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Category Archives: The Power Of Thankfulness

Being thankful is a powerful way to shift your focus back on to what really matters, and to communicate that to those who really matter.

Things to be thankful for

being thankful in the waiting

Advent has now officially begun, and we are properly into the full multisensory experience of Christmas preparations.

I say multisensory having had all my senses assaulted simply by a brief ninja style foray into the shops…..at least at home there is the chance to heighten our anticipation of Christmas in a positive sensory way –

fabulous baking and cooking smells

twinkling Advent candles counting off the days

rustling and crinkling wrapping paper

Christmas music of our own choosing (not canned shop stuff!)

the warm fires and woolly jumpers of winter

growing excitement and anticipation of my daughters elder and younger.

Love it. All of it.

And having taken stock last week of what I especially love and am thankful for, I am practising hard at retaining that perspective and positive focus as the busyness ratchets up another notch.

Advent is about waiting –

and I wonder, how well am I waiting?

What does it mean to wait well?

I still exhibit that childlike exuberant excitement about Christmas, and can drive my nearest-and-dearest mad with my enthusiasm. But I can also turn into grumpy-psycho-mum if I allow all the preparations to get on top of me and lose sight of what is important.

So this week, I am challenged to remain thankful as I wait for Christmas.

To be thankful in the waiting.

To be thankful for preparations that have been made, for people that we celebrate with, for food cooked, for that ideal present found.

To stop and take a minute to enjoy the moment, to enjoy all that my senses are telling me, and to not be so caught up in what is next that I fail to enjoy the waiting.

Happy Thanksgiving – it’s that time of year again!

Happy Thanksgiving!

This week sees the celebration of Thanksgiving taking place across America, and further afield for those with links to that marvelous tradition.

I have written and reflected often on the power of being thankful – how it shifts our perspective, prompts us to be aware of what is good even in the midst of what is hard, and inspires in us a more outward looking view of our lives.

As a Scot, I have no authority or experience from which to discuss the origins or traditions of Thanksgiving. But from what I have gleaned from American friends, and a little research, it is a celebration of family, food, football, parades and shopping. It is a time to stop, be thankful for an abundant harvest, or an abundance of whatever the modern equivalent.

A day to go home, to be with loved ones, to stop and celebrate all that is good about life.

And it strikes me that there is no better way to prepare for the coming of Christmas, and the season of Advent which precedes it, than a time of stopping and being thankful.

Advent is a season of preparation, expectation, waiting and hope.

In reality, advent is often a time of crazy busyness – shopping, cooking, preparing, wrapping, card writing, parties, plays, pantos – and stress – the cumulative effect of all of the above, plus fraught relationships, office party politics, burning the candle at both ends, trying to please and appease everyone.

So what better way to start the Christmas build up and preparations than with a time to reflect, take stock and celebrate all that we have and are.

A time to be thankful for who and what really matter to us

so that we have a right perspective as we buy presents and cook food.

So this week, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, and encourage you to take a few minutes to simply stop, look around you at your life, and be thankful.

Thank you for being my friend.

what are the best things about your friends?

What are you thankful for about your friends this week? Next week is the fabulous American celebration of Thanksgiving, and a good time to think about what we are thankful for as we muse on what it means to be a friend and to have friends.

When I think about the friends who share my life, I am thankful for those who

  • make me laugh until I cry
  • show interest and support in whatever I am up to
  • encourage and challenge me to be the best version of me
  • are vulnerable with the hard stuff they are facing, and expect the same of me
  • share in or tolerate my bonkers sense of humour
  • share in the mundanities of life
  • listen without agenda when I need to process stuff out loud

They come in all shapes and sizes, and have been around in my life for varying lengths of time. But they enrich my life, bring me joy, nourish my soul and make me want to be all of that for them too.

This week, I am going to make a point each day of thanking one of my friends for a specific characteristic about them that I value.

Why not do the same? To whom could you say “Thank you for being my friend”?

Want some more tips about how to deepen and enrich your relationships? Sign up for your free Self coaching guide here!

Thank you for your time and attention

A thankful time of year

Thank you for your time and attention.

Have you ever ended a letter or email like that? If so, what lies behind the words?

Perhaps you might have said “Thank you for your time and consideration” or similar.

Sometimes we use phrases like that in anticipation of the attention, time and consideration that we are hoping the reader is going to extend to us. In other words, our thanks is conditional on help or input we are wanting from the other. And in a business context, nothing wrong with that, we all do it.

We’ve been thinking about friendship over the last few weeks and I wonder, are we sometimes guilty of the same kind of attitude with our friends? Perhaps the time, attention and consideration we offer to others is in the hope of receiving the same in return. And of course friendships do work like this – give and take, mutual respect and affirmation. But conditional time, attention and consideration leads to the risk of conditional friends.

