The Upside of Bad – How to Find the Silver Lining During the Bad Times

The Upside of Bad. How to Find the Silver Lining During the Bad Times.
By Debbie Lyn Toomey

 

Two weeks ago, I got sick. Sick enough that I had to stay on my couch for four days. I couldn’t do anything because I was achy, sweaty, and weak from the flu. I haven’t been ill like that in five years. Because of this, I got way behind with my work and came back to hundreds of emails in my inbox waiting for a reply.

Sick

During my awake times on the couch, I wondered if I willed this to happen. Because days earlier, I wished I had a day of rest with nothing to do. Then before you know it, I got sick!

Have you ever willed yourself sick so you can get rest?

What did you do?

Did you work despite the fact you had no energy or will to do anything?

A Break

Not me. When I am sick, I just don’t feel like doing anything. After a day of feeling badly about missing work, I decided to give myself a break. I gave myself self-compassion and self-care. I basically nursed myself back to health with rest, liquid, and medicine. Instead of forcing myself to work, I gave myself permission to be human and to trust the whole process. I realized that my immune system was low from overworking and worrying too much about my impending projects.

Let Go

Laying on my couch barely having energy to walk from one room to another, I was able to see things with better perspective. I realized that I had to slow down and let go of any extra burdens that I placed on myself. Despite the glassy-eyed look I had in my eyes from having the flu, I was able to see my life and work with clarity. I saw what was important and what was not. In other words, I found a silver lining in my sad moment. You can do it too.

Silver Lining

You don’t have to wait until you are bed-ridden and sick to see the silver lining of whatever it is you are experiencing in life. Here are three questions you can ask yourself to get started in finding the silver lining during bad times.

1. Ask yourself what has been working well in your situation?

Focus on the good. Taking time to reflect on the good things that have happened will make you feel happier about yourself.

2. Ask who has been helpful to you?

Who has your back? The more we recognize and appreciate the people who are on our side and help us the more we will feel supported and less alone.

3. Ask what successes you have accomplished recently?

Count your winnings. Celebrating all successes (big and small) will give you confidence and positivity.

Reflect

Life is so busy and can be discouraging if we don’t take the time to find the silver lining during the bad moments. Don’t wait for the situations to get worse. The best way to see the silver lining clearly is to stop and reflect upon who and what you have around you that is good and worth celebrating.

Support

If you or your organization needs more support in increasing positivity levels and finding the silver lining, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com for ways we can work together.

7 MINDFUL GIFTS: “The Present IS the Gift”

7 MINDFUL GIFTS: “The Present IS the Gift.”

How to Reduce Stress and Save Money this Holiday Season.

By Debbie Lyn Toomey

just-for-you

Stop!

Look.

 Listen.

Breathe this holiday season.

Just because it is the busiest time of the year, it doesn’t mean you have to be hustling and bustling. Don’t you do enough of that the rest of the year anyway? One of the best practices to do this time of the year is mindfulness. What better way to fully enjoy the spirit of the season than to combine this graceful technique with gift giving?

New Tradition

This year, I invite you to start a new tradition. I call it “The Present IS the Gift.” This simple tradition will help you reduce the pressure and panic that comes from little time or energy when getting ready for the holidays and buying gifts. Why not “bag” that old negative feeling and shift to a positive one? Replace stress with savoring the moment. And instead of buying expensive gifts that will lose value after a few weeks, try giving priceless ones that will be treasured by both you and the recipient for many years to come. Too good to be true? Not really. In fact, this tradition is guaranteed to be fun for you and those who are lucky enough in your life to receive this special present. This new practice will help you end the year merry and begin the new one with prosperity.

Fun and Free

The practice of mindfulness is about being in the present moment and savoring the experience. So why not add an element of mindfulness to the way you think about the gifts you are going to give? Be creative with your gifts and challenge yourself to make if fun and free. In this day of instant gratification, many people can get what they want 24/7. It’s getting more and more difficult to buy something special for someone. That is why the more unique you can make your gift, the more enjoyable and exciting it will be for both you and the other person. Mindful gift giving ideas are activities that have the power to boost your communication, increase your level of happiness, and enhance your relationships. In other words, a mindful gift is a gift that keeps on giving.

 The Presents

 Here are 7 Mindful Gifts that will get you started in “The Present IS the Gift” tradition.

