jam-428094_1280

Day 13 – I am grateful that I have access to healthy, delicious, nutritious food

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22JT4Vn1lcg&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

[message_box title=”Affirmation” color=”beige”]

Every weekend, our cook goes into town to buy fresh vegetables and fruits. There is a farmer’s market in the heart of Old Ahmedabad City to which she travels. In the midst of a cacophony of vendors selling everything to fruits to vegetables to nuts to meat and fish, she picks out the freshest, healthiest produce to last us for the rest of the week.

I order healthy and delicious produce from a list of my choice. I am grateful that I can afford such a wide variety of nutritious food. I am grateful for my cook for painstakingly picking out the freshest produce for us to eat.

I am also grateful  for the realization that food is literally fuel to my body. I am grateful that I no longer eat as much junk as I used to I am grateful that eating healthy food clears my mind. I am grateful for my daily green smoothies they keep me energized and feeling powerful. I am grateful for the awareness that my body works best when nurtured with healthy clean diet and not mindless oily, unhealthy junk.

I am grateful for the means to afford this healthy food and the luxury of feeding myself high quality produce. I am grateful for a healthy and functioning body that can enjoy such nutritious food. I am grateful for the awareness that enables me to make healthy dietary choices.

[/message_box]

Wholesome fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein are essential to eating well and maintaining a healthy body but most of us have no time or patience to follow complicated diets. So I’ve tried to set up a better way to feed myself  healthier meals. Below are some of the practices that help me everyday:

Portion control

We actually do not need to eat as much as we think we do. Except veggies, of course. A simple way to eat healthy and still feel satisfied is to eat your veggies at the beginning of your meal. That way, you will be full when you get to the higher calorie foods. Studies show that Americans are not only eating more high calorie foods outside the home, but also that portions are slowly getting larger. Larger portion sizes coupled with sedentary lifestyles are a potent time-bomb waiting to detonate into a slew of health problems – obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, even joint and muscle problems from lugging all that extra weight around. To combat this, save high calorie foods for the end of your meal when you will be fuller from the veggies and more able to resist gorging yourself because of hunger pangs.

Pantry control

Restricting yourself to home-cooked meals also means you have to commit to eating low-calorie but nutrient laden meals in the home. So raid your pantry. It may sound extreme and wasteful but throwing out unhealthy foods will not only get rid of all the temptation, it will also help you avoid healthcare bills in the long run. Produce, lean protein, meat, whole grains – anything that looks like it came out of the ground can stay. The rest of the stuff? Dump it.

Dress up your veggies

If you’re going to eat them over the long term, your veggies need to taste great. If you can practice moderation, there is nothing wrong with using a table spoon of ranch, a few shreds of cheese, raisins, nuts, soy sauce or anything else that tickles your tastebuds. Dress up your veggie platter so it looks enticing. Flavorful herbs, colorful fruits and unusual spices can add adventure and novelty to otherwise bland vegetables without the burden of extra calories. Do what you need to do in order for your fruits and veggies to taste great. Make them the highlight of your meal.

Smart snacking

Some experts say that your snacks ( especially the less healthy ones) must be no larger than the size of your fist. Veggies, of course, are an exception. I am a certified junk food addict, so instead of snack time being a starvation struggle, I treat myself to a tiny (no cheating here!) portion of my favourite snack and enjoy it without beating myself up.

Manage your eating environment

Take a look at where you eat. Is everyone around you munching on cheesecake and chips? Are your friends laughing at your failed attempts lose weight? Do you watch tv while eating? get yourself out of these toxic situations. Find a new, fresh, clean and inspiring place to eat. In the summer, go out to the patio to enjoy the scenery and fresh air. In winter, find a cozy spot near the fireplace. Make your dining area your sacred shrine.

Sustainable food habits take much more effort than just going through the motions until you are so desperate for a bag of Cheetos that you drool in your sleep when you dream about them. Every meal is a choice – not a battle! Experiment to make your healthy food taste good so that you actually look forward to eating it. Think of it at as a love affair – keep it fresh and exciting, throwing in some new flavours here and there. Most of all, remember that food is not about comfort, stress-relief, reward or stuffing yourself just because it tastes so great.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]Food is fuel.[/quote]

Go ahead. Tattoo that on the inside of your wrist. I’m joking!

best-friends-381984_1280(1)

Day 12 – I am grateful to my sister for dragging me to Yoga class

Growing up in an East Indian household, Yoga was something reserved for crummy old uncles and aunties trying to lose weight. Any Indian kid I knew, any Indian kid worth their salt steered clear of anything yoga-related. My grandmother did yoga, so did my aunt. They made me do it sometimes with them. I kind of thought it was fun – but I wouldn’t be caught dead doing it.

So imagine my surprise when my sister insisted we sign up for a month of unlimited hot yoga (unlimited?!?) at the local yoga centre when I returned home for a visit this summer. Not only was she literally dragging me to yoga. It sounded like some torturous new fad. What the hell was hot yoga???

I went reluctantly, almost ran away again when I realized hot yoga was literally HOT… We were practicing inside of a sweltering room heated to unnatural degrees by a heater and humidifier rolled into one hideous looking machine. It was supposed to be good for your joints… or something.

Anyway, I started the session skeptically, but by the end of it I was like WOW! The workouts were gruelling, but there was nothing new about that. I’d done gruelling workouts before. What blew me away was that the entire time I was contorting my body into impossible positions in that dark, infernal studio, my mind was quiet. No anxieties surfacing, no fears, no thinking just a soft, worm void like a womb. Instead, I felt a sense of relief at not having to think. I’m a worry wart. My mind is constantly whirring, even when I’m trying to relax. The evil side of my brain is constantly whispering silent poison into my internal ear about ALL the things that are going to go wrong with my life if I take risks. I take risks anyway – and boy, do I pay the price listening to my inner devil.

