Appreciate the Good: Five Reasons to Start a Gratitude Practice

Appreciate the Good: Five Reasons to Start a Gratitude Practice
By Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN, CIPP

 

 

Next week in the United States, Thanksgiving will be celebrated. Thanksgiving symbolizes the start of the holiday season. Thanksgiving is a special day when Americans give thanks. This special holiday feeds the body with delicious food and the heart with sincerity. While it feels good to give thanks on that day, giving thanks daily will make us feel better in the long run. One of my favorite sayings when I was studying Positive Psychology was from professor and author, Tal Ben-Shahar: “when you appreciate the good, the good appreciates.”

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is more than an attitude or saying thanks. It’s a science that has been proven to have significant benefits. Robert Emmons, considered the father of the science of gratitude defines gratitude as, “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life.” This definition opens us to endless opportunities to be grateful. The challenge is remembering to do it every day, especially during the tough times.

Why is it important?

The best way to start the exercise is to know why it is important and how it can benefit you. Here are 5 reasons that caught my attention and inspired me to begin adding the gratitude practice into my life.

1. Resilience – Gratitude fosters resilience. A 2003 study found that gratitude was the main contributor to resilience following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York.

2. Relationships – Gratitude is the antidote for failed non-abusive relationships. A studyfound that couples who express gratitude for each other are motivated to maintain their relationship with each other.

3. REM – Gratitude before bedtime helps with sleep. A study in the Applied Psychology: Health and Well-being found that 15 minutes of writing in a gratitude journal before sleep promotes better sleep.

4. Rich – Gratitude cancels out envy. According to Robert Emmons, gratitude blocks toxic emotions such as envy, regret, and depression because gratitude makes you feel rich and feel you have more than enough.

5. Rejoice – Gratitude is linked to a happiness booster according to Harvard University study. If you need a quick way to cheer up, start listing some things you are grateful for to turn your emotions around.

I hope one or all of these reasons inspired you to begin a gratitude practice. If you have one already, thank you. If not, try any one of these techniques.

1. Journal – Start a gratitude journal. This was the first gratitude exercise that I did and it helped me during the good and the bad times of my life. This exercise trained my brain to look for the good in all situations. It was extremely helpful when I was coping with my mother’s three cancer journeys.

2. WWW? – What Went Well? Is a question that helped me teach my husband and three boys the practice of gratitude without being too “mushy”. This question has helped me and my family cultivate the practice of gratitude. Next time you are with your friend or family ask, “What went well?” and notice all the goodness that come out of this powerful question.

3. Walk – As you walk from one place to another, find as many objects to be grateful for. This helps increase my level of energy and happiness when I feel tired or anxious. It can definitely turn your “frown upside down.”

4. Jar – Collect moments of gratitude in a jar. This is a great practice for you and your group. This exercise is a positivity booster and it’s fun to watch as the gratitude fills the jar. Reading gratitude from the gratitude jar is another way to deepen relationships in the group and improve communication.

5. Letter – Writing a gratitude letter to someone you love and has greatly influenced you is a proven gratitude technique that has shown to create lasting positive emotions. Once you write your gratitude letter, deliver the letter in person and read the letter to that special someone.

Thank you for reading this article. I hope that it has inspired you enough to begin a gratitude practice. Try one of the gratitude practices that I shared with you for the next 30 days and watch your appreciation grow.

I am grateful for…

This year I have so much to be grateful for. Besides my awesome family and friends, I am grateful for publishing my coloring book, The Happiness Result Art Therapy Coloring Book – Express & Enjoy Yourself. This book is going to be available next week on my website, www.TheHappinessResult.com.

Also, I am grateful for doing my first online course called, Therapeutic Arts: Art Therapy Based Practice for Self-care, Self- healing, and Mindfulness. This is terrific course that I created with master trainer and colleague, Patrick Howell. Here’s the link for you to get your special price and immediate access to the course https://www.udemy.com/artstherapycourse/?couponCode=NEWSLETTER.

Lastly, I am grateful for you and your continued support and interest in my health and happiness message.

Thank you!

Five Self-Care Tips for the Sandwich Generation & Caregivers

Five Self-Care Tips for the
Sandwich Generation & Caregivers
By Debbie Lyn Toomey


Do you remember your first job?

I do. My first job was working at a local sub and pizza shop. It was great! I gained so much from that job that if I didn’t work there, I wouldn’t have had a Junior prom date, met my future husband, or learned how to make a killer sausage, pepper and onion sub. The wide range of multitasking life skills that I learned from making subs prepared me for what lay ahead in life as a wife, mother, professional, and daughter of aging parents. It helped me accept being sandwiched. I am a part of the sandwich generation, a generation that has her own family and aging parents.