  1. Date: Dedicate a day for the lucky recipient. If you can, take a day off from work just to spend quality time with him or her. This will give you a break from your normally busy life and make the recipient feel extra special.
  1. Declutter: Out with the old. In with the new. This invites new and positive energy into your special someone’s life. Got friends or family who have been trying to declutter but are too overwhelmed and busy to do it alone? Present them a homemade card that says you will be there to help get the job done.
  1. Donate: Instead of buying gifts for each other. Suggest to your core group of family and friends to donate and adopt a family. Help others in need.
  1. Deed: Create a homemade coupon that promises to do a nice deed. They can pick from any of the following: to look after baby, ailing parent, house, pet, or plant. This will allow your special family member or friend a way to go away without worrying because they know you are looking after who (and what) they care about most.
  1. Deal: Make a deal with your family member or friend to start a mindful practice. It could be doing a 30-day challenge of some sort that will keep you connected daily for a month. This is a win-win deal that will make both you and the recipient motivated to keep moving forward towards your ultimate goals.
  1. Deliver: Write a gratitude letter to someone that inspired and supported you in the past. Deliver this letter to that person and ask the person to read it out loud. This practice has been proven to have lasting feeling of happiness and wellbeing for both the writer and the receiver of this wonderful letter.
  1. Dish: Dedicate a special evening for your loved ones and make a full course homemade dinner for them. This is a great way to spend quality time with the awesome people in your life. Also, you can make and freeze one of their favorite meals and wrap it up. Your special dinner will surely be appreciated after a hectic day at work.

It’s not too late to begin “The Present IS the Gift” tradition. This practice will help you and those in your life feel less stressed, and more connected to you in the coming year. Remember, mindfulness starts with awareness. The more aware you are of the stressful and wasteful “same old ways” of doing things, the more mindful you can be in giving a more heartfelt and thoughtful gift this year.

If you need support with how to add more mindfulness to your life for stress reduction and productivity, email me at INFO@HEALTHANDHAPPINESSSPECIALIST.COM today to find out how we can work together. Until then, I wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season.

 

 

Gratitude: A Simple Way to Accept Appreciation and Recognition

Gratitude:  A Simple Way to Accept Appreciation and Recognition
By Debbie Lyn Toomey, Health and Happiness Specialist™

gratitude

Have you ever been given a compliment that you turned down by saying something that completely negated the great gesture?

 You are not alone if you just nodded your head. There are so many people (myself included) in this world who are not used to receiving appreciations easily.

For some reason, although this positive gesture is expected, many think the following:
“Oh, they were just being nice.”
“They said that because they had too.”
“They didn’t really mean it.”

Self-deprecating
Our own self-deprecating thoughts can cause us to end up missing out on a gift of appreciation. We quickly respond by saying:
“I could have done better.”
“No. You were much better.”
“Oh, I was just lucky.”

Deserving
While it is better to give than to receive, we cannot throw away the kind gesture of appreciation or recognition when it is given to us. We stand the chance of hurting the feelings of the person who took the time to give us appreciation and gratitude. It is important to recognize the balance of expecting to receive negative feedback and positive feedback. Positive feedback given in a form of appreciation boosts our sense of well-being. This wonderful gesture reinforces the value that you offer to others.

Give and Take
Here are three gratitude “truths” that I love to teach in my positivity in the workplace workshops. They cover the powerful “give and take” art of gratitude nicely.

  1. Gratitude is an instant way of boosting your levels of happiness.
  2. Both appreciation and recognition are important in the workplace.
  3. When appreciation or recognition is given, simply say “Thank you.” Then keep your mouth closed.

The Practice
Today’s busy professionals must not only work hard to get ahead in this world but they also must work hard to accept a genuine gesture of gratitude that is given to them. Doing this will help you feel more valuable in the workplace and an important part of the team.

Keep practicing by saying “thank you” to yourself so that when the time comes and someone gives you the gift of appreciation you will be prepared to receive something that you well deserve.

To learn more about my coaching services and my positivity in the workplace programs, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com today. Until then, thank you for just being you.

Kindness: A Contagion Worth Catching

Kindness: A Contagion Worth Catching
By Debbie Lyn Toomey, Health & Happiness Specialist™

KIND
Are your anxieties making you feel restless, and you don’t know what to do about it?

Are you sick of feeling down and want to just be happy?

Are you feeling isolated and lonely, and you are desperate to find a way to feel connected with others?

The easiest way to do this is through kindness. Small and consistent doses of kindness will make you and another person feel better. In fact, kindness has been shown to boost our levels of mental and physical health.  It’s also been proven to enhance our relationships with others.

Kindness Study

If you are concerned that you may not have a “kind” bone in your body, don’t worry because actually everyone does. A 2013 study done by Barbara Fredrickson et al. determined that groups of participants who were randomly assigned to perform a six week (one hour long) loving kindness meditation had a marked increase in their positive emotions as compared to the control group. Participants whose positivity levels increased were noted to also have an increase in their vagal tone as compared to their baseline vagal tone measurements. A toned vagus nerve influences our ability to connect with others, our breathing, heart rate variability and so much more.

