"When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in." -Kristin Armstrong
Let's face it, sometimes life is a big shit show. I know, I've had my share, possibly more. Most of us don't get through life without a challenge or two....or more. If you are lucky the trouble is temporary. Sometimes, however, the challenges last much longer than would seem humane. I don't know why some of us seem to get through with just a couple bumps and scrapes while others of us seem to hemorrhage trouble. Why me? That's the million dollar question with no answer. But what I do know, is that in any situation, in any difficult moment or season, there is still always, always, always, something to be grateful for.
In the last few years off and on (mostly on) I have been experiencing my own season of challenge, one of several in my life. I am tired and sad and confused and sometimes angry. I feel stuck and overwhelmed and alone and like I am barely keeping my head above water. Still, every night before bed, I get out my gratitude journal and list 10 things I am grateful for. Some nights I struggle to get past 3 but push on 'til there are 10. Some nights it's easy to list 10 and to keep going. All this in the midst of a very uncomfortable chapter in my life. Yes, tonight my fork performed beautifully. Thank you.
The other day I saw the image below (sorry not sure who created it) on a friend's Facebook page for a 30 day gratitude challenge. I perked up when I saw it, not because I needed a challenge to keep a gratitude practice, but because it gave me so many more ideas on what to be grateful for that I don't normally consider. How crazy is that? Just goes to show you how much I (and maybe all of us) take for granted every. single. day. I'm not really a Bible kind of gal, but even in that doesn't it say something like in all things give thanks? You may be surprised at how a little gratitude can give you a bit of peace, hope and comfort even in the midst of your own shit show. It's easy when life is going along great, but it's absolutely necessary when it isn't.
So I am going to do this 30 day gratitude challenge publicly. You can join me by following along on my Facebook page or Instagram account, both of which are linked up at the top. I will welcome your comments about what you are grateful for under each day's topic. Who knows maybe with collective gratitude we can help each other ride the wave of sorrow or despair or discomfort and come out better for it on the other side. And with that, I will just say "Thank you" for stopping by and reading my little blog today. Namaste.
"Gratitude is the best attitude." - unknown
Welcome back friends to another post for our Virtual Book Club on The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan. I apologize for not keeping a regular posting schedule. I love the book but I am loving a lot of other books at the moment as well. So far my joy has been keeping the gratitude journal. However I have also noticed a shift in how gratitude colors some of my other relationships at work and at home for the better. I hope you can all say the same.
This blog entry is brought to you by a guest blogger, my niece Alana. She introduces herself a little more down so keep reading. She is an extraordinary young woman, and I love and admire her greatly. I was thrilled when she accepted my offer to guest blog for me. Please fell free to leave comments for her below to continue the conversation! The exploration of any idea is always more interesting when more participate. Thank you Alana for sharing!
When I was asked to write a guest post for the blog, I was elated. I loved The Gratitude Diaries (I finished a few weeks ago) and have referenced it multiple times for myself, during interactions with roommates, and in a workshop with student community service leaders on my campus. At first I thought I’d focus on specific passages that spoke to me, but I decided its impact on me would be better explained in a broader sense. The past couple months of my life have been extremely transformative—figuring out life goals, eating habits, and exercise regimens—and this book was an integral part of that journey.
A little about me: I’m one of Lynda’s nieces and a junior at Penn State University. I’m in the College of Communications studying Media Studies, a major focused on communication theory, policy, law, political communication, telecommunications, social justice, research, and writing. Simply put, I appreciate authors that use words to do good things. It’s not always easy to be as expressive and relatable as Janice Kaplan manages to be, but by the end you want to be her friend.