Sandwiched

The term “sandwich” generation was coined by social worker, Dorothy A. Miller MSSW. She described them as a generation of adults who are “sandwiched” between their own parents and their grown children and subjected to mental, emotional, or financial stress. The Pew Research Center states that, “one out of every eight Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 care directly for an aging parent while an additional seven to ten million Americans help their parents or other aging relatives even from a long distance.” This number is expected to increase due to the number of aging baby boomers.

Full

Don’t get me wrong! I am not complaining. In fact, I consider myself extremely lucky. My life is full. It’s wonderful to live close to my parents because we get to look out for each other. For example, my three boys help out with the garden, snow shoveling, and heavy lifting. At times, I make extra food to drop off to my parent’s house and vice a versa. It’s a win-win situation. I get to look after all the people that I love closely. I consider it an act of love, a duty, and a blessing; not a burden.

Burnt

Life is good when everyone is healthy. It’s not so good when someone gets sick or needs surgery. I remember getting a case of “walking pneumonia” after helping to take care of both my mother who had her first hip surgery and also my father who needed emotional support. The stress from worrying about my parents, working a full-time job and taking care of my own family made me get sick. It wasn’t until I saw the doctor weeks later, after feeling weak and short of breath, that I found out I had pneumonia!

Stress

The stress of it all made me sick. I felt worried about my parents. I didn’t sleep well from working different shifts at the hospital and also from being worried. I became impatient and irritable with my family about little things because I was tired. I would cry when no one was around because I didn’t want people to think I was weak or afraid. This negative spiral of stress and worry eventually made me ill. I will never forget that time because it was then that I realized how important self-care is for caregivers.

Five Tips

My bout with pneumonia gave me a self-protective and self-loving view of health for the caregiver. Here are five tips that can help the sandwich generation or caregivers become more stress resilient:

1. Positivity: See this time in your life as special because you are at the peak of your life. A time when you know better and can do better for those you love. The more you see the good in this situation the better. It will fuel your spirit instead of making you feel bitter and burdened. See all the good in your life.

2. Sleep: The more sleep you can get the more you will be effective and emotionally fit. Sleep is your best ally during these stressful times. Take naps when needed. Close your eyes and rest.

3. Savor: Open your eyes to all the love you have around you during this time in your life. Be grateful to have your kids, your spouse, and your parents around. Someday, someone will not be there and everything will change. Open your eyes and your heart.

4. Outlet: Give yourself permission to feel angry, frustrated, or resentful. You are human and these are normal feelings to have when something is not right in your life. A great way to let go of these emotions is talking with someone who cares about you. Give yourself permission to be human.

5. Exercise: Physical activity is great outlet for stress. It is a great use of your energy and it will make you feel better about doing something proactive towards your health. Take walks or go for a run to clear your mind.

Privilege

Next time you are eating at the dinner table with those you love, think about how lucky you are because life can change in a single moment. It’s a privilege to be a part of the sandwich generation because it’s an opportunity for me to help out my parents and also a way for me to further demonstrate to my boys how families take care of each other. I hope you enjoyed these the five tips. If you need further support on how to take care of yourself during these difficult times, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com for coaching.

Questions Create Reality

Questions Create Reality
Three Questions You Can Ask to Gain More Positivity and Success in Life

By Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN Health and Happiness Specialist™

“Be careful what you ask for.”

“Ask and you shall receive.”

“The answer is in the questions.”

These sayings are so true. We have to be mindful of our thoughts and the words we use in our questions because they will create our reality.

What?

Let me explain. Have you ever stopped to think about the kind of questions that you ask? Do they focus on the negative or the positive? Questions that asks for more negative answers will give you more negativity. On the other hand, questions that seeks positive answers reveal positivity.

Why?

This happens because our mind is obedient. It will find the answers to the questions that we pose. By asking what else can go wrong, our brain will scan for other events or things that can go badly. But if we ask what else do we have to work with or how can we improve on this, our brain will find ways to help rise above the situation.

Where?

One of the best things I learned while studying Positive Psychology is how important it is to focus on the good – especially when asking questions. Positive Psychology is the science of happiness and also the science of optimum human performance and flourishing. Those who practice Positive Psychology learn what is working and create practices that cultivate growth and greatness. Positive Psychologists ask what is right instead of what is wrong. It is from asking these simple yet powerful questions that the skills of happiness, resilience, and success were discovered.

Who?

Next time you ask a question of yourself or others, pause for a second and think about the real outcome that you want. Once you tune into it, pose your question in a positive way so that you will create the reality that you are looking for.

How?

Here are three questions you can ask to gain more positivity and success into your life. They are:

“What went well?”

“What can we learn from this?”

“What is right in this moment?”

I invite you to try asking these questions during the day and notice all the goodness that emerges as the result of this simple, yet powerful exercise. Enjoy reaping all the benefits that will be coming your way.

To learn more ways to gain more of what you want in life, read my book, The Happiness Result- More time, More health, More love, More success. Click here to get your copy today. Contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com today to learn how we can work together.

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!