What Happens in Vagus…

Without getting too scientific here, the vagus nerve otherwise called, cranial nerve X, is one of the 12 cranial nerves in our body. It runs from our head all the way down to our stomach. That’s not counting the other nerves that run from it. Among the many responsibilities of the vagus nerve are the unconscious body procedures like controlling our digestion and heart rate. In fact, stimulating this nerve, called vagus nerve stimulation, is sometimes used to treat people with seizures or depression.

Kindness in Action

Let’s put kindness in action. There are many ways to cultivate a practice of kindness that will benefit you and others on so many levels. An act of kindness has the potential to create a positive ripple effect for those that have been touched by your one simple gesture.  For example, I gave a co-worker a compliment about her hair. This compliment made her feel good about herself the rest of the day. Because she felt good, she was extra nice to everyone she interacted with the rest of the day allowing them to also benefit. Moreover, her positive state of being helped her work more effectively, making the rest of day go so smoothly that she was able to leave work on time. This gave her extra time with her family. It’s amazing how a small act of kindness can be a catalyst for so many positive actions.

“Put on a Happy Face”

Are you eager to start this practice but just don’t have any idea how and when to begin? It’s easy! Just like the song from the wonderful musical, Bye Bye Birdie, “Put On a Happy Face.” The best way to begin to “spread sunshine all over the place” is by starting small.

Thank you on a record

Here’s a list of 4 ideas you can try.

  1. Smile – even if you are not feeling very happy. Smiling can trick your brain into feeling that it is happy. Smiling is a nice way to greet someone without using any words. It’s a way of spreading sunshine all over the place.
  2. Space – giving up your space in line is a wonderful way to be kind to others without it costing you any money. Whether it is allowing someone to cut in front of you in the grocery line or in traffic, this gesture can go a long way.
  3. Say it – letting someone know that you appreciate them is a great gesture that will surely make anyone’s day. Whether it’s your family, friends, or co-worker, spend some time letting people know they matter.
  4. Secret – doing a kind act in secret, otherwise called Random Act of Kindness, is a fun way to strengthen your kindness muscles. Do something kind for someone without them seeing you do it. This adds a fun mystery to someone’s day that makes them feel special. Although anytime is a great time to be kind, February has a special day that honors this particular action. This year it is on February 17th.

“Pay it Forward”

Kindness is a wonderful gesture that makes more than one person feel good. It’s creates a “pay it forward” action that is contagious and effects others in so many wonderful ways. Remember any small gesture of kindness is enough to cause a powerful ripple of greatness. If you need motivation or just a way to stay connected with like-minded people who are looking for fun and unique way boost their health and happiness, then join our Facebook page called Positivity All the Time. Also, sign up for our newsletters at www.HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com today to get your free 1-Minute Health and Happiness Assessment today.

A Positive Spin on Resolutions

How many times have you started a New Year with one of these resolutions?

 

“I will lose weight.”

“I will go to the gym 3 times a week.”

“I will stop eating sweets.”

“I will spend less money.”

At this time of year, there are countless articles and news stories about setting New Year’s resolutions and why most don’t work. According Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, when setting resolutions, most people “tend to focus on things they want to change about themselves and things they dislike about themselves.” In doing this, we focus on negative feelings rather than positive ones.

Replacing the New Year’s Resolution with an Intention

Instead of making resolutions that focus on a negative, why not focus on something positive for 2016?

Take a moment and think about the good things in your life right now. What are you most grateful for? What would you like to have more of in the New Year? Visualize that one thing. How does that one thing make you feel? Try to choose one word or one symbol to represent the positive thing or feeling you would like to experience more of in 2016.

Set an intention to bring more of that ‘one thing’ in to your life in 2016. Spend some creative time with it. Draw a picture that you can keep referring to throughout the year.  Take a walk by yourself and breathe your ‘one thing’ in. See yourself surrounded by it, embraced by it.

Share your ‘one thing’ with us. We would love to hear from you as we cheer each other on for a 2016 filled with Health and Happiness!

-Marie, Health and Happiness Team Leader

2016

The Secret Sauce to Savoring the Holidays for Busy People

by Debbie Lyn Toomey Speaker, Author, Trainer

2 Key Ingredients (2)-53277

 

How many times have you heard yourself or others say any of these statements recently?

“I cannot believe the holidays are here already!”

“What can I do this year so that I can enjoy myself for a change?”

“How am I going to get all my work done and still have time to shop for presents?”

Yes, folks it’s true! It’s the middle of November and it’s officially the holiday season. While it may seem like Father Time sprinted through 2015 (instead of marching), there are ways to have him slow down so we can relax, reflect, and rest and enjoy the end of the year before the new one begins.  My “secret sauce” will help you can gain more time to cherish this wonderful season. 

Bitter-Sweet

If you’re like many busy people, you’re probably still trying to remember what you did last month! Realizing the fact that the holidays are suddenly upon us can be enough to make some people cringe and even cry. Although traditionally this is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” some people find it difficult to be happy for various reasons such as:  having too much on their plate from work- life responsibilities, lack of financial stability, and lack of support from others. Unfortunately, the holidays can be a bitter sweet time of the year where it can feel like salt has been added to deep unresolved wounds.