Our instructor closed the practice with a few lines of gratitude for the support we take for granted – the ability to have been there in that room, the circumstances in our lives that make it possible to engage in leisure activities like this. She asked us to release all hurts, self inflicted and by others, to release our fears and let the universe take care of them. As corny as it sounds, the meditation had me sobbing uncontrollably by the end. The combination of moving muscles I had long ago forgotten how to, with the gruelling physical conditions and the utter mental peace gave me an overwhelming sense of relief that I had not felt in a long, long time.

Back in the real world, I felt rejuvenated, empowered and ready to take on anything that life throws at me. That month of hot yoga has long been over, but I’ve rediscovered a new sense of freedom in the practice of yoga that grounds me everyday. I’ve possibly turned into a crummy old aunty and I can’t believe how good it feels!

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaPWdvDiPaE&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

[message_box title=”Affirmation” color=”beige”]I’m grateful for a sister that pushed me to join yoga class. I am grateful for my old folks that took care of my little one while I indulged in daily hot yoga sessions. I am grateful for the luxury of time and money that allows me to afford such leisure practices that rejuvenate me. I am grateful for the physical and mental benefits of discovering this yoga practice. I am grateful for the amazing instructors at Moksha Yoga whose words had a bigger impact on me then they will ever know. Their words moved me to tears, they allowed me to introspect and think the scary thoughts that I was repressing. Their gentle support allowed me to think these scary thoughts in the safe-womb of that dark studio. I am grateful for the strong and supple body that allows me to continue to practice everyday. I am grateful for the steady mind that allows me to focus my thoughts. I am grateful for the breath that allows me to centre myself. I am grateful for the lungs that draw in oxygen and give me strength. I am grateful for the change in my food habits as a result of my yoga practice that allows me to nourish myself with clean, healthy food that keeps me nimble. I am grateful for the burst of energy I feel after a practice session. I am grateful for the increased mindfulness I experience as a result of practice that allows me to be fully present with my two year old. Most of all, I am grateful for this beautiful life I’ve been blessed with where I feel free, joyous and excited to begin each day with my daily practice.[/message_box]

 

flower-22656_1280

Day 11 – I am grateful for the people that make my life comfortable

I am grateful for the people that make my life comfortable

How many people make your life possible the way as it is? How many of them do you take the time to thank?

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYKOlVqaeew&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

[message_box title=”Affirmation Day 11″ color=”beige”]

It is Diwali in India and while most of India is exploding with designer sweets and consumer culture and firecrackers, I see some quiet acts of kindness too. Some people are quietly tipping, thanking and wishing the people that serve us.

I am grateful for the ability to afford so much help with maintaining my lifestyle. I am grateful for the support of so many wonderful people that show up everyday cheerful to do their job. Even on days where they may feel sick or dread work, they show up and do a good job of doing it. I am grateful for the cook that provides kind childcare even though it is not part of her job description. I am grateful for the security guards that guard our community. I am grateful for the kind old man guarding my little girl’s school who always spares a smile for her as she gets dropped off and picked up everyday. I am grateful for the pre-school staff that nurture my child everyday and allow me the luxury of a couple of hours to work on this website. I am grateful for the chauffeurs that drive me around the chaotic Indian roads so I don’t have to deal with that hassle.  I am grateful for the gardener that keeps our outdoor space manicured and beautiful. I am grateful for the government staff who work hard to process papers that allow me and my child to stay here. I am grateful for the farmers that toil under the harsh sun so that we may eat fresh fruits and vegetables to nurture our bodies. I am grateful that so many people rally to make my comfortable lifestyle a reality.

[/message_box]

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]

This is for the one who drives the big bus, up and down the road.
Or the one out in the warehouse, bringing in the load.
Or the health aide, the mechanic, the campus supervisor on patrol.
For everyone who works behind the scenes.
With a spirit you can’t replace with no machine.

by Chris Gdowski, Adams District School Superintendent[/quote]

 

When you think about it, there are a ton of people that work hard everyday to make your comfortable lifestyle a reality:

[list type=”check”]

  • Cashiers who cash out my groceries quickly and with my smile. They make grocery shopping enjoyable and convenient.
  • Janitors who clean up after me at work and at home. They save me time and make my surroundings comfortable, clean and livable.
  • Garbagemen – who take away the garbage every week. Without them I would be surrounded by streets that are a stinking, disease harbouring mess.
  • Local Barristas who fuel my writing with their delicious beverages. They allow me to sit in a public place, watch people that inspire my writing.
  • Bank tellers who allow me to keep my money and valuables secure and who help me access these resources when the fancy strikes. They allow me the freedom to stop worrying about the security of my valuable possessions.
  • Housekeeper who cooks for us, cleans after us, watches our kids and serves us healthy, delicious meals. She allows me to work from home. Because if her, I  have the luxury to go out everyday without worrying about putting food on the table. Because of her, I can go on dates with my husband without worrying about my daughter’s dinner. Because she spends all day in the kitchen, I get to eat delicious, elaborate meals every day.
  • Chauffeurs who drive me around so I don’t have to deal with the crazy Indian traffic. They take me to play dates, lunch meet-ups, to my daughter’s school, to doctors’s appointments, to the office and even to visit friends and family. Because of these chauffeurs, I can travel without the hassles of driving myself everywhere.
  • Gardener who toils in the sweltering Indian afternoons, planting beautiful herbs, flowers and watering the soil so that my garden is always landscaped, beautiful and pristine. Because of him, I am able to enjoy the lush gardens on my property. Because of him, I’m able to dabble in my little Potager garden growing herbs, greens and edible flowers without having to lift heavy soil.
  • Preschool teachers who take care of my child everyday so I can have two hours of peace and quiet to do the work I need to go in order to keep this website running. They allow me to drop off my child guilt-free, secure in the knowledge that while I’m away from her, the teachers are kind role models to her, teaching her new, useful and interesting things about the world around her.
  • Security staff who guard the residential area I live in. They allow us to sleep at night, keeping us safe from thieves, hoodlums and robbers by staying up all night to watch out for our safety. Because of them, I feel secure, confident and protected from crime in our gated community.
  • Physicians who treat my family when we are sick. Because of them we enjoy quick recoveries, spending most of our time healthy, worry free and enjoying life to the fullest.
  • Farmers who work all year round to nurture crops of fruits and vegetables, then sell them to me for less than the price of most unhealthy, packaged goods. These incredible human beings undertake hard labor just so the rest of us can eat a clean, healthy diet.
  • Subway musicians who have always made my commute pleasant and interesting. There is one man in particular that has been embedded in my psyche. When I used to work in Oncology, there was a bearded, middle aged man who played beautiful, soulful violin tunes every morning and evening as I passed him by. Everytime I pass by Queen’s Park subway station, I remember him with fondness. I don’t know where he is, but I hope he’s still cranking out some badass music.