College in general was a bit of a rollercoaster ride to start, but now I feel like I’m sailing pretty smoothly. As someone who struggles with situational anxiety, taking time to reflect, meditate, eat well, sleep well, and exercise is absolutely crucial to my wellbeing. It’s something I’m still learning to balance, but this year was the first time I’ve felt really confident about the path I want to take in life and the person I have become. This book could not have entered my life at a better time; I was ready for the gratitude challenge! I was lucky enough to have received a journal to accompany the book, and I want to share some entries written in the very beginning:
1/18/17: I am grateful for…the yummy pho dinner Lauren and I had in the dining hall, the funny yoga instructor who insisted that “enlightenment doesn’t have to be serious” and used an accordion to pitch the “oms” at the end, housing for fixing the light outside of our door, that my rain boots came in the mail
1/19/17: I am grateful for…the sky had no clouds (so when I was walking home at night, I could see the stars), we won our first intermural volleyball game of the season, I had really delicious 6-vegetable pesto soup today for lunch (that I made!), my professor let us out of class 20 minutes early today
Super simple stuff, but reading it back now makes me smile.
So now to the three instances I mentioned in the beginning: applying lessons from the book to real-life situations. The part I found most personally useful was the section about gratitude and health (specifically diet and eating). As a food lover with a sweet tooth, self-control has always been an issue. I’ve been transitioning to a more plant-based diet, and in the process, it’s been helpful to be grateful for the good things that fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, and legumes do for me. Taking care to prepare quality food for myself involves lots of self-love, and the experience has been rewarding. Not only that, but in times when I’m stressed or annoyed, I take some deep breaths and try to look for something to be grateful for.
This strategy has helped me with my roommates, as well. My roommates are all lovely, and I can’t complain about my living situation. Regardless, we aren’t all perfect, and I have my off days. There was a day when my roommate was particularly upset about the number of ants appearing in our living room and insisted on getting housing to come and spray. Not being a big fan of chemicals, I was not enamored by this idea and insisted that the problem would solve itself. The situation created a bit of tension, but I had to remind myself that I was lucky to have a roommate that cared about maintaining a clean apartment. She was willing to take action to solve a problem. In the end, an Orkin guy came and squeezed tiny bits of goo around the molding in our living room. I had overreacted, but putting the issue in perspective and being grateful for my roommate’s concern made the situation much better. My attitude improved immediately, like a flipped switch.
One morning turning to "Chapter Four: The No-Complaining Zone must have been fate. The weather was particularly miserable one day (similar to Kaplan’s experience), and as I was reading with breakfast, my roommate came in lamenting about how cold it was outside. I echoed Kaplan, mentioning how lucky we were to have class in nice toasty rooms. I noticed an immediate change in her frame of mind, and suddenly the morning was made more pleasant. I wish I could always have gratitude in my pocket like that, but I’m not always that quick to think on my feet. In this case, the mentioning of weather in the book could not have been timelier.
Lastly, I am a Healthy Penn State Ambassador, which means I work with a group of students to promote health and wellness around campus. In our training, we learned about all sorts of awesome free things that our health center has to offer (but few people know about, which is why the group was formed). In another organization, Council of LionHearts (a roundtable of student community service leaders), I was asked to lead a workshop on a topic of my choice. Drawing from what I learned at the Healthy Penn State Ambassador training, I chose burnout and self-reflection. The first thing I mentioned as a key to mental health? Gratitude! I brought my book along, explaining the whole endorphin phenomenon that occurs with a habitual practice of gratitude. The workshop was a hit!
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read The Gratitude Diaries. It’s the first non-academic book I’ve read in a while, and I’m happy to say that it’s reignited my interest in reading for fun. I’m now working on Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good, a hilarious read about how Paul Newman and A.E. Hotchner developed the Newman’s Own brand.
This post was a lengthy one, but thank you if you stuck around ‘til the end! The Gratitude Diaries is a book I’ll be recommending over and over to friends. Although the emphasis is on gratitude, I believe one of the biggest takeaways is patience. As mentioned before, gratitude is a habitual practice. It’s something that takes time to develop into a routine. So be patient and loving with yourself, as we all have off days and must remember that it’s called practice for a reason. - Alana Fiero
"Happiness comes when we stop complaining about the troubles we have and offer thanks for all the troubles we don't have." -unknown
This is my week to post an update to The Gratitude Diaries virtual book club, if you are following along. Are you? Have you finished reading it? I have a confession to make. I have my hands in so many things right now, I am going chapter by chapter in a very slow fashion. The one constant in my Gratitude Diaries journey is keeping my gratitude journal. Every night, like clock work, give or take a day here and there, I am listing 3-5 things I am thankful for. I look so forward to looking back over the day to capture those moments, too. It has become a little treasure for me personally. What about you? I have also managed to show more appreciation for people in my life, my immediate family as well as perfect strangers and everyone in between. I am much more aware of wanting to do that even and how important it is to express the appreciation and gratitude. But before I Dive into this week's chapter, "the No-Complainig zone," I need to go off track for a moment.
