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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.

How to fill the vacuum of the present without guilt or anxiety?

I came across this quote the other day:

“When thinking about life remember this: no amount of guilt can solve the past

and no amount of anxiety can change the future.”

Thankfulness in the present

Thankfulness in the present

A lot of truth in that. What interests me is the vacuum in the middle.

I am a ‘so what’ sort of person – when presented with new information, I tend to ask myself first, ‘well, so what?’. What difference does that make, or how does that change things?

Now, there is enough fodder in the above quote to keep many psychologists happy for a long time. But in my own, very tentative musings, I recognise a few things:

  • dealing with your past, reconciling yourself to it and learning all you can from it can enable you to live more humbly and wisely and freely in the present
  • identifying what it is you are anxious about, whether you can take steps to minimise the situation or whether it is out of your control can help bring a more objective perspective to the future
  • learning what you do and don’t have responsibility for and when to let go

This is not said simply or glibly, and I am all too aware from my work how much of a challenge these issues are. And what time, effort, tears, understanding and self-awareness are required to live like this.

But that brings me back to the vacuum in the middle. Where does that leave us? In the present. There are lots of platitudes about the present being the only place to live, and that is why it is a present. Again, true if a teensy bit cheesy.

There seems much heaviness around us just now, with folks local and global enduring pain, grief and suffering.

And perhaps the idea of thankfulness filling that vacuum seems trite, over simplistic and down right insulting.

So I say this carefully and very cautiously.

Perhaps we can we learn

to live more in the present….

to value and cherish those around us today…..

to recognise what we have got…..

to embrace what we can do…..

to celebrate what we have learned and gained from our past…….

to find things to be thankful for even in the midst

Living free of guilt for the past and anxiety for the future -perhaps the key is thankfulness in the present?

Things to be thankful for in anticipation

Being thankful in anticipation

I was greeted this morning by super-excited younger daughter announcing that it is only 8 days till Christmas. The Advent calendar is looking more bare as the count-down removes more items. Pantos and parties today and tomorrow. Christmas baking, carols on the radio, lots of lit and sparkly trees to count in windows. Christmas concerts and shows.

Are you enjoying it, or feeling a bit frazzled? Maybe Christmas is a really difficult time of year, and you are dreading it.

It is easy to get caught up in the busyness….frantic shopping….commercialism….for the focus to be on the superficial and the insubstantive.

So this week, in the heightened anticipation of approaching Christmas, a simple reflection –

 What is it that matters to you most about Christmas?

What are you most thankful for in this season?

How can you take time to stop, breathe, be still for a minute and reflect on that?

In all the anticipation, I wish you a very happy Christmas, and time to be thankful, a time to enjoy loving and being loved by those that matter to you most. Perhaps even the One that for some, is at the centre of the Christmas celebration.

Things to be thankful for in preparation

thankful in the preparations

Advent is a time of waiting and preparation.

And with two weeks to go until Christmas, preparations are in full swing. What preparations are you enjoying? And what is driving you nuts?

I am being exercised in the art of being thankful in amongst all the preparations. Sometimes it feels like the sheer volume of stuff going on at this time of year is enough to drive us over the edge – food, presents, cleaning, socialising, parties, multiple different school events with all the associated paraphernalia etc. And yet, all of those things in and of themselves can be great fun.

Which brings me back to thankfulness – why am I doing all of it?

What is my motive for a lot of what I do at this time of year, and what am I communicating to those around me by my attitude?

I am challenged daily to be thankful IN the preparations, to remind myself that we are in the Advent season and there is much that is good right under my nose, now, and not just on December 25th.

I am inspired to be thankful FOR the preparations, for helping hands, for delicious food, for choosing gifts for loved ones, for seeing children practise hard for concerts and shows.

And I am learning to prepare myself – to choose to be grateful, humble, cheerful, and bring out the best in those around me so we can prepare to celebrate what really matters to us together.

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.

 

 

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