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Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

DonnaIt’s important to know what you want from the holidays!  That may seem obvious, however I see so many people who are continually disappointed by the holidays because they have fantasy expectations of what they will be like…ones that are never met.

If instead, they would only take a few moments to know exactly what they wanted….dinners with friends, a spiritual connection, less work….then they could focus on their priorities and make them happen.

  As an example, I normally love to cook for a crowd, so the holidays mean lots of family and friends around my table…and me in the kitchen at the center of it all.  It also means lots of cleaning…the part I don’t love. 😉  This year, I’ve been traveling and working a lot, so the thought of all that cleaning made having them all over less appealing.  I recognized that what I really wanted was to just be with them and enjoy us all being together.  So this year…we’re headed into NYC to watch the Thanksgiving parade live and have dinner at a restaurant where we can all just relax and enjoy each other.

And for December, I’ll define my own priorities in terms of:

  • Business: do I ramp it down and take some additional time off for the month, or ramp up in time for January?
  • Personal: do I entertain, say yes to all invitations or be more selective, diet or throw caution to the winds, bake or buy, and more…
  • Physical surroundings:  do I decorate inside and out, avoid malls, travel or stay home?
  • Financial:  how much do I want to spend on gifts, entertaining and dining out?  Are there free or inexpensive options to entertainment (and in my neck of the woods there actually are wonderful concerts and decorated communities to enjoy); how much charitable giving of my money or time do I want to give?

It’s also important this time of year (every time of year actually) to make sure your boundaries are in place.  I know that I’m asked to bake or donate items for charities, pick from the giving tree, give time, money and food to so many worthy causes.  And I’d love to do it all, but I can’t…and neither can you.  So know in advance what you will give to causes, and what you will say to your network when they ask you to support their cause, or attend their $100 a person charity dinner, or pick something up for a friend, shop for a family member, or any requests that are more than you want to do.   For the rest, a polite “no, but thank you for asking” should suffice.

You want to give out of joy, not out of obligation!  I usually donate food and time to a local food bank or neighborhood kitchen.  I have my two favorite organizations that have holiday events, and if they fit into my schedule I go, otherwise I send a donation.  And beyond that I know exactly what “spare time” and money I have left for spur of the moment giving.

Give Thanks!  It’s actually been show that being grateful can enhance emotional well-being, and lead to better mental, physical and spiritual health.  You can consider a gratitude journal or an online site like http://www.gratitudelog.com.

And finally, slow down — take time to breathe, smell the pine cones and burning logs, sing songs, and savor good food.  Laugh with your friends, hug your loved ones, and set the intention for a season filled with peace, joy and health.

I wish you all of that and more.

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When we lose someone dear to us, as a client recently did when her sister and a friend’s husband both died within a short while of each other, one of the ways we grieve is to share memories of them.  In her case, it also fell to her to deliver a eulogy for each, and the resultant memories of experiences and of the essence of the person proved to be quite cathartic, and yes…celebratory.

When we remember or eulogize a person, we dig deep into our souls to share what that person meant to us.

But why wait?

Why not share how you feel with the people in your life right now?  Let them know what they mean to you.  Share the stories that make you light up inside.  And tell them that they’ve made a difference in your life.

You’ll feel great.  And you will make their day…probably their month.

What are you waiting for…go…share.  Now.

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The world is a mess.  The economy hasn’t yet bottomed out.  People are losing jobs, or having hours, benefits and salaries cut. We’re stressed out, overwhelmed, and told it’s just going to get worse before it gets better.  It’s bad news after bad news.  So how can you be happy?

Happiness is a choice.  That’s right, you can choose whether or not you want to be happy despite what’s going on around you.  Some steps you can take to make that choice:

* Practice gratitude.  Whether you are feeling truly grateful or not, practicing gratitude will lift your spirits. Keep a gratitude journal where you list five things you are grateful for each day.  Start each day by mentally listing all the things you are grateful for, even if it’s just that you’ve awakened in a comfortable bed [and if you haven’t…it’s time for a new mattress 😉 ]  or that the sun is shining.

* Practice saying “thank you” to people in your life.  Call a teacher that made a difference in your life.  Let a friend know how much they mean to you. Acknowledge your spouse for all the ways you appreciate who they are and what they do for you.

* Plug into the universe.  Everyone will do this in their own way.  For some it’s relationship to God, for others relationship to nature. Music and dancing is the connection point for some, meditation and prayer for others, while a hike in the woods with all senses working is what works for others.  Find your connection. When you feel connected to spirit, to nature, to every live being in the world, it will change your perspective about the daily challenges we each face.

* Practice compassion.  We often judge people based on the stories we make up about why they are behaving in a certain way.  It’s possible that that “terrible waitress” has a sick child at home and could use a little compassion.

* Unplug from your negative thoughts and counter-productive beliefs.  Just because you have a thought or belief doesn’t mean it’s true or real!

You can choose happiness; the choice is yours.

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“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
G. K. Chesterton

Numerous studies have proven that gratitude plays a significant role in a person’s sense of well-being.  I encourage my clients (and everyone around me) to practice gratitude daily by greeting each day with five things you are grateful for,  saying a daily prayer of gratitude, or just mentally listing your gratitudes for the day.

That daily gratitude results in higher levels of enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy should not come as a surprise to anyone.  However it also results in increased alertness, increased creativity and expansive thinking, less depression and stress, and… people who practice daily gratitudes are more likely to take better care of themselves (eating better and exercising more regularly) and also tend to make more progress toward personal goals.

People who practice gratitude ARE happier!  And we all want that.  Like any new habit, you need to build your gratitude muscle in order to reprogram your subconscious mind.

How can you begin to practice gratitude?

Look at your surroundings.  Start by listing all the things in your environment you are grateful for.  Everything from the fact that your internet connection is working (and it must be if you’re reading this), to the people and things you love.

Take a trip to the beach, a local park, even the mall.  Notice all the things there that you enjoy.  Are you grateful for all the laughing children?  The beauty of nature?  The sounds of the surf, or the music playing in the car on the way to your destination?   All the green lights that you sailed though on your way.  Pay attention.  Enjoy.

Share your gratitude.  Acknowledge the people around you for the things that they do.  Thank your parents for all they have done for you.  Track down a former teacher and acknowledge them for the difference they made in your life.  Write a friend a letter of thank you, just for being your friend.  Share the thanks!

So take up a challenge…practice gratitude for the next 30 days and see how it changes your life.

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RESOURCES FOR GRATITUDE
Head on over to http://www.unleashgratitude.com:3000/ and subscribe to their no-cost weekly Gratitudenews—a “weekly shot of gratitude in three minutes or less”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9z2ELaBVJY  The gratitude dance! This will make you smile.

http://www.gratefulness.org/t/abc.htm  The ABCs of gratitude

http://www.acomplaintfreeworld.org   Creating a habit of being complaint-free.

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