[/list]

This is just a cross-section of the people that help me in my life.

Today’s Task

Think about your life. Who is helping you in your everyday struggles? Have you thanked any of them lately? Maybe you’re not quite sure where to begin. Try looking through the list below for something that seems comfortable for you. Which of these words can you share with a service person that is helping you today:

[list type=”check”]

  • From friendship to mentorship to leadership, you have given this company a warm kinship in every possible form. Thanks.
  • I am sending you thank you note for your excellent services. My appreciation to your job is greater than the words I could express in this note.
  • I am very fortunate to avail your services and I am really happy that I had you for carrying out this difficult work. Thank you very much.
  • My words can never be enough to praise your actions because your work always meets my expectations. Thank you.
  • Thank you for all your efforts and dedication. Your sincere service needs all our encouragement and appreciation.
  • Thank you for being so committed.
  • Thank you for bringing your positive attitude to work every day.
  • Thank you for your excellent work and your support. You have really made my life more comfortable and have taken my worries away.
  • Thank you for your hard work and honesty.
  • Your enthusiasm is a personality trait that cannot be learnt and a skill which cannot be taught.
  • Your job was timely and very helpful. It deserves all my appreciation.

[/list]

You can find the entire list here.

 

belly-painting-409794_1280

Day 10 – I am grateful for the daughter who reminds me everyday of the beauty that exists in the simple, non-material things

I am grateful for the daughter who reminds me everyday of the beauty that exists in the simple, non-material things.

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayJoUPyDQGQ&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]
[message_box title=”Affirmation Day 10″ color=”beige”]I learned this the difficult way. Although I have never been much of a shopper or consumer, I started buying clothes, toys and little knick knacks for my little one the moment I found out I was pregnant. I’d buy her stuff, especially toys and to my dismay, she never played with them. She didn’t so much as cast a second glance at them. She was more interested in my smiles, the cooing from other people, from banging pots and pans we already had to looking at my clothes and playing with my jewellery. It took me a long time to take the cue from her and stop buying toys. I have a cupboard full of play doh, barbies, stuffed toys, music toys, kitchen sets and a million craft activities from a time when I had yet to realize a fundamental truth that this little child already knew – the best things in life are often the simplest. A lot of times, they are also free.

So I started focusing instead on the funny faces, the hugs, the piggy back rides, the messy dough parties, counting and sorting beans, watching butterflies, growing a herb garden instead. And she started flourishing! Where before she was bored and cranky, she is now engaged and excited. She reminds me everyday to do the dusting by picking up the duster herself. She helps me sort laundry, she helps me water plants. She even helps me put her toys away. All of this without much prompting from me.

I am grateful for the simple lessons children impart. I am grateful for the insight that though she may be little in size, my daughter has wisdom that is far beyond her years, far beyond mine. I am grateful for when she calls me out on having double standards and being a hypocrite. Like when I force her to wear her indoor slippers when she comes home and wash her hands and feet before bed but forget to do it myself. Like when I eat junky cookies while telling her to eat her veggies. I am grateful she stops me in my tracks and forces change my behaviour so I’m closer to the person I want to be.

I am grateful for her sunny smile even when she’s hurt or sick. I am grateful for the unconditional love she gives me even on days when I am cranky, irritable, not at my best. I am grateful for the blessing of a beautiful child that reminds me every time of what’s most sacred in life.

[/message_box]

Teaching the right things to our kids is something I’ve seen a lot of parents struggle with. No matter how scrupulous you are, you always make a few parenting mistakes that you end up regretting. Often, these things may be issues we were struggling with ourselves while growing up. Melissa Fagan wrote a very thought provoking post about The (Super) Power of Gratitude:

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]

Lately, I’ve been coming to terms with my most worn-out childhood belief, the one that keeps me stuck time and again: the belief that I’ll never have or ultimately be enough. So when the ‘never enough’ tape started to play, I’d drown it out with gratitude.

Gratitude is fundamental to being ok with ourselves and who we are.

[/quote]

Gratitude may be the antidote to feeling crappy about ourselves but there is a fundamental truth that I’m only just starting to realize:

We think we are the ones who raise our kids, nurture them and perhaps most importantly, teach them about the world. It is actually the other way around.  As much as we teach them to walk and talk, they teach us about life. No other human role inspires as much personal growth as that of a parent. In the end, we learn and benefit the most from our kids. Not the other way around. Our kids don’t need us. We need them.

That is something I want to keep in mind the next time I am feeling like I have to sacrifice a lot of personal and career opportunities to raise my daughter at home.

 

faithfeatured

Day 9 – I am Grateful for My Faith and Spiritual Beliefs

I’m grateful for my spiritual beliefs

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJ18xCZyEYk&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

[message_box title=”Affirmation” color=”beige”]

I spent the better part of my teens believing I was an atheist. I was well into my twenties when I looked back and realized that all along, with my head in the sand, I’d been praying, believing, ritualizing my way through the good times and the bad.

I don’t believe in ‘a’ religion. I do believe in intangible things. I’m grateful for that. Which shocked me to no end when I first had that realization, but at 28, I’m starting to realize that in a world shredded by disbelief, skepticism, negativity, loss of human connection,  the belief in something you can’t see hear touch or smell – is at once beautiful and thought provoking.

