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Thoughts of Thankfulness: Five Things to Ask Yourself This Thanksgiving

As we approach our annual day of Thanksgiving here in the U.S. there can be no doubt that it is on everyone’s mind, the day that is. But how many of us actually intend to spend any of that time being thankful?

Gratitude is something that has been at the forefront of my mind of late. Especially with my upcoming book “What In The World Am I Thankful For?”  In fact, it’s almost all I’ve been thinking about.

Although I could be stressed about meeting deadlines and such, I am not. Quite the opposite really. I’m simply thankful to have the opportunity to write about something that has impacted my life immensely.

The book is a journal. It discusses gratitude, provides a working definition, and talks about the potential impact gratitude can have on anyone’s life. However, it’s primary purpose is to help establish a regular gratitude practice.

As part of that, I ask a series of questions designed to help you see all the good in the world, your life, and yourself for which to express gratitude. I’ve decided that I would like to share those with you along with my reasons for asking each one.

I would encourage you to take some time thinking about each of these. Write a list of at least three things in response to each one. What the things are you are thankful for and why you are thankful for them. Spend some time thinking and writing about the good they bring to your life, how they bring it, and the healthy positive emotions they foster. Then put it somewhere safe so you can look back at it throughout the coming year. 

The questions are as follows;

What in the world am I thankful for in nature?

We live in a society where most of our time is spent sitting and looking at a screen of one sort or another. Asking this question will help to reconnect us with the planet we inhabit. There is so much beauty that surrounds us every day each and every time we step outdoors, but we rarely notice it. Let alone express gratitude for it.

This question is a prompt to look up and look around you. To think about the lakes, rivers, trees, flowers, bees, etc, and all that they do to provide you with a place to live. Without them, this planet wouldn’t be possible. If this plant weren’t possible, you and I wouldn’t exist. Surely this is something to be thankful for.

What in the world am I thankful for that humankind has accomplished?

I chose this question in light of our current social and political situation in the U.S. There isn’t a moment that goes by where something isn’t being said or done that is offensive, hurtful, angering. I honestly can’t remember the last time I heard good news reported. It is out there, but we have to look for it and that requires a conscious effort. 

Despite all that is occurring all over the world, there is still good to be found. There are good people doing some amazing things. It’s important to look for that. Yet, social media and news outlets are not going to help. We must do it for ourselves and it can be a bit of a task at times. And this question is here to help with that.

What in the world am I thankful for at work and at home?

No matter how much you love what you do there will almost always be something or someone that will be a potential source of stress or negativity in the workplace. This is often amplified if you’re doing something out of a need to simply survive.

Focusing on the good in your workplace will help to alleviate some of the stress and frustration that naturally occur in such a setting. It brings about a shift in perspective and mental state that will allow you to go in with gratitude and leave feeling good about the day, regardless of who was there or what may have happened.

Home can be just as stressful as the workplace. The pressures of family commitments, preparing meals, paying bills, maintenance and repairs, are all potential sources of stress many of which we have little or no control over. 

However, we can control our mindset and how we approach these things. Cultivating an awareness of the good at home will make coping with all the stresses of home life far less emotionally and even physically challenging. 

What in the world am I thankful for about my friends and family?

Friends seem to always be there when we need them, but when was the last time you thanked them for that? When was the last time you thanked a friend for their understanding, compassion, sense of humor, or their ability to always see the positive in things?

So often we take our friends and friendships for granted. It’s easy to do. It’s important to be mindfully thankful for our friends and how they enrich our lives. But the things they provide us are things they need as well. One never knows how greatly impacted someone’s day, or life could be by simply being appreciated.

Family. These are the people we often take most for granted, even more so than our friends. They are the people who love us the most, and if we’re honest, they can also tend to annoy us the most. 

Whether they be blood relatives or family we have chosen, we expect them to be there. We expect them to be supportive and present. Often forgetting that they each have their own stressors and things with which they must cope. 

We rarely take notice of their many characteristics and aspects of our relationships with them that are so worthy of our gratitude. This question is an opportunity to give the mindful consideration and acknowledgment they deserve.

What in the world am I thankful for about myself?

Just a few moments on social media is enough to invoke feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and a diminished sense of self-worth. We see photos perfectly filtered of the perfect house, the perfect car, the perfect job, the perfect vacation, and the perfect friends and family. 

Before long unhappiness, anxiety, and a whole list of other possible mental health issues can surface. It’s easy to forget that virtual reality is just that, virtual, and there is little if anything real about it. 

Yet, so much of our time is spent in this alternate reality that it is astonishingly impactful on our view of ourselves. Now, more than ever, it is extremely important to take time to think of those things about yourself that are good, the things that make you unique and be grateful for them. 

Spending time in gratitude for the things that make you who you are is one of the most potentially life-changing aspects of gratitude. It will reshape your self-worth and increase your self-confidence. It will foster a sense of self healthy enough to deal with the daily bombardment of alternate unrealities (as I like to call them) you encounter. Especially the ones you encounter on social media. With this being so necessary for today’s society, I could not in good conscience have left this question out.

So, what in the world are you thankful for? Spend some time thinking about it. Write your thoughts down, and then consider some ways you can begin to more adequately express it in day to day life.

Remember that it does not matter where you have been, where you are at, or where you are going; you are worth the work it will take to change your life.

Go forth, be fabulous, and have a blessed Thanksgiving.

‘Tis the Season for Self-Care

With the holidays quickly approaching and the official arrival of winter on December 21st, seasonal self-care has become something of a hot topic. Having spent the last couple of weeks contributing to articles on the subject for others, I’ve finally found time to sit down and write one to post here.

