Gratitude is the simplest and most profound way to embark on a path to wellness for our veterans and for anyone.

Lincoln said it best, “To care for him for who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.” Even the sternest oppositionists to war can find a place of gratitude in their hearts for our veterans. Deep down, we know freedom is not free.

How do we express our gratitude? Volunteering with veteran organizations or donating to support veteran health and wellness are ways of sharing our energy and extending gratitude. Giving helps us grow too.

Gratitude is Both the Beginning and an End to Healing

veteran, yoga, meditation, graititude

Veterans Yoga Project (VYP), a national non-profit organization supporting recovery and resilience among veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, takes a Zen like approach to showing gratitude, they teach it. Gratitude is, in itself, both the beginning and an end to healing. A gratitude practice can start us on our recovery path and upon healing we are grateful. VYP shows gratitude by teaching it.

VYP’s tools for Mindful Resilience includes: Breathing, Meditation, Mindful Movement (yoga poses), Guided Rest, and Gratitude. All the techniques are rooted in ancient yoga practices adapted to our era and our vets. The most important of these practices is gratitude, a timeless practice woven into every religion and spiritual practice known to man, and VYP integrates it into every aspect of its training.

The psychological and wellness benefits of a regular gratitude practice have been studied and proven time and again by Western medical science. Gratitude improves physical health, psychological health, reduces aggression, and improves the quality of sleep.

A Simple and Effective Practice

There are as many different techniques to practice gratitude as there are teachers, counselors, and therapists who teach it. VYP takes a simple approach by finishing every meditation practice with a gratitude practice. While seated, or laying down, we invite the veteran to close their eyes, place their hands over their heart, and shift their gaze inward toward their heart center. Then, from a place of gratitude in their heart, to think of someone or something they are thankful for. This simple and effective practice can be integrated into a many other practices, including movement and guided rest.

When we adopt a gratitude practice a curious thing happens, it grows naturally.

Other gratitude practices include keeping a daily journal and writing down something we are thankful for, keeping a special object in our pocket and every time we touch it pausing and thinking of something we are thankful for. The more we integrate gratitude into our daily lives, the more it transforms us.

When we adopt a gratitude practice a curious thing happens, it grows naturally. Initially, some veterans have a difficult time thinking of anything to be thankful for. After a few short meditations, movement practices, they usually have a solid list of things to be thankful for. Their practice grows!

As a yoga and meditation teacher I have heard every excuse as to why people cannot do yoga (“I can’t touch my toes”) or cannot meditate (“I have too many thoughts”). They ask me what they CAN do to improve their lives and happiness, I tell them to adopt a gratitude practice. Gratitude is the simplest and most profound way to embark on a path to wellness for our veterans and for anyone.

Learn more about how Veterans Yoga Project is supporting resilience and recovery among our veterans, families, and communities by visiting

Stories of Grateful Living
Brian Cooke

Brian Cooke

About the author

Brian Cooke is a USMC veteran and Dallas, TX based RYT-200 yoga and meditation teacher sharing his practice with veterans suffering from PTSD through his work with Veterans Yoga Project and the Lone Survivor Foundation. He writes on the topics of yoga, mindfulness, and wellness and has been published online by Elephant Journal. You can connect with him via his Yoga Alliance profile.