I am grateful for the belief in something beyond myself and the human world I know. However founded, unfounded, scientifically or wishfully based these beliefs may be, they get me through the day. I am grateful for the security of believing that there is a force out there that is watching out for me, supporting me and cradling me even in the most difficult of times. I am grateful that in the good times, this force is rejoicing in my happiness and sharing my excitement. I am grateful for the freedom to believe these things and not being forced into a box of subscribing to particular religious or dogmatic beliefs. I am grateful for the freedom to pick from different faiths as I wish. I am grateful that I live in a free world where I am not forced to supplicate to spiritual systems that make no sense to me. I am grateful for the comfort of the belief in a higher power. I am grateful for the ability to feel gratitude and the moral responsibility of sharing what I have with those that are less fortunate.  I now realize that those who believe in organized religion are not all that different for me. Like me, they too are looking for a strengthening set of beliefs that supports them, encourages them and gives them faith as they go about their lives. I am grateful for the realization that perhaps, spiritual beliefs are just a way for us to feel supported in our human existence, no more, no less. And I am okay with that. [/message_box]

What are spiritual beliefs?

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]

“A set of mutually supportive beliefs. These beliefs may be religious, philosophical, ideological or a combination of these… the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.”
[/quote]

I read an interesting musing over at Live Laugh love mentioned above. In it, Life Coach, Vedam Clementi scrutinizes the meaning of spiritual beliefs.  He explains a simple (but very effective) concept of how our belief systems are made. Simply put, your mind keeps recording every situation, every experience that you encounter, how you reacted to it, what happened as a resold and over time, these cumulative thoughts, cause-and-effect-scenarios, rationalizations and experiences become your belief systems. Clementi further points out that  these repetitive thoughts need not be yours in order to be internalized and turned into beliefs, they can be inherited from others – friends, family, media, religious authorities. The very act of  repetition makes your mind believe these ideas to be true.

“Belief systems govern our lives. They determine how we look at something, how we perceive it, how we judge something, and our expectations about situations, experiences and life in general.”

Sometimes we get so stuck in these patterns of being that its difficult for us to look at these systems objectively and see if they’re actually true for us in that moment. In school, I had a teacher who described her religious beliefs in this very distinct manner.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]My religion is over a thousand years old. Its resilient because its been passed down over and over through countless generations. Many of its beliefs are logical, even desirable,  but these are old beliefs. Do the truths of shepherds, nomads and hunter-gatherers apply to me living in the 21st century today? Most of them don’t. I just take what makes sense to me and treat the others like interesting stories[/quote]

 Going back to Clementi’s observations, “any belief system is nothing more than a bunch of thought forms”. The thing about thoughts is that they only have the power you give to them. If you pay them no heed, thoughts by themselves are nothing. If you feed and nurture them however, thoughts can become powerful vehicles for action and change – both good and bad.

Which thoughts would you feed – the ones that serve you, or the ones that don’t? 

The answer to that question explains why  “spiritual but not religious” is such a popular term today. Below, I’ve highlighted insightful quotes from two writers that I thought had some interesting things to say on the matter:

John Cannon from Another Perspective put it very aptly:

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]

If one decides that the evidence proves the non-existence of a supreme being, then one must scrutinize their beliefs as to what, if anything at all, we have to look forward to once that wee spark of life within us is extinguished by age or hate or disease.

Every act that we each perform which creates a kinder, more loving and co-operative and hopeful future is the greatest act that mankind is capable of. The spiritual sensitivity that I seek is one in which we all behave with love and charity and decency towards one another. I seek a time when we learn just how much is truly “enough” and to share that excess with all.

[/quote]

Another Blogger, Tracey Jackson from Gratitude and Trust puts it this way:

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]I believe in belief. And when I am enveloped by it, I let its power overwhelm me. Whatever you believe – for many this [Easter] is your week.  Love. Pray. Cry. Laugh. Feast. Rejoice. And then take that feeling with you, try and bottle it up, or tuck it deep in your heart.  And then on those days when one is not celebrating major religious holidays you can draw on it.  Take a sip from your belief cup.  Draw on that belief for sustenance love, and strength.  Give back, Be grateful. Trust. Because belief in any form is just that – trust. [/quote]

If you’re still skeptical and want more authoritative information on why engaging in spiritual practices is good for you, check our the following benefits of good quality spiritual care as prescribed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists:

  • Improved self-control, self-esteem and confidence
  • Faster and easier recovery from illness,
  • Maximized personal potential
  • Improved relationships—with self, others and our environment
  •  new sense of meaning, resulting in reawakening of hope and peace of mind
  • Increased ability to accept and live with unresolved problems

 

Today’s Task

Reflect on the following questions:

  1. What does spirituality mean to me?
  2. What are the formative sources in my environment what shaped my spiritual beliefs growing up?
  3. Do these spiritual beliefs inspire and uplift or frighten and bind me?
  4. For the beliefs that uplift you,
  5. What internal resources are strengthened by my spiritual practices?
  6. What external support am I able to access as a result of participating in spiritual practices?

 

activity-316722_1280

Day 7 – I am Grateful for the Gift of Human Connection

I am grateful for the gift of human connection.

Loneliness is an epidemic in today’s world. From kids to teens to adults and the elderly, we are all suffering silently in our private worlds of disconnection. As technology replaces a lot of our human functions, as we are drawn deeper into the world of automated messages and snapchats, we are slowly losing our ability to have a deep face-to-face connection.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I sat side by side for an hour and a half while our toddler slept beside us. Silently. Without uttering a single word. When I managed to look up front the novel I was reading on my iPad, I realized how equally engrossed he was in reading the Times of India on his iPhone. Then a thought occurred to me: If we were locked into a room together for an hour without any gadgets, would we be able to hold a decent conversation? What scared me was that I didn’t know if we could. Where I expected myself to rebut with a resounding yes, my mind came up with a doubtful blank. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband. I get along with him. Those of you who have been with your partner or spouse for a while may be able to relate. The conversations don’t have the sparkle they used to.

Then I got to thinking about other people. Can I find one person I can have a deep, long conversation with? Siblings don’t count, by the way. I tried to think of people in my life I could sit down with one-on-one and proceed to talk about an issue that mattered without giving in to the urge to fidget, check my iPhone or turn on the TV. Yes, there were a few people, but my list came up woefully shorter than I thought was healthy.