Too much!

Time does have a way of escaping us because of our busy work and life schedules. It’s becoming more and more difficult to stop and slow down.  I’ve coached many busy people who fall into the same old trap of doing and planning. The mere thought of sitting and reflecting takes a back seat because it seems like an unproductive use of our time. As mentioned in my forthcoming book on living a productive and positive life, “Our time management skills are constantly being challenged because of the compounding distractions that are coming from all directions as well as our shortening attention span. Our lives are filled with so many distractions both external and internal multi-sensorial stimuli. The external stimuli come from two main sources: technology and team. Our techie toys are so distracting that even the mere presence of them on our desk tempts us to touch them and use them when we don’t need to.  The teams of people in our personal and professional lives can be a source of support or stress.  As if those distractions are not enough, we also get internal distractions that bombard and overload us with negative thoughts that ruminate and keep us from feeling good and proud of ourselves. These inner distractions add to self- sabotage, keeping us from producing easily and effectively.”  We have so much to contend with in our daily lives that for some the holidays can become more of a burden instead of a blessing.

Special for Everyone

Yes, the holidays are upon us and with them come their own sets of stressors such as shopping for “that perfect gift,” having a reasonable financial holiday budget, decorating, and going to parties. While some love this time of the year, studies have shown that there is an increase in depression, suicide attempts, and drug and alcohol use for others. No one is safe from the stress that happens during this time of the year.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), women experience a higher level of stress than men during the holidays. It is because women tend to take on the work burden to ensure the best possible holiday traditions are celebrated.

The Secret Sauce for a Health & Happy Holiday Season- Gratitude & Mindfulness (6)-11180

 

What’s in that Sauce?

Although stress is unavoidable, there are two ways of adding sweetness to the holiday season that will get even the busiest CEO whistling his favorite holiday tune as he greets his team. These two ingredients create such a rich combination that they can’t help but awaken all the senses. The two special ingredients that make up the secret sauce are: gratitude and mindfulness. When added together they can: turn bitterness into sweet, make the tough into tender, and heavy into something light. This secret sauce combination is the easiest and most practical way for today’s busy professionals to relish and savor the holiday season so that they have more time to celebrate, communicate, and connect with those they care about.

 Yummy moments

Gratitude and Mindfulness are great ways to bring purposeful awareness, attention, and appreciation to your holiday experience. Together they will give you: more time to be productive, an increased sense of purpose in your actions, and greater positivity in your day. Practicing gratitude is a heart-centered practice that can make you feel connected, blessed, and special.  Practicing mindfulness can make you feel more alive, awake, and allowing. Both of these two techniques combined have hundreds of studies that prove their ability to improve health, boost happiness, enhance relationships, and increase productivity during the holiday season. The beauty of these two practices happens during the millions of micro-moments throughout the day. The “practice” happens when we purposely remember what is happening within us and around us—without judgment. Exercising these new habits will deepen your neural pathways and ensure sustainable success in creating positive experiences in your life.

Recipe for a Sweet Holiday Season

Directions:

  1. Ask yourself what you want this holiday season to look and feel like for you. Just like with any recipe that you’ve never made before you might first have to look at the picture so that you will have an idea of what the dish will look like.
  2. “Prepave” your holiday festivities with the feeling and images of what you would like it to be for yourself. “Prepaving” is a way of creating and attracting what you want through visualization and positive emotions. Feel as if it is happening now. Have fun using your imagination to visualize and tune into what your holiday celebration is going to be like. There’s no right or wrong way of doing this. Picture yourself purposefully being aware and appreciative of what’s going on around you so that you will experience the beauty of the season so much more.
  3. Practice and play with the secret sauce ingredients throughout your days and nights.
  4. Enjoy adding other quality ingredients to this special sauce such as: creativity, courage, and self-compassion.

Key Ingredients:

1. Gratitude:

According to gratitude expert, Robert Emmons, gratitude is defined as a “felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” In other words, it’s more than just saying “thanks.”   This year instead of sitting in traffic just to shop from place to place, save yourself some time and lots of misery by staying at home.  Instead of shopping for gifts why not make them in a form of a gratitude letter to those you care about. This practice has been proven to boost levels of happiness for a weeks and weeks for both the writer and the recipient.