What would it look like instead if every day this week you offer unconditional attention and consideration to those you call friends? To pay an unexpected compliment. To listen without an agenda. To do a random act of kindness. A spontaneous hug.

Not in anticipation of what they might do in return, but simply because they matter to you and you want to say, thank you for your time and attention in being my friend.

What motivates you to make changes?

How thankful are you?

Most of us don’t suffer from lack of information, but lack of motivation. As we consider how happy we are, and how we live our lives by reflecting on the 10 Steps to Happiness, I want to come back to a favourite of mine –

thankfulness.

I was recently challenged on facebook to list three good things a day for a week.

So this week, I challenge you to do the same

– on paper, on your phone, on facebook, on a piece of paper on the fridge –

wherever you like,

but write them down and look at them, and as you do, express thanks for all that they represent.

Thankfulness changes our perspective, and shifts the focus from what we don’t have or can’t do, to what we do have and can. And this can only be good for our happiness levels!

What are you thankful for? Find out more keys to happiness and how thankfulness can change your perspective here!

How full is your glass?

What produces positive emotions in you?

What are you feeling good about today? About yourself? The world around you? Perhaps your work, or family?

This key to happiness is perhaps more obvious – the importance of Emotions, namely positive ones, like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration and pride (feeling appropriately proud, not proud in an arrogant way you understand). I have always been a “glass half full” person, an aspect of my character that my nearest-and-dearest don’t always find very easy to live with. I will generally try and see the positive in any situation, and encourage them to do likewise, when sometimes the preferred option would be to stay in a grumpy mire, feeling a teensy bit sorrowful. Nothing wrong with this for a short time, but stay there long term and your world closes down around you.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not advocating an unrealistic, papering-over-the-bad stuff, ‘don’tworrybehappy’ approach, as this is very unhelpful and can have the opposite effect to that intended.

Nor am I diminishing the devastating effect of depression, both for the person suffering directly, and for those loved ones around about them. Depression has directly affected my family, I am well versed in the destructive ways of the Black Dog.

But there is good evidence to show that regularly experiencing positive emotions, and looking for the good in any given situation, builds our resources and spirals us upwards rather than downwards. This is hard to argue against:

“fear closes down our minds and hearts, whereas positive emotions literally open up our minds and hearts

they really change our mindsets and our biochemistry”

– Dr Barbara Fredrickson, Psychology Prof, North Carolina University

(From the Action for Happiness website)

I can speak for my own experience of practicing being thankful in the midst of a dire family crisis – the crisis didn’t change, but my perspective did.

A dear now-departed Dutch friend used to talk of the importance of giving your liver a good shake everyday ie: having a right good belly laugh.

And the perspective shift that is choosing to see what I do have, and be content with that, rather than regret or resent what I do not have, is so much easier to live with and brings real contentment.

So this week, consider how you could try some of these:

  • list all the things about the last 24 hours that you are thankful for

  • express your pride in the achievements of someone you love, no matter what size

  • watch a funny film with some friends/your kids and laugh until you cry

  • write down all the things that you like about your life currently, and allow that to develop a sense of contentment

  • on that note, contentment and complacency are very different – this isn’t about passively accepting your lot and staying stuck where you are. So no matter where you are in life just now, list a few things you could do that inspire creativity in you.

As usual, all simply food for thought, ideas to get you thinking outside the normal humdrum of life and recognising the tools you to choose positive emotions.

Looking for some more ideas, tips to get your teeth into? Download your free self-coaching guide for plenty more inspiration by simply filling out the form (watch your spam folder, the reply sometimes ends up in there).

Appreciating the Now.

Appreciating the moment      How aware of you of what is happening around you RIGHT NOW? Sights, sounds, taste, touch, scents. Emotions, thoughts, stillness. All this can be packaged up under the rapidly growing trend called Mindfulness, and represents the fourth step to happiness: Appreciating. This is a subject dear to my heart (see Do you have any regrets? and The Now Thing). We live such fast-paced-non-stop lives with 24-hour-instant-everything at our touch-screen-fingertips that we risk missing what is happening right under our nose.

We are sucked into the demotivating mindset of

“there must be more to life than this”

without any solutions or clarity as to what that might be.

But low and behold, there IS more to life than this, whatever “this” might be for you today in your current circumstances. There are two distinct steps to mindfulness that encourage heightened awareness, and lead to appreciation –

  • being intentional ie: making a conscious, deliberate choice to be aware of what our senses are telling us in any one moment
  • accepting that information and not standing in judgement or condemnation of whatever that is.

And for me, I would add a third step that takes this to a new level, and lifts us out of ourselves and encourages us to see that we are one part of a greater whole –

thankfulness.

