Accessing the Power of Gratitude

The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery.

But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.

That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.

There are many things to be grateful for: colourful autumn leaves, legs that work, friends who listen and really hear, fresh eggs, warm jackets, tomatoes, the ability to read, roses, our health, butterflies. What’s on your list?

Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

* Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make […]

By |October 9th, 2011|Self-Care, Tips|0 Comments

Self-Care: Becoming Your Own Best Friend

Need someone to work extra days?  Ask me.  Someone who’ll clean up the place because we’ve scheduled an open house?  Sure.  I’ll even bring the cleaning supplies.  Need someone to baby-sit your kids while you go away for a weekend?  I’ll do it.  Stay late?  Cook extra?  Loan money?  Run an errand?  Give up my bed, my book, my best outfit? You bet.

“This was my life,” said Betty, 42.  “I thought I had to do anything and everything people asked. Even if they didn’t ask, I’d find ways to accommodate them.  And if I couldn’t, I felt guilty.”

Betty was an expert, no-holds-barred, genuine “accommodater.” Somewhere along the line she learned that her needs weren’t important. In fact, she had been accommodating others for so long and doing it so well, she didn’t even know what her needs were.

What she did know was that she was unhappy, that she sometimes felt angry and almost always felt guilty.  She realized she allowed people to use her, but she didn’t know how to say no.

“To me, self-care had something to do with giving myself breast exams,” she said.  “If someone mentioned boundaries, I thought they meant property lines.”

“Self-care is an attitude toward ourselves and our lives that says, I am responsible for myself,” wrote Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More. It doesn’t mean you become selfish, cold, and dispassionate.  But you first become compassionate with yourself.

I often say in my work that the most important relationship that you need to nurture is the one you have with yourself.  Just like you might call and check in on loved ones every so often, you need to check in with yourself on a regular basis.  To practice […]

By |June 9th, 2011|Mind-Body, Self-Care, Tips|0 Comments

Listening to Our Bodies: They Know More Than We Do

The body holds much of the information we need to function at our best, but too often we ignore its messages and plow ahead with what our minds tell us. Perhaps because we’re not taught from early on to pay attention to internal messages as well as external demands, we frequently ignore our body’s communications.

So we take another extra-strength aspirin rather than investigating what’s causing our head to ache. We use more caffeine or sugar to give us a lift when we feel tired, rather than hearing our bodys message about needing rest or recognizing our fatigue as an early symptom of burnout we’d do well to heed. Or perhaps we’re so disconnected from the wisdom of our bodies that we have no idea what we really want to eat, reacting instead to the temptations that abound in our imagination and in the ads we see.

We fail to take into account the thousand little messages communicated to us by how we’re holding ourselves: the mouth that’s pinched and tight rather than relaxed. The fact that our shoulders are up around our ears, the knot of tension in our stomach as we promise to do something when closer consideration might tell us we are already over-extended.

These days it’s not uncommon for us to put deadlines ahead of the protests of aching bones or inadequately nourished bellies. (Is there hidden wisdom in calling a due date a deadline in the first place?) Instead of asking our body what it wants, we go for the quick fill-up or the comfort food that may be the last thing we really need.

So what to do to give your body an equal say in how you use it?

* Start with […]

By |July 8th, 2010|Mind-Body, Self-Care, Tips|0 Comments