Sharing My Gratitude

Written by Robyn

Robyn's FamilySo I am starting off the blog this week with the theme of the month: Gratitude.  Of course, Thanksgiving was the perfect time to really think about what you are grateful for and all the things you should be appreciating on a daily basis.

When I narrow it down, here’s what I am grateful for:

My Family and Friends

Despite the freezing temperatures in Chicago, I always look forward to the winter season because that means the holidays are here, and that means my loved ones will all be together.  I have a small extended family, which should make it easy to all get together, but sadly, getting everyone together under one roof is actually a rare occasion.

That’s why the holiday season is so important to me.

I have family members fly across the country to come home for the holidays. I have two younger sisters in college out-of-state.  I have cousins who have grown up and scattered themselves from California to New York to Texas.  I have high school friends and college roommates who come home for the holidays.

Between job commitments and school and geographic locations, it’s tough to find time to get everyone together. During the year, I can always count on phone calls, emails, and even Facebook statuses to know what everyone is up to, but those things could never compare to being face-to-face with those I care about most.

I’m so grateful for this one time a year when we can all gather to catch up and hear about each other’s lives in person.

My Health and Well-Being

I have been quite lucky this year!  I can’t even complain of a simple cold that I got this year, let alone H1N1!  (Knock on wood)…

I have never felt better.

After leaving my horrid corporate job, I truly rid myself of a lot of stress and negative energy that I had built up day after day. At the time, I didn’t even realize what an effect it had on my well-being.  Many times, I would feel tired or sluggish or just plain lazy after a day at my desk, but now it’s just the opposite.

I have been revived!  I am bursting with energy and so over-the-top happy that I have actually been stopped in the middle of the grocery store and asked why I was so “smiley”. I didn’t even have an answer… I am just plain happy with my life and happy with myself.  I find that I am more active and taking better care of myself, and I am so grateful for my recent life changes and the positive effect they have had on my body and mind.

Speaking of happiness, I’d also like to do a little shout out for Molly’s online course, The Joy Equation: A 30-Day Guide To Living Life On Purpose.  I recently completed The Joy Equation and found that it gently guided me as I dealt with my Quarterlife Crisis head on.  It helped me to get all my thoughts out on paper so that I could consider what my current concerns were and work through each one.  It guided me through forming a plan to take one day at a time with the only goal being to lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

I definitely give this course some credit for my current level of satisfaction regardless of all the uncertainties that lie ahead. And I am definitely grateful for that!

– See more at: http://www.stratejoy.com/2009/11/sharing-my-gratitude/#sthash.7s9qJt86.dpuf

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How Gratitude Leads to More Abundance

Written by Doniree

Books to read.  Blog posts to write.  Clients to please.  Calls to make.  Calls to take.  Relationships to maintain.  Love to give.  Love to receive.  Family.  Friends.  Business.  Work.  Yoga.  Physical health.  Spiritual health.  Mental health.  Emotional health.  Happy hours.  Brunch.  Potluck Sunday.  A night to myself.  A night out with friends.  Dinner.  Text messages.  Emails.  To-do lists.  Blog business.  New ideas.  New year.  New projects.  New.  Everything.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed, right?  To buckle under the weight of it all, whatever it all is for you.  How did I get to this place where there is SO MUCH TO DO? People to please, deadlines to meet, expectations to live up to.  I frequently say, “I’d rather be busy than bored,” and while that’s true – how true is it also that just once, just right this second, just for a day… we’d like to remember what bored feels like.

We are living the abundance we demanded

Chelsea and I have discussed these crushing moments more than once.  20-Something Women who juggle life, work, dreams, love, emotions, the QLC, wine, cheese, and living – just like so many others.  And in one of those moments, she said something that I’ve never forgotten:

Isn’t it funny?  How we’re exactly where we wanted to be, exactly where we asked the Universe to put us, and yet we’re frustrated and tired and overwhelmed?  We’re living the abundance we desired, the abundance we demanded — and yet, where is our gratitude?

How true is that?  I asked for this. I asked for clients that were interesting and whose work I believed in.  I have them.  I asked for deep relationships and friends that are like family – in cities across the country and scattered around the world.  I have them. I asked for a lover and a best friend who shared the same dreams and direction as I did.  I have him.  I asked for creative opportunities, and here I am.