Nurturing Human Connections

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ME5priGOWHU[/youtube]

[message_box title=”Affirmation Day 7″ color=”beige”]

The other day, I was looking for something to help my preschooler deal with tantrums by teaching the concept of mindfulness. I ended up buying Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh

The book tells many stories – one of these is the story of James, a little boy in Plum Village (France). In a group of children learning mindfulness, James and two of his friends are rebels. They’re always engaging in disruptive activities when the other kids are meditating. Instead of yelling and disciplining them, the spiritual teacher keeps inviting them to join and making them feel welcome time after time. They never join in, but on the last evening of the retreat, James comes tagging along behind his mother, asking the teacher for a hug. As time goes on James becomes attached to the teacher, his spiritual understanding deeper, his hugs warmer.

The power of this story lies in its simple lesson that disconnected though we may be in our human interactions today, there is still hope. In a situation where it feels like your efforts are going to waste, the little things you do may affect the other person in ways that you may not even notice. So instead of getting overwhelmed by the impossibility of forging deep connections in today’s world, get out there and sow your seeds of kindness. You never know which of these can germinate into a tree of genuine love and friendship.

I am grateful for the human ability to forge connections. I am grateful for the close connections I already have – those unconditional relationships where I can do anything, say anything, be anything. I am grateful for the close connections I have yet to form, that are yet to germinate. I am grateful for the ability to think, to listen to respond, I am grateful that despite awkward conversations, difficult circumstances and emotional hardships, many of my important relationships continue to thrive and grow. I am grateful for the redeeming and forgiving nature of these genuine relationships. When your underlying foundation is solid, no matter how big a rift your relationship experiences, there will always be a way to heal, to make amends. I am grateful for the gift of peering into the soul of another human being, and being able to bare mine for another to see.[/message_box]

Today’s Task

There’s a beautiful exercise in Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh called “Building Anew” that can prevent feelings of hurt form building up and diffuses conflicts in order to restore emotional safety in your relationships. Find a friend, partner or a small group to do this activity with. This is also a great family activity to increase bonding and express gratitude.

[list type=”check”]

  • This simple practice begins with something called ‘flower watering’ where you essentially speak truthfully about the positive qualities of others without any flattery.  You take as much time as you need while the other person practices deep listening, resisting the urge to interrupt.
  • Once you finish, you express regret for anything u have done to hurt others. This requires a reg=cognition of the fact that sometimes, it only takes a small thought, action or word to  hurt someone. Whether you hurt someone consciously or unconsciously, you can undo this damage by acknowledging that the other person has been hurt by your actions, and sharing your regret with the person you have hurt.
  • When you have finished expressing your regret, you can express ways in which others have hurt you. Use loving speech.  Goal is to heal your relationship and not a content for who is right or wrong. As the listener, you would show compassion by listening to another’s pain and showing willingness to relieve their emotional suffering.Even if you disagree with something they are saying, listen deeply. In doing so, you give the other person the gift of freely expressing their pain and allowing them to release the tension within. This is a rare and precious gift – the gift of allowing a free release of pent up emotions. Give it unconditionally.
  • End the practice with a soothing song or mindful breathing together.

[/list]

Inspired from Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh

bitter

Day 6 – I am Grateful for the Ability to Release All Bitterness, Resentment and Dissatisfaction and Emerge Resilient

I am grateful for the ability to release all bitterness, resentment, dissatisfaction, so that I may see the blessings I miss while taking part in the everyday busy-making of life.

Sometimes we are so focused on the things that are wrong in our lives that we barely notice the good things that we are right under out noses. It takes a chance encounter, a life changing experience, a thought provoking conversation before you open your eyes and look around you with a different lens. When you do look around with a fresh perspective, you realize the beauty you were searching so desperately for, the one that you have been taking for granted, has been with you all along. You were just too caught up in the drama, the bitterness of things that didn’t go our way.

Resentment and bitterness can cloud your vision. Bitterness is a vice that holds you in its grip long after the offending incident has passed. Here’s the interesting part. When bitterness festers into resentment, it pollutes your entire being. Often, it also pollutes your relationships, your aspirations, your environment.

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4VbVNg7F3U[/youtube]

I once cared for a terminal cancer patient who had lost it all. I mean this in a literal sense. When he was diagnosed, he lost his job, his physical abilities, his beloved garden, even his wife who left him for a more physically able man. Yet, every time I saw him, he was polite, even kind, always trying to make others feel comfortable. When I asked him how he stays so positive, he replied with words that I will never forget.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]“I have a few days left to live.  I refuse to let cancer win by spending those precious moments checking off the things that didn’t go right for me. Wherever my wife is, I hope she is happy. We don’t need two people suffering through this horrible illness.”[/quote]

His generosity of spirit brought tears to my eyes – but it was his utter lack of bitterness that left me stunned. This man who had been served the worst imaginable circumstances, was sending cosmic goodwill to the one person who should have been by his side but had deserted him in his worst time of need.

[message_box title=”AFFIRMATION” color=”beige”]I am grateful for the human ability to forgive and move on. I am grateful for the release of bitterness, for dissatisfaction , grudges, and resentment. Releasing pent up bitterness not only frees the other person from the shackles of your negative energy, it also ironically frees you , releases you and cleanses you from whatever pain you are holding in your heart. I solemnly resolve to release all bitterness from my mind. I choose to remember instead the liberating power of a joyful mind. Regardless of the awful things I’ve been through, the heartache that loved ones have inflicted upon me. Regardless of the countless personal dreams I’ve seen crash and burn, I promise myself that from this moment forward, I will release the failures – both mine and those of other people. Starting from this moment until my last breath, I resolve to choose freedom. Freedom from bitterness. Freedom from resentment. Freedom to focus on positive things that will drive me in the direction of my dreams instead. [/message_box]

So here’s the thing…

In order to turn your disappointments into learning opportunities,  you need to nurture a mindset of resilience. Resilient people bounce back from disappointments and failures, using these setbacks as rungs on the ladder to success. Resilient people:

Remain accountable.  They own up to their part in the problem. They make no excuses. They never play the victim card.