This past weekend I was developing a recipe I imagined for the blog. The vision was in my head, I knew how I wanted it executed and visualized how yummy it was going to be and how beautiful, too. Well guess what? It was beautiful and it was a total fail. So I have no new recipe to post for this blog. It's not a total loss because twice last week I had Roasted radishes cross my path. Roasted radishes? I know, right? But when the universe sent them my way not once, but twice, I thought I'd better give them a try. And you'll never believe it but they are really yummy and quite pretty. So this week's virtual Book club entry is coming with a bonus mini recipe for roasted radishes. Here's the quick version: get a couple bunches of radishes, stem them and remove the little root end (wash them of course). Halve them from stem to root. Pat dry. Preheat oven to 400 Degrees F. Toss the halved radishes in a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil , sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and roast on a baking sheet for 15-2o minutes until just tender. I used two bunches and it served three of us, so use that as rough guide for servings. My daughter, my husband and I all really enjoyed them. I will definitely make them again. See? so pretty!
Ok, now back to our regularly scheduled blog post! Up until now in the Gratitude Diaries, the gratitude and appreciation topics have rung a clear, true bell for me. I have understood and recognized the merits of practicing them, with actually committing to the practice being my short-coming, off and on. But the no-complain zone, now that struck a different chord. I make an effort to generally be positive in work and "public" settings , but I have been known to whine and complain more than even I'd like to admit to on the home front. The thing is, it is really quite commonplace to complain and use it as a bonding practice (talk about the weather lately... or anything else we have no control over changing?I thought so). As Kaplan says in the book, "the get it off your chest approach has many adherents, but what you say has an effect on how you feel. Announce too often that you are miserable and you begin to feel that you really are." Why would we do that to ourselves?!!
My goal in life is to feel good, so that means some behavior modification is in order. As Kaplan goes on to say " my attitude of gratitude has to hold in all condition. " Yup, that's my goal- rose colored glasses and a positive attitude. I know what you are saying, but what if what I am talking about is true? Well as I heard Esther Hicks say in an episode of Abraham-Hicks , that's a poor excuse! Speak it as you'd wish it to be, I will tell myself! So the call is to find the good in everything, the silver lining in the cloud, the lemonade from the lemons. It's really just a shift in perspective. I can do this! And the incentive is that this gratitude is going to result in higher sense of well-being.
Dr Seligman a renowned professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania was quoted in the book as saying ,"of all the positive strengths we've looked at, people who are highest in gratitude are also highest in well-being." That's a worthy goal in my book. He went on to say how gratitude journals, letter and visits all help reinforce the benefits. I have written such letter from everyone to an elementary school teacher of mine, to an author whose work really touched me and several others. I can't report how my letters made them feel, but I can say the gratitude and connection to something else that I felt was definitely enhanced. Perhaps it is time to look for more letters to send and more gratitude to express and zero complaining.
Several years ago at a church I was attending at the time, the pastor talked about not complaining. Her suggestion was to wear a bracelet , like those silicone bracelets that were so popular several years back, and when you catch yourself complaining, you move the bracelet from one wrist to the other back and forth it goes as long as you are complaining. In fact I believe it came from the book A complaint Free World by Rev. Will Bowen. The bracelets are still available here, if that's something you may be interested in. Another time I heard the idea of wearing a rubber band around the wrist and snapping it on yourself every time you complained. It could be helpful to have a physical reminder like either of those to help me break the habit of complaining. What's working for you? I have been practicing the no complaining since this past weekend, after finishing the chapter. This may turn out to be an idea I investigate further, but in my short time of practicing no complaining, I have noticed it is much more empowering to turn a complaint around and acknowledge the good. As Kaplan states at the end of this chapter, "I felt liberated to understand that it wasn't events that made me happy but how I chose to frame them." I challenge you to join me on the no-complain train this week. Let me know how it goes for you! Sharing our experiences and ideas is what makes them richer for all of us. Join me on facebook or Instagram or right here and let me know how your gratitude Diary journey is coming along. In the meantime, roast some radishes! ♥
" To raise grateful kids, be grateful for your kids. "- Janice Kaplan
How is your gratitude journey coming along so far? I have kept my gratitude journey afloat almost daily. I missed a couple days, but then I went back to capture the gratitude later. Although I could fairly easily list items to be grateful for after the fact, I found, interestingly to me, that I had a harder time conjuring up the feeling of gratitude that went along with them after the fact. That has been the part I enjoy the most about being grateful- how it makes me feel! Daily!
