Here’s a fun story about a short note that just sold at auction for a lot of money. The author? Albert Einstein. And while the physicist’s theories about physics and relativity have made a lasting impact on our world, his theory on happiness is also worth noting, too.
How often do you practice gratitude?
There is a lot of information out there, nowadays, about the things that we should practice on a regular basis to contribute to our health and well-being. You’ve probably heard before that you should do your best to walk about 10,000 steps a day, or get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes a day. You probably know what your ideal weight should be, or maybe even your ideal body mass index (BMI). There’s a lot of research in our modern world about the practices that will help us sustain a healthy lifestyle. Most of that research, at least what’s published and gets attention by the media, focuses on diet and exercise. But what about practices and habits that promote your emotional and spiritual well-being?
There’s research on that, as well, but it doesn’t seem to get as much media attention. The most popular topic on this aspect of lifestyle is probably stress. We all know stress is a challenge in daily living, and we’re pretty receptive to finding new and different ways to relieve our stress. This opens the door for all kinds of different articles about the benefits of massage, acupuncture, yoga, and so on. These are all good things, and we support them, but since they get pretty well covered, we’re not going to focus on that here. Let’s move on.
There’s been a lot of media attention over the past few years on mindfulness. We’re glad to see this, and we love to promote the benefits of mindfulness with our clients, but again, since there is already a fair amount of attention going to that lately, we’re not focusing on mindfulness in this article.
In this week’s blog, we want to bring your attention to the value of gratitude. The benefits of gratitude are largely overlooked in our broader culture, but the benefits of living a lifestyle that includes the regular practice of gratitude can be huge. Gratitude could save your life.
It’s not hyperbole to make that claim. There are documented links between the practice of gratitude and lower rates of depression, as well as increased rates of health. Check out this article from Psychology Today that lists seven benefits of practicing gratitude. All of them are research-based. Or you can take some time and listen to this great TED Talk from Brother David Steindl-Rast.
Ready to Practice Gratitude?
Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis:
- Write a thank-you note. Send a thank-you letter or email expressing your appreciation of some person’s impact on your life. For bonus credit, deliver and read it in person if you can. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month.
- Thank someone mentally. As a mental exercise, think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual. When you do this, really connect emotionally to that feeling of gratitude, as if they were there in person and you were sharing your loving energy with them.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day, sort of like you’re keeping an inventory of all the things you can be grateful about.
- GratiTuesday. Every Tuesday, place an extra emphasis throughout the day on reflecting on your blessings, recognizing what and who you are grateful for. We especially like to celebrate GratiTuesday using social media, posting our reflections publicly as a way to celebrate our blessings.
- Pray. Prayer is not just for asking for help; it’s also a way to cultivate gratitude.
- Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. This increases your ability to be present. Sit comfortably, follow your own breathing, and just think about anything in your life that is worth being grateful for. It can be really simple things like the weather that day, or a well-cooked meal that you enjoyed, or it can be more complex things like your relationships with others.
What does it mean to use a truly integrative approach to healing…to growth…to living an exceptional life? I like to imagine a three legged stool as it is frequently used as an example of extraordinary strength & stability. In integrative coaching, the three legs we are referring to are the physical/structural, mental/emotional and spiritual areas of development.
In order to have the most stable foundation upon which to live an exceptional life, we must balance foundational health in each area and grow them simultaneously so as to maintain integrity.
In the physical/structural realm we begin with the shell. The physical body and your surroundings are addressed to provide stability. When we are in pain or chaos it is challenging enough just to “survive” let alone thrive! Areas of nutrition, movement, sleep, use of space, color, light and more are maximized.
Next we look to the mental/ emotional self, by reinforcing the foundational truth that you, and only you, control your mind. Your mind controls your body. So, to remain in health and happiness you must choose it…daily. For some of us, we must choose it hourly, and when facing great change, sometimes we must choose minute to minute… but choose it we must. Although willpower is the greatest force, it will not remain without reinforcement. Therefore, learning basic techniques to reinforce your healthy mind-body connections are essential.