As we’ve become more open about discussing our mental health, the importance of adequate self-care has become more prevalent. But what exactly is self-care?

Oxford dictionary defines self-care as;

 “The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”

It’s honestly difficult to get a much better definition than that overall, but it is somewhat open and lends itself to a great deal of interpretation. Self-care can really be anything one does that is beneficial to one’s physical, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being. 

This makes self-care very individualistic, subject to personal tastes and preferences. It also means that not every self-care practice will bring about the same benefits for everyone. Therefore it’s important to find those things which are most nourishing and beneficial to you.

A large part of whether or not a particular activity is self-care or not depends on your mindset. Clearly destructive behaviors aside, if you consider something to be beneficial to your well-being and happiness then it most likely will be. 

The primary reason self-care is important is it helps one maintain a good life balance. The major benefit being stress reduction and for most of us, stress often impacts every aspect of our lives. 

Because of this, self-care is wholistically impactful. It improves physical health, resistance to illness, decreased anxiety, provides more recuperative sleep, and fosters more positive psychological and emotional states.

Naturally, all these things, in turn, impact our productivity and all our relationships. Including our relationship with ourselves. 

Increased productivity is highly motivational, spurring us on to achieving current goals and drawing us toward bigger and better ones. This leads to greater self-confidence and improved self-image. 

As for the impact it has on our relationships, self-care nourishes self-awareness which also makes us more compassionate and empathetic toward others. This is significantly beneficial to all of our interactions. The more self-aware we become the more aware we are of the need to give to ourselves. The more we give to ourselves the more we have to give to others, and the more likely we are to engage in such giving.

But how do we go about engaging in self-care? Well, here are some suggestions. This list is far from comprehensive, however, any of these are a great place to start.

I like to place my personal self-care practices into three categories; physical, emotional/psychological/spiritual, and social. This helps me ensure that I am addressing all of my self-care needs which can be especially important in the winter months and during the holiday season.

Physical self-care can include;

Working out; yoga, jumping rope, walking through the mall, etc.

Getting a message

Holding a pet

Taking a soothing bath

Eating healthy 

Enjoying a favorite treat

Emotional/Psychological/Spiritual practices could include;

Listening to music

Mindfulness or meditation

Attending a religious service

Reading

Journaling

Engaging in a hobby

Social self-care might include;

Lunch with a friend

Attending holiday gatherings

Volunteer work

Write a letter or email to someone you don’t often interact with

Take a class or join a group with others who share a particular interest

 Naturally, the beginning of a new year is often a time when people consider making changes. My personal favorite self-care practice for ending/beginning a new year is to get my journal and read through the past year’s experiences. 

I take a good look at what I learned and how I’ve grown. Then I spend some time writing, by hand, about it. I find writing by hand to be helpful because it forces me to slow down and give everything some real thought. I write out what the situations were, what I learned, how those lessons have helped me grow, and how I can continue to use them in the future.

If you’re not someone who keeps a journal you can simply sit in a quiet place with a pen and pad of paper. Reflect on the past year. Write down significant events, what you learned, how you’ve grown, and how this growth can help you in the year ahead.

This is also a great time to look at any goals you have achieved. Spend some time remembering how amazing it felt to achieve them. Then make a list of the specific things you would like to achieve in the upcoming year. Ask how you will know the goal has been achieved. When, where, and with whom would you like to have this outcome? Is there anything that might stop you from doing this? If so, how can this be overcome? Think about what resources you may need to accomplish these things. What resources do you already have? How or where can you obtain any resources you might need? Then break any larger goals into smaller, more manageable/achievable tasks. And finish the process by setting dates by which you would like to have achieved them. 

Now you’re probably wondering how exactly you’re supposed to make time for this. Especially with all the added activity and additional time a simple venture to the grocery store may take in winter. 

For those who are extremely busy, my recommendation would be to schedule it. Take some time to look at your calendar and put it in. However much time you may need for whatever activity you have chosen. The key here is not to squeeze it in, hurry, or rush it. We often have more time than we think we do, we simply choose not to think about it. 

Also, consider ways you can make daily activities part of your self-care routine. A moment of mindfulness with your coffee or during your shower. Socializing or reading a book during your break at work. Think about the things you do every day and the ways in which they could be self-care.

Finally, be conscious of the fact that many of our holiday activities have the potential to be self-care opportunities. Think about the things you plan on attending. And when the time comes, approach these gatherings and events as opportunities for self-care. 

This is all about perspective. Holding a specific view of something can help to shift what may have been a stressful experience in the past into one that nourishes and enriches you. A new outlook will always result in a new outcome. 

I hope you find these helpful, wish you all the best, and remember that it does not matter where you have been, where you are at, or where you are going; you are worth the work it will take to change your life.

Now go forth and be fabulous!

Untapped Potential

Did you know that the average paper ketchup cup is thrown away having never reached its full potential? If you don’t believe me take a good look at the one in this picture. See all the little folds? These cups are designed so that, if unfolded, they can expand to three times their original size. That’s untapped potential. An untapped potential right in front of us that many of us simply throw away.

We do the same with ourselves. We all have things, often in plain sight, that hold untold amounts of potential which we never recognize. And consequently, it gets thrown away.

I would encourage you to take a good look at yourself today. Open up. Unfold. Think of all the things about yourself, who you are, and the things you do which could harbor your untapped potential. As you begin to recognize them make a list and consider all the possibilities they may hold.

Remember that it doesn’t matter where you have been, where you are at, or where you are going; you are worth the work it will take to change your life.

Now go forth and find your fabulousness.