Here’s how to get started. Think of that special someone in your life that you need to get a gift for. Get a piece of paper (preferably a nice stationary) and write down how they have impacted your life in a positive way. Write from your heart and elaborate as much as you can. When you are done put it in an envelope and personally deliver it to that person and ask them to read it in front of you. Notice their expression. Notice yours. Notice how this loving practice can turn your holiday into a magical one. Try to do this to for as many people as you can. Schedule a time every evening during this holiday season to write out one letter to deliver in person. If you allow yourself to do one letter at a time, you’ll notice what may seem like a burden in the beginning will become a blessing in the end.  The practice of gratitude will make you feel blessed and blissful. Once you get into your gratitude letter writing routine this holiday season notice how you look forward to doing it each day or night. This delicious ritual will gift you the special time to relax, reflect, and remember so many golden moments that you’ve shared with your loved ones. You’ll thank yourself for doing this!

2. Mindfulness:

According to mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Any activity when done purposely and with a beginners mind is considered a mindfulness activity. In other words, activities such as washing the dishes, walking, or watching can be a mindfulness activity as long as the person purposely aims to notice and experience that particular activity fully and without judgment.

Here’s how to begin this practice. During this holiday season, purposely gift yourself about 20 minutes of mindfulness by focusing on one of the five senses at a time. Start with mindfulness seeing and purposely notice all the shapes and colors that you see around you. Once you see something that catches your eye, look even closer. What do you see? Do you see any intricate patterns that make up that particular object? Notice the different shades of colors that meld together to make the colors that you see. Is that object manmade? If so, think about how that particular item made it there in front of you. Look with a beginner’s eye and notice as much as you can in that period of time. The next time you plan your mindful sit, try another sense like taste. Practice savoring when you are eating all the delicious food during your holiday festivities. Imagine as though it was the first time you’ve tasted that food. Notice how long it took you to chew it and swallow it. Try to figure out the flavors that were used in that particular dish. Notice how slowing down and savoring your food helps you stay on track with your diet because you are appreciating each bite and notice when your stomach is full. Practicing mindfulness during this holiday season might just be one of the easiest ways to keep the extra pounds off by mindfully noticing what goes in to your body. Imagine going into the New Year without having to add “lose holiday weight” in your New Year’s Resolution!

Adding gratitude and mindfulness will surely add more richness to your holidays.  This delicious combination of ingredients will kick up your festivities a notch so that you can have your cake and eat it too– without guilt. Once you begin practicing these techniques, you will notice that you have more time for more important things and people in your life. Cultivating gratitude and mindfulness in your busy life will not only make you healthier and happier but also add more harmony to your life.  Begin today and look around you. Challenge yourself to find something new that you haven’t seen before. Have fun and have yourself a healthy and happy holiday season!

Do you have a way of making this holiday season fun and stress-free? Please share your suggestions with me below. Thank you in advance!

 

It’s all about the “Thanks!”

Are you interested in increasing your levels of abundance, attention, and appreciation?

Are you looking for ways to add more beauty and bliss in your life?

Are you willing to try a 30-day challenge that can change your life for the better?

Try a 30-day gratitude journal challenge, in honor of World Gratitude Day that was Monday, September 21, 2015. Gratitude is not only the mother of all virtues but also gives birth to so many wonderful emotions.

I love the practice of gratitude because it is totally free and it will make you feel so rich, blessed, and lucky! How great is that! This amazingly simple gratitude practice when done consistently can do so much for you and those around you. Keeping a gratitude journal does the following:

– Enhances concentration
– Deepens relationships
– Boosts happiness
– Increases appreciation
– Improves success
– Enhances sleep
– Boosts attention
– Increases awareness
– Decreases depression
– Improves connections
– Enhances communications
– Builds community
– Boosts compassion
– Cancels envy
– And so much more!

Still not convinced? Why not give it a go for the next 30 days? You’ve got nothing to lose but EVERYTHING to gain!

Here’s how to start your 30-Day Gratitude Journal Challenge:

1. Pick a date to begin.
2. Decide on the time of day you’ll write
3. Remind yourself to look for good things to write about.
4. Notice everything and everyone around you worth writing about.
5. Journal on 3 (or more) good things that you experienced each day.
6. Explain reason why you were grateful for them.
7. Use reminders such as quotes and images to inspire and motivate you.
8. Let family and friend know what you are doing.
9. Invite them to participate.
10. Share your goods with each other.

Remember, there is always something to be grateful for.

This practice has been a game-changer for me and many of my clients. Begin this simple practice today and reap the abundance all around you.

*** Special bonus: Join hundreds of grateful people from around the globe in my 30-Day Greatness through Gratitude Challenge group on Facebook. Check in with your 3 ‘goods’ everyday and enjoy reading about everyone else’s too!

Many thanks!

Boost Your Health and Happiness with Gratitude

Are you a…

– Half-empty person or a half-full person?

Do you tend to focus on what you don’t have instead of what you do have?

–  “Fault finder” or a “benefit finder”?

Do you tend to find fault in others and situations instead of finding the good in them?

– Are you a Velcro or a Telfon?

Do you tend to let the negative emotions and experiences stick to you or do you let them slide off your shoulders?

