really spoke to her soul. After studying under Gioconda Parker in 2011, Sean began teaching her own personal style of Hatha Flow, a melding of Vinyasa, the dedication to precision and alignment of Anusara, and Iyengar, and the core teachings of Hatha Yoga. Sean was highly influenced by William J Broad’s 2011 best seller The Science of Yoga, and strives to offer a safe and judgement-free environment for practitioners of every level to seek higher understanding of themSelves. Sean encourages students to pour the compassion and love that they cultivate for themselves on their mats, in to their every day interactions with others. Under the guidance of Gioconda and Christina Sell, Sean is currently pursuing her 500-hour teaching certification, The Alchemy of Flow and Form, at the San Marcos School of Yoga. Connect with Sean on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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