Life is abundant. Opportunities are abundant, and when I can remember that I’m exactly where I wanted to be and instead of sighing in exasperation, I cry out in gratitude – suddenly I can handle it.  Suddenly, the unmanageable is manageable.  The hurdles are jumped.  The edge is pushed and changed.

For this, I am grateful.

As I write this, it’s Saturday night.  I have a glass of wine next to me, and BoyfriendMan works on his laptop at the kitchen table next to me.  For that, I am grateful.  For a relationship that supports my creative bursts at 10pm on a Saturday night, I am grateful.  I have a to-do list a mile long, but for that, I am grateful.  I have steady income and work for clients who challenge me creatively and whose mission I support with every ounce of my being.  For that, I am grateful. Tomorrow is Sunday, and I’ll attend a yoga teacher training class, have some time to spend at home packing for my upcoming move, and will spend tomorrow evening with friends-like-family at our weekly potluck.  For the chance to further study yoga and the opportunity to soon teach, I am grateful.  For a lifestyle that allows me the freedom to pack up and move across the country in the name of exploration and adventure, I am grateful.  For friends-like-family and a social calendar full of rich and loving relationships, I am grateful.

I could see that above paragraph as one big to-do list.  Write this blog post, pack for the move, show up to Potluck, get your work done, cross this off, maintain this, be attentive to that.  I could.  But that would make things like creativity and relationships a task – and they’re not.  They’re evidence of abundance in my life, and for that – I am grateful.

And if I’ve learned anything about gratitude this year, it’s that the expression of it – for the immense and for the mundane, – almost always guarantees MORE of the goodness.  More abundance, more love, more living.

Even when I struggle, I find those things that I’m grateful for and I focus in hard on those things.  The stressors start to melt, and calm sets in.  Gratitude is powerful.

No matter where you are, there is at least one thing in your life your are most immensely grateful for.  What is it?

– See more at: http://www.stratejoy.com/2010/12/how-gratitude-leads-to-more-abundance/#sthash.xD6DIJpk.dpuf

9 New Ways to Practice Gratitude

Written by Molly Mahar

While watching Brené Brown on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday this weekend, I was reminded of the remarkable link between joy and gratitude.

In her book The Gifts of Imperfection she writes, “Without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice.  And both joy and gratitude were described as spiritual practices that were bound to a belief in human interconnectedness and a power  greater than us.”

As I was rereading the chapter about the connection between joy, gratitude and vulnerability, I found this quote:

 Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. –Marianne Williamson  

This is what I believe. Absolutely.

Instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop or remaining convinced our joy will disappear the moment we acknowledge it, we need to be grateful as hell for all the wonder, victories, small moments and grace in our life.

So how do you practice gratitude, outside of the nightly gratitude journal or blessings list?  Here are some new ideas!

9 New Ways to Practice Gratitude

(click here to tweet this list)

1. Keep a Daily Calendar of Gratitude

gratitude calendar

Instead of keeping a traditional gratitude journal — create a daily calendar that you update each year with one thing for which you are grateful.  Each year adds another layer of thankfulness and allows you to savor your past.

2. Mark Anniversaries with Milestones & Predictions

anniversary

On your wedding or work anniversary, your birthday or any other momentous occasion — start a new tradition.  Write a letter celebrating the highlights of your year and your predictions for the next year.  Seal the letter and open it together on your next anniversary.

My husband and I have done this since we were dating and have a stack of envelopes to reread each year. (We still don’t own a sail boat, but according to our predictions, it’s coming!)

3. Share Gratitude at the Dinner Table

sharing gratitude at dinner party

Grace is lovely as well, but if you’re gathering a mix of people with different beliefs, sharing one “gratitude” from that day or week is a beautiful way to connect before you share a meal.  I love doing this every night, not just at dinner parties or Thanksgiving.

4. Express your Thankfulness for the Hard Stuff

journaling the tough stuff

We all know life can be messy.  Instead of regretting your mistakes or remaining caught up in the ways you were wronged, take a moment to think about what the challenges have taught you.  What can you be grateful for?  What lessons have you learned?  What do you now know about yourself?  How have the hardships served you?

