Making a Habit of Gratitude

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For the past couple of weeks I have been working on a gratitude journal. Every day, either morning or night, I write down at least three things that I am grateful for in my life. This process has made me look at a lot of things in life differently, and approach challenges, success and shortfalls with a new perspective.

One big change for me was this past weekend when I was on a team for the Reno Tahoe Odyssey relay race. I was exhausted from having no sleep, my knees were hurting, and I was running 6 miles in the heat of the day in July with no shade. The more I thought about how horrible I felt in that moment, the more I set mental boundaries for myself and the thought of going on was impossible.

I started to think about when I was 9 months pregnant and all I wanted to do was to go running. I missed having the ability to run, which made me miss the feeling of adrenaline and physical freedom. Remembering that feeling made me grateful to be in my situation. I felt grateful to be able to run, to have a support team of good friends and family to do this challenge together, and to have the freedom in my life to choose to participate in this kind of event.

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Long story short, having the gratitude journal has formed a habit of gratitude where instead of stressing over things or thinking negatively, I am starting to automatically find gratitude in whatever circumstances led me to the opportunity in the first place, or to reflect on all of the other good things in my life.

“Studies have traced a range of impressive benefits to the simple act of writing down the things for which we’re grateful—benefits including better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, and more happiness among adults and kids alike.” (Berkley)

How to get started:

  • Nothing has to be formal or lengthy; if you just want to start with gratitude, make three to five bullet points for things you are grateful for, who you love, what you hope to do, and what you have been able to do in the past. All of this can help you find the gifts in your current life.

 

  • Try and focus on people and opportunities that you are grateful for rather than things in your life. This will help you get more depth and make it more personal.

 

  • Reflect on what your life might look like without certain blessings, rather than just adding up all of the good things.

 

  • Have fun with it. It doesn’t just have to be a list every time, as you can include drawings, photos, and movie tickets.
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After writing down your gratitude, you might find it natural to begin to expand on your thoughts in writing. Writing regularly helps you clarify your thoughts and feelings, solve problems more effectively, reduces stress, and understand your own feelings.  “Writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health.” (Psych Central).

Journaling, especially through a time of personal development, helps people keep track of their daily lives and how they change. Most things you do to better yourself can be difficult to measure, but keeping a written record of your experiences and even your down days allows you to look back at how you are handling each day and the challenges in your life, and how you have grown over time.

Tonight, make a list with three bullet points and write down three things that happened today or people in your life that you are thankful for. If you feel inclined to do so, reach out to someone to thank them for something they positively contribute to your life. What are you grateful for?

Be the Boss; Changing Your Behaviors that Don’t Serve You

 

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“If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.” ~ W.L. Bateman

Doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results each time is a foolproof path to feel like a failure. Some people even define that behavior as insane. I love the idea that we can constantly and endlessly develop ourselves through trying a “new behavior” via the experiences we have and the boundaries we set.

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How many times in our lives do we repeat behaviors that just don’t serve us? Going to a job that we hate, committing to things we don’t want to do, hanging out with people who drain us, doing the same thing over and over because it is safe…

When people talk about finding your purpose or your calling in life, it can be really inspiring OR if you are like me, it can sound really overwhelming. We’re trying to get through everything else in life and now we need a purpose? Your “calling” really is your innate desires; the things you are continually drawn to or love to spend your time doing. If finding your life purpose sounds intimidating to you, how about doing something you love for just 15 minutes per day?

“If you aren’t living with passion, you are living with resistance.” ~ Heather McCloskey Beck

To create a new path for yourself that will lead to happiness, you need to change your behaviors that aren’t working for you. You need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and be the boss of your own life, because only you can designate how much control you will have over your future.

It comes down to this:

  • You are the boss of your life.
  • Only you get to live your life.
  • You are responsible for you.

You have the right to:

  • Be treated with respect.
  • Say “no” without feeling guilty.
  • Take time to develop yourself.
  • Take time for quiet and solitude.
  • Write, think and reflect.
  • Create a life that feels inspiring.

 

Write this down for yourself: “As the boss of my life, I have the right to:________________.”

 

When you find your calling and speak your truth, you empower someone else to speak their truth. Creating boundaries for others and for yourself will also generate time for you to change the behaviors that don’t serve you, to do what makes you happy, and to have time alone to reflect.

 

This post is inspired by a talk from Heather McCloskey Beck at the International Women’s Summit

Finding Your Identity After Parenthood

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Having kids is like nothing else in life. It changes the way you think about the world, and lets you love someone in a way that you never knew possible; but parenthood it is not to be underestimated.  No matter how much you love being a parent and adore your kids, it is the ultimate test of grit and resilience and there are going to be times where you are exhausted, mentally broken, and feel lost in your direction in life. It happens because you start to care for someone else around the clock, someone who needs you, and only you for every waking moment, and all the things you had on your life to-do list gets put aside so that you can dedicate your whole world to this little person’s needs, while often neglecting your own.