If you are new to the blog, I am "hosting" a virtual book club at the moment and the book I am talking about is called The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan. You are welcome to join in at any time. We have already discovered it is less about reading the book than it is about actually practicing gratitude in our everyday lives. Nonetheless, through the book we go. This week I am covering chapter three, "Raising Grateful Kids."
Kaplan talks fairly early on about how her tendency had always been to interject all kinds of ideas on her kids about what they possibly need or how to improve their lives. I can only speak for myself, but that sounded rather familiar to me. She also went on to say how exhausting it was for her and so when she decided to let that go and instead sit back and enjoy them for their best traits in the moment, how much more relaxed and fulfilling the interactions were. Different aged kids have different needs, of course, but in a nutshell, isn't that what it's all about? Being able to take a step back from the have to's and should's and just breathe in the what is for even just a minute? If you are reading this and have little ones and feel exasperated by their activity levels or running around after them, take in some of the joy of that, for I tell you it is fleeting those times. Be like a dog and wag for them when hey get home from school, that is to say, light up when you see them. Don't let the first thing out of your mouth be something "negative." As my kids have gotten older, I now find that much easier to do because one is already fairly independent, a junior in college out-of-state, and my youngest is a senior in high school, also to be going out of state for college. In fact, earlier this past fall, when she was kind of moody (she won't read this so I can tell you-lol) and we weren't connecting as much as I wanted (she is my baby, after all), I did use gratitude and appreciation as a way to reach her and it worked. For a while I wrote her weekly "love and appreciation" notes, only affirming good things she'd done or experienced and even what great things were in her future.I never ended it with PS , but your bathroom is really a mess, or don't forget to put away your laundry! Sometimes it was really hard to bite my tongue about some of the things getting on my nerves, but that wasn't how I was going to connect with her, so I let them be (hard for me!). I haven't written one in a while and this chapter has sparked a renewed interest in doing that for me. Oh, and if you need another idea, I recently saw on Facebook this idea to place a heart a day on your child's bedroom door with something you love about them written on them, every day for 14 days in February for Valentine's day. But really, it would be a great thing to do anytime. We all love to feel appreciated and seen (In fact, while you are at it, write a love note to yourself , too. Self-appreciation is highly under-rated, and you, my friend, are an amazing, miraculous being).
The one thing though that really stood out for me from Chapter 3 was how kids didn't want to feel indebted and somehow confused that with the ability to feel grateful, even for kids as old as college aged or slightly older. That left me scratching my head. Almost no one in my experience gets anywhere in life without help along the way, even if it's only words of encouragement and a shoulder to lean on. I'll have to explore that one a little more. And perhaps our young adults all need to as well. As Yale President Peter Salovey once conveyed to a graduation class, "the need to express gratitude reminds us that we are not entirely in control; that we might be indebted or dependent; that our destiny is not entirely in our hands; indeed that on occasion we are vulnerable." He later went on to say, "the good life may be out of reach unless we are able to cultivate an openess to accepting help from others and expressing gratitude for that help." It takes a village after all....