5. Thank the People behind the Service

Will Corby pouring hearts on his Cappuccinos

Every day there are people in the background of our life — the barista, the public groundsman, the grocer, the banker.  Take a minute to ask their name and then sincerely thank them for the ease they bring to your life. Without them, would you be able to do what you do?  I think not.

(I know I could never function without someone caffeinating me!)

Show some gratitude for the human beings who make your life run smoothly.

6. Write a Letter of Gratitude

letter writing

Have a teacher, coach, co-worker, old friend or mentor who has made a difference in your life?  When is the last time you told them?  Sit down and write a handwritten note of thanks for the difference they have made in your life.  Bonus points if you can deliver it and read it out loud to them!

7. Start Girl Time with Celebrations not Bitching

share celebrations with girlfriends

It’s such a nice feeling to trust your gal pals with your crazy boss stories or hideous date experiences… But before you dive into the complaints and snark, make a sincere effort to share the highlights of your last week.  It’s not bragging, it’s sharing the positive experiences that mattet to you so that you can celebrate together.

8. Say “Thank You” for the Mundane

he cooks breakfast

Sometimes we get so used to our partner, our mama or our kids doing the things they’ve always done — making breakfast, taking the trash out, sending us surprise packages, dressing themselves in the morning — that we forget to appreciate these small gestures.  Don’t take those tiny moments for granted! Start with a small, specific and frequent, “Thank you.”

9. Appreciate a Force Bigger than Yourself

snowfall

Next time you are outside, instead of checking your iPhone or rushing to get back to your real life — enjoy the moment.  Raise your face to the sky and give thanks to the Universe that has created snowflakes, streaks of sunshine that make their way between skyscrapers, sunny beaches, forests full of pine trees, autumn leaves or gently rushing streams.  Nature is an incredible presence that we can easily overlook.

Exercise your gratitude muscle by offering a quick prayer of thanks to something greater than yourself.

———————————————-

What expressions of gratitude do you practice?

What other suggestions do you have?  I want to hear them!

XOXO

Molly-Sig211

– See more at: http://www.stratejoy.com/2013/03/9-new-ways-to-practice-gratitude/#sthash.Hhyms54r.dpuf

7 Ways Practicing Gratitude Makes You Happier

Written by Molly Mahar

Were you ever told to count your blessings when you were a kid?  Especially when you didn’t get something you really really wanted?  And perhaps you rolled your eyes or stomped around for awhile because you didn’t want to count your freakin’ blessings.  What you really wanted was that new Paula Abdul cassette…

Okay two separate issues here:

1. That I just admitted I owned & lusted after Paula Abdul cassettes

2. That your parents were right about that counting of blessings thing

For the purpose of this post, we’re going to focus on #2.

Counting your blessings, in positive psychology speak, is called Expressing Gratitude.  And is has been scientifically proven to make you happier.

First things first– A few important clarifications.

What is gratitude? Gratitude is many things, but it is definitely larger than the simple expression “thank you” for a gift or kind act.  Gratitude is appreciation for your present reality, expressing love to those you care for, not taking things for granted, being present to the wonder & fortune in the moment, thanking your higher power, and savoring the sweet.  As defined by prominent gratitude writer, Robert Emmons, it is “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.”

How do we practice expressing gratitude? My favorite way to work gratitude into your life is to keep a gratitude journal.  Different set ups work for different people, but I recommend spending time at least once a week writing down 5 things for which you are grateful.  These can be big, small, exciting or mundane.  Take time to reflect on your personal contributions, others around you, or meaningful events in the world.

If you need a kick start to incorporating gratitude in your life, spend a week writing daily in your journal. List as many things as you can thing of that you were grateful that day: I am grateful that my sandwich was perfectly prepared at Macrina Bakery, I am grateful that my sister wants to organize a group to see the new Warren Miller movie, I am grateful that I got the chance to catch up with Heather, etc, etc.  I made lists like this for months while I was traveling and it never failed to remind me of all the good in my life.

