“Feeling gratitude, whether for others or ourselves, is not just something we should do because it is the right thing to do around the holidays. There are proven scientific benefits to feeling gratitude.”

Why is gratitude for our bodies important in your opinion?

Our bodies are where our beautiful souls reside while we are on this Earth. We need to appreciate our bodies, not criticize our flaws. Our bodies are strong and resilient and beautiful and they are unique to every human on this planet. We should feel gratitude for what our amazing bodies can do. It is because of our bodies that we can give birth to a new life, heal after an injury, get butterflies when we are in love, walk our dogs, jump in ocean waves, move through a yoga practice. This list is beautifully infinite.

What benefits do you think we receive as women from cultivating gratitude?

Feeling gratitude, whether for others or ourselves, is not just something we should do because it is the right thing to do around the holidays. There are proven scientific benefits to feeling gratitude. I just love that this is something that is studied! Feeling gratitude makes us happier. How? Gratitude boosts serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters that regulate our mood and emotions. They are often referred to as the “happy hormones” and when they are low or imbalanced, we can become depressed. To feel gratitude, you do not necessarily need to be happy in the first place, but you might find that the act of feeling and expressing gratitude makes you feel better. 

How could women cultivate gratitude on a daily basis? Do you have a practice you recommend or want to share?

I am deeply aware that the holidays can be tough for a lot of people, they are for me, but I do have a lot to be grateful for, so I build my own personal gratitude practice into my teaching.

When I teach a yoga class, I end every practice with the reminder to be grateful for the time we have collectively and have individually just spent on our mats. I also remind students to recognize what has allowed them to practice yoga: their strong bodies. I am not just reminding my students when I say this; I am also reminding myself. How you cultivate a gratitude practice could look very different from this, but catch critical thoughts as they’re happening and replace them with a moment of gratitude instead.

Some days, the things we are grateful for are obvious, and other days, they’re not. It is on those tough days that we should pause and sense gratitude for the moment. Eckhart Tolle says, “Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is true prosperity.” It is hard to sense gratitude for ourselves, or others, if we are skipping ahead to something that has not happened, yet, or we are ruminating about the past. If you cannot find anything to be grateful for in the moment, then just be grateful for being present.  Sometimes, that is enough.

What does gratitude for our body mean to you? What have you noticed over the years in regards to being grateful in sometimes challenging and difficult moments? How has it helped?

Gratitude for my body means that I am in awe of it, and I encourage other women to spend a little more time being in awe of your amazing bodies. I have had many physical challenges in my life. I have fibromyalgia, so I deal with chronic pain. I have endometriosis, so I deal with terrible menstrual cycles and I am unable to conceive a child. I have had two major shoulder surgeries in less than three years.

These things all suck, but I refuse to believe that I am somehow limited, because really, I am not. I have spent a lot of energy and time in my life thinking about the negatives of my ailments, but thinking about those things does not change anything. Around the time I became a yoga teacher, I started to become grateful for what my body can do. My body can deal with the fibromyalgia pain. My body can heal from major shoulder surgeries. My body can surf! I celebrate these things, and the more I do, the more grateful I become for what I can do, focusing less on what I can’t.

I want to circle back to yoga, to conclude, because for me, it really was what changed my life and led me to be more grateful for my body. I can say this with confidence, even though I am very limited in my physical yoga practice right now as I heal from shoulder surgery. Multiple studies have now shown that practicing yoga improves body image. It is theorized that this is because yoga allows us to improve our relationship with our bodies through movement. It allows us to be within our bodies (be present!) and notice what our bodies can do, and acknowledge that moving our bodies makes us feel physically and mentally better. Yoga taught me to observe my body and my mind without judgement, which frees up so much space for gratitude.

Jen Soulé lives in Louisville, CO with her husband, Ben, and two Old English Sheepdog rescues, Ellie and Bart. She teaches private and group classes at Yoga Junction and in the Louisville community. She recently launched a new business, Latchkey Marketing, with business partner, Erin Dahlquist. They cater to small and growing businesses that are looking to expand their customer reach through digital marketing. When Jen gets the chance, you escapes to Costa Rica to surf and lead yoga retreats. Reach out to Jen here.