 

Being a mom is such a blessing, and every day I am so grateful for those little boys who are growing into sweet and hilarious people who challenge me every single day.  It is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I am always conflicted about my life as a mom and where I stand in the professional world. I have worked hard as a manager and as a student, and although being a mom comes first, I still very much value my future as a financial provider for my family while finding my own satisfaction in my career path.  I have spent three years putting my heart and soul into taking care of my family, and I find myself thinking a lot about my own identity besides being a mom. Cheryl Richardson, author, radio show host and teacher, states that “many mothers fall prey to the common misconception that their identity is merely wrapped up in what they do. You are more than the care you give your children and the responsibilities you take on for the good of your family, and you can reclaim your identity after children and marriage.”

 

Here are some things that have helped me on my journey through parenthood:

  1. Discover your interests: Spend time exploring what you like. The things that interested you before might have changed, and that’s ok! Take time out and get to know yourself again. For me, even listening to my own favorite music rather than Disney songs from Moana over and over again makes me feel like myself again. Take a class. Going back to school changed my life! It made me feel like I had “me” time again and a chance to start fresh with my career options.
  1. Do something out of the ordinary. Most of the time, being a parent is all about routine, especially if you stay home with the kids. Routines can help us to be more efficient, but breaking that routine every once in a while can be liberating. Take some time to go on a hike with friends, or find a fundraiser for a cause that you care about.  Social time is so important for creating connections and nurturing the ones you already have. Making yourself visible in your community can help you find a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity. Don’t get a lot of alone time? Take your kids! Go camping, head to the beach, or even go to a movie. “When we consistently stick to the same routines, some brain functions run on autopilot, but by changing our habits, we can force the brain to pay attention and exercise itself. Simply switching up your environment or changing your workflow exercises your brain, generating positive and lasting changes.

    My husband and I on a scuba diving trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Australia. We left the kids with my parents to have some one on one time.
  1. Have some “me” time. Take time to take care of yourself. It does not mean that you are being selfish. For me, sometimes it means dropping of the kids so that I can focus on school work, or spending time with my husband one on one. The options are limitless if you just give yourself a little time to do whatever it is you want to do while re-charging and taking time to reflect.  Having uninterrupted time to think about what you really want can help you create a game plan for getting closer to your goal.
  1. Find your tribe. Whether it is your family, friends, colleagues, or someone you met at the park, finding people who you can relate to can help you form important connections and can help build a community of trust and support in your life. My tribe is my family. Many of them live in Reno and I know that when I need to get work done or do something for myself, I can count on them to help me out with the kids. My friends with kids help keep me sane because we can all laugh about the crazy things we do as parents while the kids play, and my friends without kids encourage me to think about where I am going next in my career and what I want out of life for myself.
  1. Use your resources. Find a quick class to take to sharpen your skills on a subject or program, or ask a friend in the industry to give you feedback on your resume. If you are still exploring your interests, try volunteering for a local organization. You will likely form valuable connections while helping others in your community that you care about.
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When spending so much time working with and for your kids, it is common to feel detached from who you feel that you really are. Parenting is a role that you play; it is an important one, but just as we are employees, students, friends, and volunteers, those positions are roles, not necessarily what defines us or who we really are. As parents, it is also common to be too hard on ourselves for not living up to who we think we should be in those roles. Parenting is hard enough as it is, but if you never make anything happen for you, you can’t expect anything to happen to you.  What are some ways that you have found your identity while caring for others? Whether you have kids or not, take some time today to reflect on who you want to be, what kind of example you want to set for your kids, and if your current path is leading you in the right direction.

Building Self-Reliance Through Experience

Few things feel more amazing than accomplishing something on our own that we didn’t think was possible. Have you ever known someone who is really handy and can fix or figure out anything? Or maybe they are the kind of person that can travel on their own to unknown places almost fearlessly? Many of us would describe ourselves as self-reliant and open to learning new things, but in reality, self-reliance is diminishing.  We live in a time where we have such a vast amount of resources available that sometimes it may be easier or more convenient for someone else to do things for us. Life skills build on experiences that we have and people that we meet, while putting us in a position to better serve and help others who we care about.

How do we build self-reliance? It happens through investing in our own skills and abilities. It comes from asking questions and seeking out answers in new experiences. Comfort and stability drives us to maintain our lifestyles through day after day routines and habits. When a daily routine turns into monthly and yearly routines, it makes it harder and harder for us to step out of our comfort zones and try something new. The less that we make a conscious effort to make a change and continuously improve ourselves, we lose the confidence in our capacity to do something else; something better.

Through my own experiences of becoming a mom, a wife, a student and a professional, I have learned the powerful effects of breaking the habits that were holding me back from success. I used to be someone who made plans all the time. I would agree to any crazy idea that was thrown out there, and then when it came time to actually make it happen, I backed out. I loved the idea of going on adventurous trips and dreaming about what my life was going to be like in the future once I had accomplished something big, but I could never put it into action. I felt like I just didn’t have time, but later I realized that I was uncomfortable and afraid, and holding myself back. Growth can come from facing anxiety, discomfort and even pain, but overcoming those feelings once you have accomplished that new task is one of the best feelings in the world. The more new and uncomfortable experiences you have, you will gain the confidence to trust in your intuition and your own skills to shape your path for your future.

I hope to use my own experiences and new experiments along the way to help people find their paths and create new habits that lead to resilience, wellness, self-respect and confidence. Follow along with me as we explore baby steps to life changers in the world of self-improvement. Ask yourself, what if you could do more? We all have the capability to obtain what we need, especially happiness.