The following is list is from very cool book The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky.  Ms. Lyubomirsky is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.  She is also a happiness smarty pants, having won many honors for her research including a multi-year grant (worth over a million bucks!) from the National Institute of Mental Health to fund her work on becoming happier.

And are you ready for the promised list?  Good!  It helps to understand some of the theory behind that statement, especially for your pragmatic folk out there.

7 Ways Practicing Gratitude Makes You Happier
By Sonja Lyubomirsky

  1. Grateful thinking promotes the savoring of positive life experiences. By relishing and taking pleasure in some of the gifts of your life, you will be able to extract the maximum possible satisfaction and enjoyment from your current circumstances.
  2. Expressing gratitude bolsters self-worth and self-esteem.  When you realize how much people have done for you or how much you have accomplished, you feel confident and efficacious.
  3. Gratitude helps people cope with stress & trauma.  The ability to appreciate your life circumstances may be an adaptive coping method by which you positively reinterpret stressful or negative life experiences.
  4. The expression of gratitude encourages moral behavior.  Studies have shown that grateful people are more likely to help others and less likely to be materialistic.
  5. Gratitude can help build social bonds, strengthening existing relationships and nurturing new ones.  Keeping a gratitude journal, for example, can produce feelings of greater connectedness with others.  And it’s been shown that people who feel gratitude toward particular individuals (even when they never directly express it) experience closer and “higher-quality” relationships with them.
  6. Expressing gratitude tends to inhibit comparisons with others.  If you are genuinely thankful for what you have, you are less likely to pay close attention to what the Joneses have.
  7. The practice of gratitude is incompatible with negative emotions and many actually diminish or deter such feelings as anger, bitterness and greed.

Obviously, practicing gratitude is something I recommend as a “Stratejoy–Strategy for Joy”.  Not every strategy works for every person, but give it a heartfelt whirl before you scoff.  Break out that bedside journal that hosts grievances against your boss, lists of restaurants to try, and many entries in which you proclaim tomorrow is the day you start running at 6 am (oh, wait, that’s my old journal).  Put it to good use tonight- with a list of gratitude.

(I’ll start!  I am grateful for you visiting my site and reading my blog entry. Your interest & support mean oodles to me.  Thank you, dear reader!)

– See more at: http://www.stratejoy.com/2008/11/gratitude-makes-you-happier/#sthash.svcNN2m4.dpuf

Looking Back to move Forward

Written by Nikki

2010.  It sounds like the future, doesn’t it?  Twenty-ten.  It doesn’t sound like a real year to me, and yet, it is, and very soon, it will be a real year in my past.  Unbelievable.

The holidays are here and with them comes the end of the year and inevietably, self-reflection.  Preparing ourselves for our winkingly optimisitc new year’s resolution, we look back on our year to see where we went wrong, what we want to do better, what we want to change in the clean slate of next year.  While I’m all for that, and a big fan of positive, purposeful change, I think part of why we all break our resolutions (and SO soon – most years, I don’t even get through January!!) is that we’re forming them from a negative place.  We resolve to eat healthier because we feel fat.  We resolve to work harder because we feel unsuccessful.

What if, instead of focusing on what we didn’t do in the last year, we focused on what we did do, what made us feel happy and alive, and resolved to bring more experiences like that into our lives, so that our ultimate resolutions were to have more of those good feelings, spurred on by happy memories instead of guilt and disappointment?

I’m gonna try it.  2010 has been a freaking ridiculous, cry-until-my-eyes-won’t-open, laugh-until-I-can’t-breathe, terrifyingly joyful year.  There are a lot of things I could resolve to change in my life and be more healthy, more productive, more stable.  But when I think about those things, I feel bad; noticing the lack of them invalidates the amazing year I’ve had.  So, instead, here’s a reflection on my past year and some truly positive intentions/resolutions for 2011.

I intend to trust with an open mind & open heart.