Once you have the linear strength of uniting body and mind is when we must learn to lean on that which is intangible the most: spiritual truth. Maintaining and growing in faith is what completes one’s covenant with oneself. A strong intrapersonal communication is necessary for healthy, happy interpersonal relationships. Our covenant with others relies on a deep and powerful covenant with ourselves.
For those of you who have signed up for the free content library at MY30DAYREBOOT.com, You have likely already enjoyed several episodes where we have been digging deeper into this integrative approach. If you are new to My30DayReboot, I encourage you to consider what working with an Integrative Life Coach one-on-one, in a group or online setting could to to optimize your path to healing, growth and living your best life.
One of the biggest lies perpetrated against people on a daily basis is the message that working less is part of having a good life. It’s in so many commercials, selling products that are supposed to “make your life easier.” It’s in the way that politicians talk on the campaign trail. It’s in our own language patterns about someday retiring, not having to work any more, and “living the good life.”
When I was in high school, teachers and guidance counselors kept telling me that I was a bright student, and that I would go to college and make my living using my intelligence. As a student who got good grades, I was not steered toward classes that taught skills like welding or woodworking, but instead was enrolled in classes that would prepare me for higher learning and a white collar job. The adults in my life didn’t disparage people who did physical labor for a living, but there was a clear message that having to work hard was less desirable.
Of course, nobody would ever say it outright. It was embedded in the broader conversations I was having with people. Phrases like, “work smarter, not harder” and “why kill yourself doing all that work” are used daily by so many people, and we don’t think about the cumulative effect of those phrases. They create, through the sheer volume of repetition, an emotional reaction in which one is compelled to feel like working hard is a bad thing.
Over time, I noticed how pervasive the message really was. In college, we all talked about getting a “good job” someday, and those conversations never involved descriptions of going someplace every day where you worked really hard, physically or mentally. A good job was one where you could collect a nice paycheck while doing something that was interesting, enjoyable, and worthwhile.
And today, I work with clients who are often unhappy with their lives despite having a “good job.” They can pay their bills, go on vacations, and have nice things, yet they are still unfulfilled.
What if work is what fulfills us?
What if we evolved over thousands and thousands of years to be doers, creators, and builders? What if working, in all its forms, is our way to feel our energy being expressed to the universe? If this is the case, then working hard would actually translate to more happiness. When I use the word “work” I don’t just mean your job, but the broader definition of the word to include the exertion of effort or energy.
And I certainly don’t mean to suggest that work is the only thing that can fulfill us. Our relationships, our relationship with source, and our sense of purpose all factor in to creating a fulfilling life. It just seems that work has gotten a really bad rap over the past few decades. Maybe it’s time for that to change.
Perhaps working hard, with a sense of purpose and clarity, is necessary. Maybe working hard at something of your choosing is an important part of feeling happy each day.
What’s worth working hard for? Who deserves your best work? How might your life improve if you decided to work harder, in a specific and purposeful way, on a particular aspect of your life?
It’s something to think about.
It’s That Time Once Again…
It all starts with Thanksgiving, which is just a few days away. Folks reflect on what they’re thankful for, count their blessings, and eat more than they should. Then, it’s time for the holiday madness to really kick in. Shopping, parties, and more indulging. Finally, the big climax: New Year’s Eve.
The holiday season leads many people to the end of a cycle, and the beginning of a new cycle. It can get pretty complicated for some people, and downright stressful or sad and lonely for others. There are also many beautiful things about the holiday season. Gift giving and time spent with loved ones and a spirit of fellowship that’s really quite special.
One thing that most of us have in common is that this time of year inspires reflection. We take a look back at what happened during the year, and think about what we most enjoyed, or what we wish we had done differently. Then come the resolutions. Those aspirations for doing more, having more, and being more in the year to come.
The Research is Clear
For most people, resolutions don’t produce results. Read that again! Most people who create New Year’s resolutions don’t fulfill them. So why do we keep creating them, year after year? Because although we have an instinct that some change is needed, we’re not sure about how to effectively create that change, and there’s a part of us that fears the repercussions of that change.
If you want to create a change in your life, don’t wait until the New Year; start now. Start by learning how your behavior actually works, and why you’ve been living your life the way it is. Then, when you understand yourself and your choices in a new and different way, you can come up with new and different solutions to the challenges you face.