According to researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky Ph.D. , 50% of our happiness comes from our genes, 10% comes from our life circumstances, and 40% comes from our choices and what we do with them. While 40% may not seem like a lot, it is enough to shift from a depressed and harmful way of living to a more joyful and hopeful one.

Happiness can be learned. Many experts in the field of Positive Psychology, the science of happiness, work with the 40% margin to provide people with proven skills and tools to become the best version of themselves so that they can thrive and flourish. Like any muscle, cultivating happiness take shape and becomes stronger with daily practice and persistence.

My favorite exercise comes from practicing gratitude. Gratitude is more than just an attitude. It’s a way of feeling alive, awake, and abundant. In fact, according to gratitude researchers, it has been proven to boost our overall health and happiness. Since the history of time, this mother of all virtues has become the subject of many scholarly debates and the theme of many prayers and mantras. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s that it became a notable science that has gotten many researchers excited about the powerful and trans-formative results.

What is it?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines Gratitude as “a feeling of appreciation or thanks.” But  according to gratitude experts like Robert Emmons Ph.D., gratitude is a “felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” It’s more than just saying “thank you” or feeling appreciative. One of the keys for a successful gratitude practice is to see what you are grateful for with fresh eyes — through the eyes of a child. Since it’s conception in the late 1990’s, there have been 26 studies that proved gratitude boosts, our overall health, happiness, socialization, concentration, and so much more!

Putting it to the test

Between you and me, I’ve always been the half-full, benefit-finder, and…a  Velcro type of person. I am not perfect, but what I am is someone who is determined to use gratitude in all areas of my life to live healthier and happier. Although, gratitude is an evidenced based practice, I wanted to prove that it.  I remember to my surprise a strength assessment exercise that I did during my Positive Psychology studies with Tal Ben Sha-Har Ph.D., Harvard University Professor of Positive Psychology, that gratitude was one of my top strengths. I was disappointed when I learned this because I wanted one of the “cooler” values like perseverance or self-regulation to be one of my top strengths. Determined to make the most of it I decided to see why it was one of my strongest strengths. I wanted to apply it beyond the academic realm. I decided to put it to the test in real life —at home and at work. Here’s what I’ve experienced and witnessed since I started.

The first people that I wanted to start teaching and applying the gratitude principles on were my 3 boys and my husband. As you can imagine my genius plan was met with raised eye brows and grunts from my older boys.  I told them that I wanted to start using a gratitude technique at the dinner table. With persistence and consistency this practice became a natural way for me and my family to communicate and share about what went well in our lives. The gratitude practice provided me with a simple tool to teach my boys to become benefit finders.

As a daughter of aging parents, I experienced and witnessed the grace and gifts of the gratitude practice during my mother’s cancer journey. She had 3 cancers (breast, endometrial, and lung). During her cancer journey of doctor appointments, surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy treatments, as well as recovery, my mother used gratitude to fuel her optimism. Gratitude made her more and more resilient every single moment. She said, “thank you” when she woke up each morning, knowing that she was gifted another day to live. She used it in many micro-moments during the day when she was able to move comfortably on her own, taste her food and keep it down, when her wig kept her head warm and many countless other times when she felt she was gifted with something to make her feel better and look better. For my mother, saying “Thank you” is like inhaling and exhaling. It become her natural way of staying alive.

For Cancer Support

As the founder of Ultimate Healing Journey LLC, I speak, coach, and create programs that inform and inspire with proven health and happiness skills. My overly stimulated and overburdened clients, of all ages, achieve and sustain overall success.  Most recently, I provided programs for the Cancer Support Community – MA South Shore in Norwell, for their Kid’s Cancer Support, parents, Adult Cancer Survivors, caregivers, and health care professionals. Each program focused on ways to use gratitude to boost hope, enhance relationships, and increase overall sense of control and peace during in the cancer journey. The participants came away with the many tools that they can start using at home. The children gave gratitude for the practical and age appropriate techniques that they learned and can apply at home, and the adults left excited with skills that they can use to enhance their overall levels of health and happiness.

In the Schools

Gratitude also has a place in the schools. I created a month-long program for elementary level schools, called The Gratitude Program for Kids. This program has been implemented at the Francis W. Parker Elementary school in Quincy. The Gratitude Program for Kids aims to introduce the science of gratitude at a young age so that children can learn to use language, be appreciative, build stronger connections, and improve communication and concentration in the schools and at home. After the month-long program teachers reported that the students were able to identity appropriate moments of gratitude in other projects and they enjoyed the sense of community that it brought when the children shared with gratitude in the classrooms.

What I know to be true

The practice of gratitude can be applied in all areas of our life. Since mindfully practicing gratitude in my work and life, this is what I know to be true. Gratitude is: a gift that keeps on giving, grace under fire, for the young and old, a fuel that feeds resilience, and an abundant way of life.