I did have an ah-ha moment , though, when I read about the chemistry of the adolescent brain and gratitude. I bet if you are a parent, you have had more than one occasion where you thought (or possibly even expressed out loud) that your kids were completely ungrateful "for everything you do for them or everything they have." Sound familiar? Well apparently, as Kaplan states, "neuroscientists have shown that different regions of the brain develop at different rates. The prefontal cortex which controls reasoning and executive control, is on the slow track." So the reason kids don't know how lucky they are is because they don't. Their brains don't do that sort of thing yet. Oh, knowing this could really be helpful for parents everywhere! I sure could have used this way back when. I have tried to influence my kids gratitude practice by getting them each a journal, which neither one adopted. I have encouraged them to at least think about what they are grateful for but haven't prodded as to if they do that on a regular basis or not. Kaplan talks about different activities as a way to get kids to express what they are grateful for. In most homes it is the stuff of the Thanksgiving table, once a year, but imagine how amazing it would be to have that be our daily lives? One of the experts she consulted, Christine Carter from Berkeley, California said "Finding silver linings gives kids at any age more resilience and helps them short-circuit anxiety." That can only be a good thing.
What was your favorite take away from this chapter? Do your kids have or did they have a regular gratitude practice growing up? Do you already have in place a way to regularly appreciate your kids to their faces?I am so interested to know! Thanks for reading along with me. I'm so grateful you are here. ♥
"I now knew that writing down one thing every day that made me grateful could change my attitude about everything else. A glowing sunset. A good friend's hug. THe first hint of spring. One thing. Who can't do that?"-Janice Kaplan
I chose The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan for my virtual book club back in November. Now that the holidays have come and gone, I want to turn my attention to this book and even more importantly to creating a regular practice of gratitude in my own life, one that goes deeper than I have ever gone before.
Kaplan ends the preface of the book with the above quote. It highlights just how simple culitvating a gratitude practice can be, and yet, as she goes on to explain in the book, few people express gratitude on a regular basis. The John Templeton Foundation funded a survery by Kaplan which found "94% of Americans thought people who are grateful are also more fulfilled and lead richer lives. But less than half the people surveyed said they expressed gratitude on any regular basis." I don't find that hard to believe because although I have had a gratitude practice off and on for many years, and HAVE felt the benefits that go along with that, I have still failed to make it a part of my daily life consistently.
Kaplan's research into gratitude is extensive. She had consulted experts in the field as she progressed through her year-long gratitude experiment. Most of us fail to recognize the good we have instead choosing to focus on what isn't going well or what is lacking in our life. Even Sheryl Crowe sang way back when "It's not having what you want. It's wanting what you've got," and I would add expressing thanks for it to boot! We don't seem wired to look for the good, the silver lining, the ray of sunshine. Kaplan says how experts seem to think, and most agree, that it takes no less than 3 good things to counteract a bad. That's where the gratitude journal comes in. Writing down the three to 5 things you are grateful for as a daily practice reframes a day's events and actually helps re-wire the brain. I can attest to this being 100% true. Task #1-keep a gratitude journal daily!
I purchased a beautiful set of notebooks last year with artwork created by the artist Katie Daisy (she was featured on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday-the best show on television IMHO- a while back, but I digress...). I now have my gratitude journal for the year. I am keeping it by my bed so I have no excuse not to write down my grateful thoughts every night. Kaplan suggests having a beautiful journal will make the practice even better . As a lover of all things paper, it wasn't hard to convince me of that! If you are following along with the book, have you chosen your gratitude journal to use? Show me yours on my facebook page or tag a photo of your gratitude journal on instagram with #WandGgratitudejourney2017. I'd love to see them!
I haven't gotten very far in the book yet, I just finished the section where she focuses on expressing her appreciation of her husband to her husband. She talks about how we tend to forget what is special about the things and people who are a part of our every day life. She states "we get used to something-whether a husband, a house, or a shiny new car-and then forget why it seemed so special in the first place." Can you relate to that? I sure do. She goes on to discuss, and this one really struck me, about how much demand we place on those closest to us to fulfill so many of our needs and desires, as in no other relationship. "And when-inevitably- we aren't feeling on top of the world,. it is clearly (clearly!) our spouse's fault." That kind of hurt to read to be honest, and I am guessing you have felt that way in your relationships perhaps at least once, too. "When you expect everything, it's hard to be grateful for anything." Kaplan then puts aside expectations and spends a full month expressing appreciation for her spouse, even in circumstances she had previously struggled with. I admired reading how she was able to re-frame some of those things. It turns out that the appreciation was returned to her by her spouse as well without any prompting whatsoever, benefiting both of them more times over. Again there was science to back up all the positive feelings going both ways, showing "gratitude could actually increase positive neural circuits and make both partners feel happier." Sounds like it's worth a try.