Remain optimistic.  In the best-selling book, Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, author Elaine Fox talks about the fear-seeking brain and the pleasure seeking brain. Those that have a sunny disposition are optimistic, friendlier and also likely to get more of what they want out of life. This is based off of actual research. So remain optimistic – it might just make the difference between achieving our dreams – or not.

Have strong boundaries. Many people confuse being a people-pleaser with being compassionate. Resilient people create and exercise strong boundaries for themselves. When people walk all over them, they react by reinforcing their boundaries, clarifying what is acceptable to them, and what they will not stand for. They do not react with complying and then feeling bitter or resentful.

Avoid self-bashing.  As important as it is to not let people walk all over you, resilient people realize that it is also unacceptable to beat yourself down. Whatever mistakes you may have made in the past, forgive yourself.

Ask for help. Resilient people know when they are in need of help and seek it. They recognize the fact that if they do not tend to their issue, it will only get bigger and take more energy to resolve.

Learn from challenges. Resilient people don’t dread challenges. They relish them. Opportunities to learn, grow and to refine their methods in their quest for success. Challenges are just learning opportunities in the grand scheme of things.

Stop seeking control. Resilient people recognize that everything in life will not be under their control. They learn to be flexible and roll with the punches life throws at them. They learn to let go of the petty things and choose to focus instead on what matters to them.

Embrace change. Resilient people welcome change. They know that change, both good and bad presents opportunities for personal growth. They learn to accept change and even thrive in it.

This list was inspired from (but not exactly the same as) ’10 ways to be better, not bitter, through deep challenge’ by Kathy Caprino

Today’s Task

I want you to start noticing how you feel inside. Start noticing how incidents throughout your day make you feel either positive or negative. Grab a piece of paper, make three columns:

Column 1: Notice the events that trigger feelings towards the negative end of your emotional spectrum. Simply make a note of them without analyzing, making inferences or judgements

Column 2: Write down your reactions. Did you react with your gut? Did you think about it first? Do you believe that negative statement in your head or one someone else has said is true? Is your reaction external (verbal communication, physical action) or internal (introspection, anxiety, brooding)? How does your reaction impact your thoughts.

Column 3: Identify the underlying issues. Did the comment about your weight strike a nerve with you because of larger body image issues. Did your brother’s comment about getting a ‘real’ job make you feel inadequate? Rank each incident from 1 to 10. 1 being very important, 10 being  not so important. How important is this issue in your life. Which ones align with your goals? How much energy should you expend on it?

 

yoga-224643_640

Day 5- I am Grateful for my Body, Just the Way it is

Our body is the vehicle through which we experience the world. And yet, so many of us are unsatisfied with our bodies. We are caught up more in its structure, than its function.

The other day, I witnessed my neighbour’s nine year old daughter complain about her legs looking fat. I was shocked inside out. She was, in fact, genuinely distressed about getting too fat. I tried to think back to when I was nine.  All I worried about was running round, peering into bird nests, collecting flowers, leaves and building little model houses.

Another time, a mother at my toddler’s preschool complained about her three year old saying “these clothes are too tight on me mommy, am I getting fat?” I’m willing to bet that this came from her child having heard an adult say it before. Kids are like a blank canvas that mirror our insecurities. So I wonder, what unconscious messages are we sending to the future generation?

I’m not judging. I’ve been struggling in the same rabid waters of self-doubt and loathing. When you and yours are looking at photos of airbrushed celebrities and dangerous images of ‘thinspiration’, maintaining a healthy body-image can become an ongoing uphill battle. Our bodies are somewhat of a engineering masterpiece to be celebrated rather than a source of negativity to worry about.

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZW-lJpA7-wE&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

[message_box title=”Affirmation Day 5″ color=”beige”]
I am grateful for the flawed, imperfect body I’ve been blessed with. As flawed as it may be, my body allows me to move, run, jump, and walk. It also allows me to feel sensory pleasure, to travel, to grow and to learn new things about the world everyday. My imperfect body allows me to enjoy difficult workouts, soothing massages and even to do things like driving, cooking and playing with my daughter. There are so many things we take for granted with our body. For a long time, I’d look at the stretch marks, the sagging skin, and see nothing but the loss of a strong, youthful body. But I’ve learned to appreciate the body I have – exactly as it is right now.

Rather than an object to be used, abused, loathed and criticized, I choose to view my body as a temple, a shrine. A monument to my life. Each scar, each stretch mark telling a beautiful story about my life. These scars give my life meaning. These imperfections make my body beautiful.

When all is said and done, I am grateful that I look like no one but myself. I am grateful for the ability to nourish my body with healthy foods. I embrace my flaws. I embrace my scars. For it is the flaws, the scars, the imperfections that make my body so exquisitely perfect.

[/message_box]

Extra Resources

We’ve rounded up some extra resources to support you in today’s gratitude journey of appreciating your body and cultivating a healthier body image.

Affirmations

Affirmations are powerful. Use them frequently, and you will subtly alter your thought patterns to bring you over from negativity about your body into a more positive, imperfect body-loving state of mind. Check out the following affirmations from Happy Life Circle

  • Today I love my body fully, deeply and joyfully.
  • My body has its own wisdom and I trust that wisdom completely.
  • My body is simply a projection of my beliefs about myself.
  • I am growing more beautiful and luminous day by day.
  • I choose to see the divine perfection in every cell of my body.
  • As I love myself, I allow others to love me too.
  • Flaws are transformed by love and acceptance.
  • Today I choose to honor my beauty, my strength and my uniqueness.
  • I love the way I feel when I take good care of myself.
  • Today my own well-being is my top priority.