Interested in how to apply the proven, practical and powerful practice of gratitude to live your best life? Contact me:  healthandhapppinessspecialist@gmail.com or call 617-433-8814.

 

Gratitude Tip for Positive Parenting

Parents, have you felt any of these from your child?

– Unappreciated

– Misunderstood

– Disconnected

I did a few years ago. I felt this way with my teenager and it scared me. I had a sinking feeling that our mother-son connection was slowly becoming distant. This turned into a frustration within me that made me react to him negatively.  It was pulling us apart!

Poor Connection

Our one-to-one time became less and less due to our schedules.  When I did see him, he would be sitting in his usual spot – on the recliner in our family room with headphones on connected to his iPad. This made it more and more challenging to get his attention. At the dinner table he got into the habit of answering my questions with, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.” This concerned me because I didn’t know what was going on with him. It became difficult to get him to open up to me.

Crazy Worried Mind

My wild and crazy mind worried that he might turn to drugs or other dangerous habits that we sometime hear about in the news. I did not want this for him. I wanted him to know that I was there for him no matter what. I wanted him to remember how much I loved him and would do anything for him.  I remember in my desperation I would ask myself over and over these questions:

“What’s the best way to connect with him again?”

“How can I help him open up to me?”

“What can I do to bring us closer again?”

Simple and Powerful 

Fortunately at that time, while studying Positive Psychology (the Science of Happiness) under the direction of Dr. Tal Ben Sha-Har, I learned that the practice of gratitude can increase people’s level of happiness by 25%, enhance communication, strengthen relationships, boosts appreciation, attention, and awareness and so much more. I had to try it. I had to try the practice of gratitude at home. It seemed simple enough and I had nothing to lose. I was desperate! I decided that in order for it to work in my home my whole family had to do it. Gratitude had to become a natural culture in our home. It had to be a common language spoken and a way of thinking that we had to develop.  Even though it seemed to be such a simple and unappreciated gesture, I knew the impact that this technique can have on people who apply it in their everyday lives.

What Went Well?

The practice that I decided to implement was a simple technique that I learned called “What went well?” This simple question trains the brain to look for the good in a situation. It is a wonderful and non-threatening way to teach people appreciation and gratitude. It’s also the perfect way to teach someone how to become a benefit finder instead of being a fault finder.

Benefit Finder

Here’s how I literally “dished out” this gratitude technique to my family. Every time we sat down for a meal together I would casually ask, “So, I wonder… what went well with everyone today?” Then, I would follow it up by saying, “Let’s all go around the table and take a turn at sharing.” As you can imagine the very first time I introduced this technique my two older boys (and my husband) looked at me like I had 3 heads. But with persistence and consistency they got used to me asking the questions.

Surprising Interruption

To my surprise after a few weeks of applying this simple gratitude technique, my teenager, eventually started to open up and share more and more around the dinner table. It got to a point that he would interrupt his 8 year old brother, who can go on and on forever about what happened to him in school. He couldn’t wait to have his turn to share with us about what went well with his day—his “goods.” It was then that I felt that I got my son back. It was then that I started noticing him share more about his day through the benefit-finding lens of gratitude.

Powerful Parenting Tip

I am happy and proud to say that my relationship with my teenager is better than ever! Now he seeks me out to tell with me stories and jokes. He listens to me intently when I give him guidance.  I can’t tell you how much this simple practice has changed our relationship. In retrospect, while teaching my family about this principal it also affected me positively.  I noticed how my attitude towards him changed and softened because I started seeing him through a gratitude lens.

Thank You

My son has come so far. From barely mumbling his one or two word replies to me, before doing the gratitude practice at home, he has written me an articulate, hand written, one page letter to expressing his appreciation and love for me. Here’s an excerpt from the letter that my teenager gave to me during the Mother and Son Senior dinner before he graduated high school two months ago. It was with his permission I share this with you to further show how beautiful our relationship has become.

“Dear Mom,

…You see me for my whole when I only see me for my parts. For this I love you. Mom, you always saw my fullest potential and urged me on and though I may resist and procrastinate, I value your support especially as I move out to college.

Thank you.”

30-Day “What Went Well?” Challenge

Here’s a great way to try out this simple “What went well?” gratitude practice.

  1. Explain to your family that you want to do a 30-Day Challenge called, “What went well?”
  1. Let them know that “What went well?” will be asked during meal times (or anytime that your whole family is together.)
  1. Tell them that there is no right or wrong answer to this question.
  1. Allow them to share at least 2-3 things.
  1. Go around the table to make sure everyone shares.
  1. Finish the round by sincerely saying that you can’t wait to hear what everyone will share the next time.
  1. Be patient. Be persistent. Be consistent.
  1. Have fun!

