Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Beginning Each Day with Gratitude

I am a firm believer that our thoughts guide our choices and actions, which in turn have an influence on the results we produce in our daily lives. Though I am a Life Coach, I must admit I have my own difficulties at times maintaining a positive and open mindset, especially with regards to beginning each day with gratitude.

But let's take a step back. What exactly does that mean? I have to admit even I feel a bit hokey saying that you should wake up and just be happy to be alive, or to love and be loved, or just that the sun is shining. I think that one should eventually strive to be happy for such things upon wakening, but I think it takes a little practice to be that Zen about everything. So where do we start?

A little daily exercise that I learned from Dr. Seligman of Authentic Happiness has helped me tremendously with starting out my day with positive energy and happiness, especially on days when I don't feel I have a lot to be happy about. First, buy yourself a nice notebook. Pick out one that speaks to you, with a design your like our your favorite color. Every morning, as you start your day, open that special notebook and write the date. Then write the phrase, "5 things I am grateful for". Below that, list 5 things that you are thankful or grateful for as fast as possible. Don't think too much because you will second guess yourself. There are some days when, "My pen is not running out of ink" is the best thing on the list. Other days it's, "I got 8 full hours of sleep" or "my coffee tastes really good this morning."

After you list out your 5 things, read over them and refer to them throughout the day if you start to lose steam. No matter how your day goes, these 5 things were good! Also, do your best not to repeat the same things in your list on consecutive days. Dr. Seligman suggests not repeating the same things at all, but baby steps, I say.

Once you have done this for several days and listing 5 good things gets easier, I invite you to increase the list size, to 8 or 10 or even 20 things!! It's also fun to go back through your lists to read about what has made you happy in previous days for an extra boost when you need it. Imagine how great you'll feel when you have 365 days of various good things to be grateful for in your life! What an energy boost it'll be to look back on your year and celebrate all you have to be thankful for!

I hope this exercise works for you and brings you joy in your everyday life. I also ask that you share you experiences with me on how this affects your mood. As always, I am wishing all of you great happiness and success in all that you do.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Letting go

Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day. Dalai Lama

A very belated and very happy New Year to all of you out there. This is a time of changes and new beginnings, as people have made new commitments to positive change and personal growth in 2012. Whether it's a new year, a new chapter in life, a new job, a new relationship, or a new day, the time is right to make a positive change for personal growth.

I recently posted the above quote to my Facebook page, (by the way, please "like" my page if you haven't already : and the weight of the quote didn't really hit me until a couple of days later. I had been talking with a friend about my need to make every interaction meaningful, and now this level of intensity can be uncomfortable for most people. This need for meaningfulness in my daily life also makes me appear to be super serious and high-strung. Though I don't deny that these facets of my personality appear when I'm at my worst, I'm actually very laid-back, or at least like to think so.

This urgency to eliminate superficialness from my life manifested itself during my cancer diagnosis at the end of 2006. My diagnosis is another topic that I have avoided since beginning this blog that I hope to touch on at a later date. At any rate, finally becoming aware of my own mortality changed me.

However we don't have control over other people or most of our circumstances; we only have control over our own actions and reactions to the things around us. Thus the reason I think the above quote hit me so hard. Though not a Buddhist myself, I am a fan of the tenets of the religion, most importantly how our suffering is manifested from our attachments. We will all experience loss in our lives, from the death of a loved one to the slow dissolution of a once very close friendship. For peace of mind and even personal happiness, we have to accept this as inevitable. Thus why it's so important to live each day in the present, and make the interactions in our important relationships count. Like the Dalai Lama says, our relationships with others are like the is up to us to make each of them count while we are blessed with the fleeting opportunity of experiencing them.