 

Dialogue

If affirmations are powerful, dialogues are doubly powerful. They have the power to spread, to educate and perhaps even go viral, both online and offline. That’s how societal change happens – and what better way to start a dialogue about body image than with your own child. Read the following excerpt from a powerful letter written by mommy blogger Gemma Hartley to her little girl. I highly recommend that you read the rest of the letter. If you are a parent, it will move you, change you and inspire you. Its that powerful.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]

There is beauty in the fact that your body is strong and able—that you can run and jump and swim and dance and cartwheel and kick and whatever else you choose to do. Your body is powerful and amazing. Appreciate all it does for you. Embrace it as it is. Love it. Love yourself.

My body is strong. Amazing. It has brought life into this world. It has housed you and your brother, kept you safe and warm and healthy even before I knew you existed. These scars and marks on my stomach tell a story. A story of love. If that is not beauty, I do not know what is. My body has nourished you and comforted you. This stomach which is not lean and flat, this face which has aged so quickly; all these things sing of my love for you. How could I not celebrate this body? How could I not think it beautiful?

-Gemma Hartley, author of Journey of Love blog
[/quote]

Will Powers

Finally, here’s an authoritative list of ten ‘will powers’ from National Eating Disorders Association by Michael Levine, PhD and Linda Smolak, PhD to help you improve your body image.

[list type=”check”]

  • I WILL ask myself: “Am I benefiting from focusing on what I believe are flaws in my body weight or shape?”
  • I WILL think of three reasons why it is ridiculous for me to believe that thinner people are happier or “better.” I will repeat these reasons to myself whenever I feel the urge to compare my body shape to someone else’s.
  • I WILL spend less and less time in front of mirrors—especially when they are making me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious about my body.
  • I WILL exercise for the joy of feeling my body move and grow stronger. I will not exercise simply to lose weight, purge fat from my body, or to “make-up” for calories I have eaten.
  • I WILL participate in activities that I enjoy, even if they call attention to my weight and shape.I will constantly remind myself that I deserve to do things I enjoy, like dancing, swimming, etc., no matter what my shape or size is!
  • I WILL refuse to wear clothes that are uncomfortable or that I do not like but wear simply because they divert attention from my weight or shape. I will wear clothes that are comfortable and that make me feel at home in my body.
  • I WILL list 5 to10 good qualities that I have, such as understanding, intelligence, or creativity. I will repeat these to myself whenever I start to feel bad about my body.
  • I WILL practice taking people seriously for what they say, feel, and do. Not for how slender, or “well put together” they appear.
  • I WILL surround myself with people and things that make me feel good about myself and my abilities. When I am around people and things that support me and make me feel good, I will be less likely to base my self-esteem on the way my body looks.
  • I WILL treat my body with respect and kindness. I will feed it, keep it active, and listen to its needs. I will remember that my body is the vehicle that will carry me to my dreams!

[/list]

Today’s Task

Reflection is a powerful tool for when you are stuck in  a self-destructive body-hating thought pattern. Consider your responses to the following questions. Write them down in your gratitude journal.

  1. What makes you proud of yourself?  It could be about your body, it could be about anything else. The point is to see that you are a person that is much more than a sum of his/her body parts.
  2. Start noticing the good things about other people. Their body, their actions, no matter how flawed, start noticing, rather than judging other people that you encounter, observe or interact with during your day. If the opportunity presents itself, take the initiative to compliment them on it.

 

free-will-feature

Day 4 – I am Grateful that I Can Think and That I Have Free Will to Use Those Thoughts to Change My Life

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence. – Rober Frost [/quote]

The ability to think. Such a precious faculty.

When you think of people like Malala Yousafzai, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week as an activist for female education in the Taliban-ruled Swat Valley, you begin to realize that education is a privilege that is denied to millions of people around the globe.

Millions of people so far removed from our comfortable western world educational institutions. Where nobody has to fight everyday for the right to learn, to question to think. The free will to think and to be inspired by revolutionary ideas is indeed a precious privilege that we take for granted.

Yet, in our high-tech world, we see thinking as such an obsessive activity reserved for the over-sensitive, the nerds, the writers, the misfits. You think too much. Stop Over-thinking. Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think. This basic mental faculty has earned a bad reputation over the years as relationships have moved from the ‘engaged’ end of the spectrum to the more superficial. The ability to think critically and clearly is a privilege if you think about it. For a long time, I didn’t think that way though. When I moved to India, I was suddenly among people of varying educational, aesthetic and intellectual backgrounds. All so different from mine.

Peter Clemens, author of The Change Blog (www.thechangeblog.com) writes that people around us have the free will to help or ignore us. I say the opposite is true too. I’ve turned his words around with the thought that we also have the free will to help or ignore others. We have the free will to embrace or reject others’ visions; to be rude or kind; to kill or cure; to love or hate; to be genuine or to manipulate; to treat them like kindred beings or to use them; to be honest or lie; to be grateful to them or to resent them. We have the free will to choose all of those things for everyone from our loved ones to the janitor that opens the door for us.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb48″]The good that we strive to attract as well as the evil we hope to avoid are both, nine times out of ten, the result of interactions with our fellow human beings.[/quote] Peter Clemens, Author of the Change Blog.

Prayers, meditations and affirmations are essential. According to Clemens, this introspection has the power to transform our gratitude from an internal endeavour to one that is manifested in the real world. One can do this by letting the people in our lives, from the most important, to the ones on the periphery know of the ways in which they inspire gratitude in us.

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6EG1R1lewE[/youtube]
[message_box title=”Day 4 Affirmation” color=”beige”]

At first, it was a huge cultural shock when I encountered different types of people. India is a country of extremes. There are extremely rich and extremely poor people living side by side. There are people who have no concept of the basic politeness, social intelligence and thought processes that run our lives in the western world. Some people have no verbal filters, blurting out rude observations – all unsolicited. At first, I was repulsed by such crassness. I used to look down upon these people for their ignorance, rudeness and superstitious beliefs. Until I realized that my ability to think and to set lofty goals are a result of a privilege. A privilege that is rarer than most people realize: access to higher education. it took me a long time to realize that my education does not make me superior to these so-called illiterate people. My cook is far more intelligent than some of my college classmates. She has not attended a single day of university. I realize now that the ability to think critically and articulate sophisticated thoughts is a blessing – not something I have earned.