For a summertime or holiday variation, ask your family one by one at the end of each vacation, what went well for them. This is also a great way for everyone to share and remember all the wonderful things that was experienced during the vacation. The more that is shared, the more it becomes special for everyone. The more special it feels, the deeper your appreciation and connection with each member of the family becomes.

Interested in learning more about how to apply the practical, proven, and powerful practice of gratitude to live your best life? Contact Debbie Lyn Toomey RN, CIPP, Health and Happiness Specialist™ at healthandhapppinessspecialist@gmail.com or call 617-433-8814.

4 Secrets to a Dream Come True

I can’t believe it.  I just turned 49 years old this week!

How did that happen so quickly?

As a product of the 80’s and the MTV generation, it felt like it was only yesterday that I was “Sexy and Seventeen” and “Pretty in Pink.”  Those were the days! It was the time when I was filled with many hopes and dreams of becoming a nurse, a wife, and a mother. Not knowing what my future would bring, I kept the faith and did everything I was supposed to do to make my dreams come true.

High School

Between you and me, I didn’t like to study or read when I was younger. I was a daydreamer and got bored too easily. Luckily I had parents who valued education and an older sister who was a high achiever. This combination motivated me to work hard to get good grades so I could go to college and have a career.  All that determination worked out and I got my wish; I got accepted into nursing school with a full scholarship.

Boyfriend

I wasn’t allowed to have any boyfriends or go to any dance when I was younger—my father was very strict. Because of this, I worried about not having any boyfriends, let alone any fun! Not thinking about boys when you’re a teenage girl is close to impossible. I remember dreaming almost every night of what my future would be like. I imagined marrying a handsome “Mr. Right,” having 2.5 kids, and living in a cozy home. I would do it so often that it felt real. Gratefully, it became a reality. When I was in high school, I met my soon to be best-friend and future husband while working at my first job at my local sub-shop.

Nurse

When my older sister and I were younger in the Philippines, we used to shout out what we were going to be when we got older. She would emphatically say that she was going to be a doctor. And I would say I was going to be a nurse. At a young age, I instinctively knew my limitations and strengths. The thought of reading “all those thick books” and going to medical school for so many years just did not appeal to me. What I wanted was a way to learn about health in a reasonable amount of time and to start helping people right away. I always loved making people feel better and I knew that there were many ways to do that. Nursing gave me the experience and skills to be able to fulfill that goal. Fortunately for me, I went to nursing school during a nursing shortage. In my third year of nursing school, I was accepted in an internship at Tufts Medical Center (formerly known as New England Medical Center) and was guaranteed a nursing position when I graduated. 

Being a MOM (That’s “WOW”, if you spelled it upside down!)

I’ve always wanted to have boys because I never had a brother. While it was great to be one of 4 girls in the family, I often wondered what life would be like with to have a brother. As you can imagine, I was so excited when I got pregnant and found out I was having a boy. I named him Phillip after my father, who always wanted a son and ended up with 4 girls. The expression on his face when my husband and I told him that we were naming our first son after him was priceless.

Mom is “Wow” upside down, and I can see why these two words have this relationship. Being a mom has changed me to the core. I can honestly say that I am a better and stronger person because of my 3 boys. They’ve taught me what unconditional love really means and how lucky I am to be alive.

4 Secrets to a Dream Come True

I am so happy to be getting so many “Happy Birthday” greetings this week! Yes, I am 49 and I’m happy to say that I still get carded! My birthday wish is to help you achieve your own dreams so that you can live a healthy and happy life. That said, I want to share with you my 4 secrets to help you make your dreams come true.  They are: faith, hard work, passion, and acceptance. I’ve always had faith that good things will happen for me. I always had to work really hard to get an outcome that might come easy for others. Also, I always use my passion to fuel my actions in order to keep from daydreaming and being bored. Finally, I learned to use acceptance to let go of what I can’t change and to enjoy what I have.  These 4 principles are tried and true. I highly recommend anyone to apply these into their life so that they can make their own dreams come true.

Here’s how:

  1. Faith- Cultivate faith, hope, and optimism by focusing on your positive outcomes. This will help fuel your ability to trust in yourself and your achievements. The more you do this the better so that you can change your mindset into believing in your abilities.
  2. Hard work- This is self explanatory. The more you work hard on something, the more you will appreciate it. This shows grit. A proven skill that brings on success.
  3. Passion- “Turn to your passions, and make them happen!” Do what you love and love what you do! If you ended up in a career that doesn’t make you happy then find a hobby or another job that will do it for you.
  4. Acceptance- Everyone has limitations. Everyone is different. And…everyone is unique and special. Accept what you can’t do or don’t have and move on. Don’t use your limitations to keep you from living a healthy and happy life. Use your strengths to your advantage.

I hope you get great outcomes from these principles. If you need further help in trying to achieve your dreams, contact me for coaching so we can get you back on track. Contact me at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com today.