Although I haven't gotten that far into the book, it is clear to me, that the actual benefit of the book is not in the reading of it, but in embarking on a journey of gratitude inspired by it. In just the first 50 pages of the book, there are all kinds of positive references and reasons to express and focus on gratitude as a daily practice. I have known this for some time, and I am looking forward to 2017 being the year I develop this very important, life-affirming and healthy habit. When we think we can't change the world we are wrong. In expressing gratitude to others and for the things we have, we are in effect causing a ripple of kindness to emanate out of us into the world, and that will change the world. You'll see.
Please join in on the conversation by commenting here or on facebook or on instagram. It will certainly be a way richer experience with your voice involved. I'm grateful you are joining me. See you here next time!
"The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see." -Dr. Robert Holden
If you have been following my blog for any time (maybe a few of you?) or have seen me on Instagram, you may know that gratitude is a theme I am curious about, hence the name "Wonder and Gratitude."
My personal gratitude practice started many, many years ago after seeing Oprah discuss her gratitude journal and the habit of listing 5 things she was grateful for each day before going to sleep. Off and on I have had some sort of gratitude practice. Sometimes I don't practice it regularly, and other times I am so committed. Last year I photo journaled a daily gratitude practice on Instagram under the hashtag #365grateful after seeing the gratitude video projects of two artists Hailey Bartholomew, photographer and the founder of 365grateful.com and Lori Portka, a painter. I encourage you to watch both.
I have found a gratitude practice to be extremely helpful to me in challenging times (and the past two years have been really challenging) And yet, even when I am looking on the bright side, trying to see the good, focusing on what my heart feels grateful for, sometimes I fail at it big time. Sometimes my gratitude feels trite to me, not as sincere as I'd like it to. My heartfelt wish is to have gratitude be the essence of me, to imbue my every pore with a feeling of gratitude and to have it color all my experiences and interactions with its grace. Lofty goal, I know. Maybe I will never achieve that but I'd like to try and move as close to that as possible for me.
Recently while scrolling through Instagram, I came across a book called The Gratitude Diaries: How a year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life. It's a New York Times Bestseller by author Janice Kaplan. I'd never heard of it, have you? It instantly piqued my interest and gave me the idea to host a virtual book club so we can share the gratitude journey together. Would you like to join me? You know it will be so much more fun and interesting with you along, right? Yes, definitely! ♥
To celebrate the first Wonder and Gratitude Virtual Book Club I am going to give away 2 copies of the book and one copy of this gratitude journal (keep reading for how to enter)!
So here is how it will work... Anyone who wants to participate will just buy the book from any bookseller they choose (disclosure: if you purchase using this link, I may get a small commission) or borrow it from your local library if available. The Wonder and Gratitude Virtual Book Club will commence January 2017 so you can get through the holidays and settle in with your book later. I will post my take on the book twice a month and we can all join in on the discussion here on the blog, on Facebook and on Instagram. It will be an encouraging, supportive and love-filled space to grow. I can't wait to see how sharing gratitude will bless us all! Ok, so now for the GIVEAWAY!!!
Due to shipping constraints, the giveaway is limited to only addresses within the 50 US states. Two (2) entrants, randomly selected, will win a copy of the book The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan. A third entrant, randomly selected, will win a copy of Gratitude Journal:A Daily Appreciation by Brenda Nathan. Here's what you have to do to be entered (any or all to increase your chances):
1. Comment on this Blog Post below, telling me where you're from and what you were most grateful for today in just a few words and/or
2. Like my Facebook page and comment on the Gratitude Diaries entry and/or
3. Follow me on Instagram and in the comments section of the Gratitude Diaries post tag TWO (or more) friends who you think would love to join you on a gratitude journey.
That's it! Easy, right?The winners will be announced December 15 and book shipped out in plenty of time for January 2017 book club start! I'm so excited and grateful to get to do this with you!♥