The biggest thing 2010 has taught me is to let go of control.  My whole life, I’ve always had a plan and tried to control how that plan unfolds.  I held on too tightly to the things I thought I wanted and I pushed the things I didn’t think I wanted away too forcefully.  It led to confusion, frustration, and, interestingly, left me feeling powerless.  2010 demolished all the plans I’d made for myself.  It swooped in under the fireworks at Airlie Beach, Australia, picked me up & started running, like I was a football under the arm of the quaterback, and that dude is way too burly to fight.  2010 gave me what I wanted when I didn’t want it; it gave me a job when I was about to leave, an apartment when I was furniture-less, an adventure when I was getting settled.  But, as terrifying as it was to be plowing along headfirst down the football field, it was reassuring to remember I’ve got the QB on my side, and the less I resisted, the more fun it became.

I couldn’t have predicted even a third of this year; it knocked me off my feet & onto my ass more than a few times, but I’m so glad I went along for the ride.  It brought more amazing things than I ever could’ve planned for.  Being open to the unexpected things that pop up in life makes life less of a struggle and more fun, and makes me a hell of a lot happier.

I intend to seek out new experiences.

I started the year across the world from home, living with a family that took me in the first week they met me, taking a road trip with a boy I’d known less than a month.  It continued with a planned move across the country, a road trip to see  the US, which, in the blink of an eye, changed to 10 days roadtripping California with my momma and a month of crashing on friends couches.  I acted in a major feature film.  I moved in with strangers.  I took 6 weeks to fly around the country & see cities I’d never been to and friends I’d been dying to visit.  I started a new job, and got thrown right into the thick of it immediately.  I started writing for Escape Hatcher and Stratejoy, and found this amazing community of people on the internet.

Not every year will be as full of major adventures as 2010 has been, I realize.  If they all were, I’d probably end up having a mental breakdown just from pure exhaustion!  But I want to keep in mind that experiencing new things on a fairly regular basis keeps me from getting bored & feeling stagnant.  Even if it’s just taking a Saturday to explore an LA neighborhood I haven’t been to, or learning something new just for fun, I need to create adventures for myself to keep myself feeling fulfilled & creatively challenged.

I intend to be patient & remember that my path is specific to me.

Most of the anxiety in my life comes from me comparing myself to other people.  I look at my friends lives, especially those that are married with career-type jobs, and I feel like I’m not where I “should” be.  But when I was traveling this year and really in the moment, I felt so happy, and really felt a clarity that I am exactly where I need to be and everything is unfolding in its own time.  If I’d forced myself to have the life I thought I was supposed to have, I wouldn’t have been able to take most, if any of the opportunities that came my way this year.  Not to mention, I’d probably be miserable!

It can be hard to hold onto sometimes, but I will keep reminding myself of how it felt to scuba dive the reef, to cruise down the CA coast, to kayak Austin, the thrill of having no idea what’s next or who I’ll meet – to combat those days of low-down-dirty shoulds.  I’ve never dreamed of a normal white-picket-fence life, and even when I do have a career & a family, it will be my way, because it’s my unique life.  I’m exactly where I need to be, right here, right now, and it’s incredible.

2010 has been what I needed it to be and I trust 2011 will be too.  It’s been a year of feet on the dashboard, toothy smiles and too-loud laughs, sing-alongs, hammocks, looking down on the clouds, long hugs, dreams fulfilled, anxiety and excitement, new friends, old friends, take-offs and landings, Skype calls, ridiculous parties, nesting instincts, nomadic whims, writing and writing and writing.  It’s been a year for me to wander and a year for me to sit still.  2010 has made me grow and made me think; it’s prepared me for the hailstorm of joy & productivity that 2011 will bring.  And I can’t wait.

[photo: new years 2010 in Australia – I’m far right]

– See more at: http://www.stratejoy.com/2010/12/looking-back-to-move-forward/#sthash.UigKxotA.dpuf

Gratitude is an Attitude

Written by Molly Mahar

Be GratefulSeriously?  That title totally cracks me up.  How much more of a dork could I be?

Yet, I believe it.

Gratitude isn’t something that should just be practiced during the Thanksgiving season.  It’s a way of living, an attitude of appreciation for the amazing world we inhabit.

The Big Man and I got in the habit of consciously practicing gratitude when we were traveling the globe.  When I’d start whining about something ridiculous (What?  No free peanuts with my beer at this sidewalk bar in Phnom Penh? Seriously?), he’d kick me and ask, “Did you practice your gratefuls today?”