The key is in the name – Appreciating. For me, thankfulness is the door out of the gerbil-wheel of non-stop-living, the key to getting off the treadmill. Notice what is around you, appreciate it, and then express thankfulness – to someone, about something, to yourself, or to Someone depending on your perspective on life. It takes the eyes off yourself, no matter how difficult your circumstances. It serves to remind that we are part of a community. We are living on an amazing planet. Our bodies are astonishing in their complexity and inner workings.

So this week, as we continue our exploration of the 10 steps to happiness, take time each day to stop and notice what is around you. Appreciate it, and be thankful and enjoy the moment of peace that follows.

 

 

Do you have any regrets this week?

 

Give up busyness, enjoy the moment!

Don’t let time rush past – enjoy the little moments.

Looking back on this week, is there anything that you regret? Maybe not doing something that you wanted to do. Maybe saying something that you now wish had never made it out of your mouth. But maybe you look back on this week and wonder where it went, what you actually did with your time, and what you have to show for it. Now not all weeks are going to be characterised by life changing events or momentous occasions – much of life is mundane and, well, just plain ordinary. But in our quest to give up busyness for Lent, and reassess how we define ourselves, I wonder how many times this week we have simply stopped to enjoy the moment and not rushed headlong into the next thing on the list. Two events in the life of Elder daughter these past three weeks have highlighted the passage of time and the fact there is NOTHING we can do to slow time up – once it has gone, that is it, you can’t get the moment back. A residential outdoor education trip with the school, looked forward to and awaited with growing anticipation for months, is now passed, and prompted this wistful comment – “You know when you have been really looking forward to something …… and then it is over…….” (sigh). In contrast, yesterday was a music exam, for which she had been practising for weeks and working hard (and sometimes tearfully) towards. She was mind-and-finger-paralysingly nervous, but managed to overcome her nerves and progressed through the tasks well. And today at breakfast, yippee the relief of it having been yesterday and not today! But time is passing so fast (I must be getting old!) and often this epidemic of busyness robs us of the precious moments that enrich our lives so much and prompt us to refocus, to be thankful, to recognise what really matters. Allowing that hug to really sink into you and permeate warmly under your skin. Stopping and listening, really listening to someone just for a few minutes and in so doing, communicating to them that you believe in them. Noticing the astonishing miracle of the new season in new life everywhere, and maybe lifting the eyes in wonder to the Giver of life if that is appropriate for you. So going in to next week, something to chew on. How can you live for each day, enjoying the moment as you relinquish the hold busyness has on you? What helps you refocus on the present? Share your comments and thoughts and we can all learn from and encourage each other. 

Inspire the dream in others

149       Who has inspired you this week? And who have you inspired, told them that you believe in them? In thinking about this, I am more aware than ever of the people in my life who have supported me, encouraged me, believed in me and enabled me to keep being and going and doing. Friends who have held my cherished dreams tenderly and reminded me of them or listened as I rehearsed them again to become re-envisioned when I might otherwise have given up. Friends who have affirmed me in what I am doing, and who I am becoming in the process. Friends who have given feedback, challenged me, read things, commented on things, responded to requests for help, pointed me towards useful information and new ideas. People who have worked with me who have told me I am not completely bonkers when it came to jumping off the cliff of change. And of course, my nearest-and-dearest who have been part of the process of change and without whom I couldn’t do what I am doing. So if you are reading this and you are one of the aforementioned, a huge thank you for who you are and what you bring to my life. And the challenge in this is to think, for whom can I be that person? Who can I affirm, encourage, inspire this week? Whose dreams can I show interest in that prompts the dreamer to more self belief and possibly action? None of us is an island, we need each other in this tricky, complicated world and who knows, you might be just the person that someone else out there needs today to bring that word of affirmation and encouragement.

What do you see when you stop to look?

DSCF6872

  One of our favourite games at this time of year is counting Christmas trees in windows  whilst  we are out walking. There are rules to this game of course – the tree has to be lit  (unlit ones don’t count), and it has to be decorated (lights on outside trees also don’t  count). This game can make what is often a very familiar and routine walk along very-often-  trod streets more fun. And it was on a walk home with younger daughter whilst playing this  game (we reached 52 trees in about 10 streets, some way off in the distance, or up in a  third floor window) that it was observed that it is amazing what you notice when you really  stop and look. Often we chunter through life at full pelt, especially in the lead up to    Christmas, without really stopping to notice what is around us – in our homes, in our  communities, in our families, in our relationships. But when you stop to look, it is amazing  what you see – characteristics and abilities in friends or family that are normally taken for  granted; ways we choose to communicate unhelpfully with each other that we don’t always  notice or that are so ingrained we fail to spot them; little acts of kindness we can do along  the way that we might otherwise miss the opportunity to do. So as we approach Christmas  and all that the New Year will bring, why not stop choose to stop and look at all that is going on around you, and notice what normally passes you by. And be thankful for what is good, and encourage where there is a chance. And have fun counting trees!

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