“Practicing our gratefuls” was a daily exercise that included a distinct breathing pattern, a long walk, and an emerging spiral of gratitude.  I’d imagine all the things I was thankful for starting very close to my own life and ending very wide with thankfulness for the incredible Universe.

Here’s what it might have looked like on any given day:

  • In my own internal sphere: “I’m thankful for my clean bill of health,  saucy sense of humor, easy smile, the continued ability to do backhandsprings, loving nature, natural talent to sleep on any mode of transportation, slightly photographic memory, and my adorable seashell ears.”
  • In my external, yet personal, sphere: “I’m thankful for a world class education, the incredible trip I am on, the fact that I’ve always had a roof over my head, my solidly great childhood complete with a “saved by the bell” high school experience, my favorite backpacking skirt, Quincy my trusty Subaru waiting at home for me, and the paintings we’re collecting on this trip.”
  • In the sphere of my relationships: “I’m thankful for the Big Man’s competence at negotiating cabs worldwide and the way he loves all of me, my family’s understanding of my adventures, my sister’s way of calming me down when I freak out, my friends’ love, support & deliciously fun spirits, the mentors who help me navigate my path, and the continued graciousness of new friends and strangers around the world.”
  • Eventually I’d cover my extended network, community, world, and Universe. but I don’t think I’m going to torture you with that very long list.

Sounds like a complicated process, I know, but I’m fairly certain we copped it from a Tony Robbin’s audio book…

Point is– practicing your gratefuls is incredible way to look at each and every day. What do you do to appreciate all that you are?  All that you have?

And in that spirit:

Today, specifically, I am grateful for how easily found I found a parking spot downtown, for a coffee meeting with a new coaching client who is warm, talented and gutsy, for my lunchtime chicken and pesto sandwich, for Derek at 20SB, for the strong legs and lungs that walked up hills, for Herkimer Coffee in Greenwood, for my Sister and all her awesome roommates, for my Dad’s sweet email, for my SPUN cowlneck tunic that is keeping me cozy and chic, for the man with the adorable beagle puppies who put up with my dog squeezing and kissing routine on the sidewalk, for the inspiration that is Gwen Bell, for Christmas lights, and for the waiting-to-be-watched episode of Glee that’s at home for me.

It’s a good day, eh?

And honestly, most days are when you break down all the goodness and reasons to be thankful.

– See more at: http://www.stratejoy.com/2009/12/gratitude-is-an-attitude/#sthash.3gL9V2Rp.dpuf

Acknowledging Gratitude

Written by Elyse // Filed under All Posts, Elyse, Quarterlife Crisis, Season 5, Tips + Tools + Life Lessons

It has always been hard for me to be grateful. I’m really good at thinking about the things that irk me or are bothersome, but rarely do I reflect on all the good things in my life, which is a shame, because I really do have many good things in my life.

Back in high school, I used to make lists of things that made me happy when I was feeling pissed off or depressed.  Those lists really helped, but as I got older, I fell out of that habit. I couldn’t think of a better place to reinstitute the list-making tradition with things I am grateful for. I don’t think gratitude is only for the big things, but even the small things that make life worth living.

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for…

©       My incredible family – Even though I love my life in Cincinnati, and I’m a grown woman, I still get homesick for them. Going home for the holidays is always something I look forward to because of them.

©       My boyfriend, Rob – He makes every day special.

©       My job at the zoo – so many incredible animals and people grace me with their presence every day. I am having experiences that are so unique and special and get to do what I love: teach kids.

©       BBQ sauce – my sauce addiction

©       The sunset behind the church steeple out my apartment window

©       Good music on the radio when going to work early in the morning

©       My new neighborhood, Over-the-Rhine

©       My friends – they keep me laughing and enjoying life

©       Tea – Especially on chilly days or before bed, it is liquid comfort

I need to work on appreciating these things more often and continuing to find new things to be thankful for. What are you thankful for on a day-to-day basis?

– See more at: http://www.stratejoy.com/2011/11/acknowleding-gratitude/#sthash.lnRtQHpd.dpuf