I am grateful for a world class education. I am grateful for parents’ generosity in helping me pay for grad school. I am grateful I grew up in a country where education was freely available. A friend of mine put herself through school by working part-time jobs and relying heavily on student loans. She came from a single parent family of seven kids, all of whom were in Africa. Where I live now, there are people so far below the poverty line that even primary school is a pipe dream. I am grateful that I’ve been exposed to ideas that have expanded my understanding if these people. I am grateful all my schools had comfortable desks, air conditioning and heating facilities. These are schools in India where kids sit in the infernal heat, studying with crude writing tools, far, far away form the tech-oriented, internet-ruled classrooms that I know. I am grateful that at the ripe old age of 28, I can go back to school for another Masters or Doctorate degree if I choose. I’ve seen seven year old girls who are pulled our of school to sweep floors of rich peoples’ homes. I’m grateful that I have the privilege of holding pen in my hand, not a broom. I am grateful that I can think and that I have free will to use those thoughts to change my life.

[/message_box]

Today’s Task

Make a list of five people in your life (doesn’t have to be loves ones or friends, just people you interact with everyday) that have impacted for in a positive way. Write them a note saying why they are important to you. Add in how they’ve changed your life. Then pick up the phone, call them and tell them.

This exercise was inspired by the following video from Soul Pancake:

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg[/youtube]

road-163518_1280

Day 3 – I Am Grateful I Have The Power To Initiate Change

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]The essence of all great art, all beautiful art, is gratitude. -Friedrich Nietzsche[/quote]

Keeping a gratitude journal can help you feel powerful. The act of writing down things you are grateful  for can have a powerful effect on your life and relationships. Think of these things that come form maintaining a daily focus on gratitude.

[message_box title=”Benefits of Gratitude” color=”beige”]

Helps the negativity vanish for a brief moment.

Brings you back to the here and now.

Makes you feel lucky rather than sorry for yourself

In times of stress and fear, it reminds you that you have support

Reminds you that things could be a lot worse.

[/message_box]

Inspired by Gratitude Works : A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity by Robert Emmons

In his book, A Simple Act of Gratitude, author John Kralik opens his book with a thank-you note to his son. He goes on to write 365 notes in total and that’s what his book is about. Anyway, Kralik goes talks about how the thank-you note set off a series of interactions that began to heal his rocky relationship with his son. No matter how broken, hopeless things are, you always have the power to make amends and turn things around. In fact, instead of sitting around thinking things are ruined and too far down the wrong path to change – if you just put one foot ahead of the other, surprising things will happen, as Kralik discovered in his journey. Things that you may never have considered or thought possible.

We often think of power as aggressive and money-based – perhaps even corporate, political or hard-nosed.

But there is a subtle kind of power too.

One that is much more effective. One that heals, convinces and supports. The aggressive kind of power is one that rifts people apart, establishes competition and one-upmanship. This subtle power, on the other hand,  joins, encourages and builds things together. For a long time, I used to think that the aggressive kind of power is more powerful because its so vocal, visual and seems to have dramatic effects. Slowly, I’m starting to realize that this other subtle power is far more effective, far more intense, and far more impactful. And it lasts a long, long time. Even today, through social media, people are starting to realize that being aggressive and vocal doesn’t always get you the audience you crave. Instead, its the subtle helping kind of power (the one which gives without asking), that ends up more powerful.

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bMm_CEiWOo[/youtube]
[message_box title=”DAY 3 AFFIRMATION” color=”beige”]

Each and everyone of us has power. Even the most disadvantaged of us. Helplessness is a state of mind – not a physical or mental condition. I once had a paraplegic patient who was more empowered than any other soul. She may have been trapped in her immobile body, but if you came anywhere within hearing distance, you’d be left in awe. Even when asking for help, she was quick, witty, unapologetic, vocal and incredibly intelligent without being pushy.

Suffice to say that with my four working appendages, she was more powerful than I was, in that moment.

I am grateful for the ability to think, to recognize the need for change and distinguish between things I like and don’t like. I am grateful for the flawed, but perfectly functional physical body that helps me move, work, run and stretch. I am grateful for the often straying but perfectly functioning mind that helps me stay strong, decisive and sure-footed even in the most unusual and frightening situations. I am grateful for an education which helps me make my point in a sophisticated manner. I am grateful to my old folks for an upbringing that gave me the unshakable confidence in myself so I could take colossal leaps of faith and giant risks –  and for the perseverance to stick to my decisions despite unsurmountable odds.  I am grateful for having moved half a world away from one set of roots to another. I am grateful for the wider perspective I have on life now. I am grateful for the reassurance that no matter where I go or what I do, I have power to initiate lasting change.

I am grateful for the realization that power comes in many different forms. I am grateful that I am no longer limited in my recognition of power. Most of all, I am grateful that despite the occasional harshness of life, I have the power to change things in the world around me.

[/message_box]

Today’s Task

On The Change Blog, Paul Clemens talks about the three benefits of keeping a gratitude journal. Reflecting on gratitude through a journal provides insights into our busy lives that we may not even begin to notice as we go about our day. Reflecting on gratitude cultivates the discipline necessary for any type of successful endeavour – long before we succeed, we need the ability to sit down everyday and reflect on our actions and reactions so that we can do things better tomorrow. Reflecting in gratitude also leaves a legacy – whether it is for yourself fifteen years from now, or for your kids fifty years from now, your gratitude journal can tell a deeply personal story about your life’s journey.

So sit down today and pick out a simple notebook to fill up with daily gratitude reflections.

Here are some excellent tips for successful journaling

[list type=”check”]

  • Make a commitment to write in your journal for 5-10 mins everyday. Honor it.
  • If you’re too lazy to use pen and paper, an easy way is to use the voice dictation in your smartphone
  • Write in specific details. Have less points but make them real, deep, specific. Journalling is more than a list of stuff.
  • Write about the unexpected blessings that improved your day or the horrible thing you were expecting that didn’t happen.
  • Call these unexpected blessings gifts. Relish and savour them.
  • Who has helped you today, who are you grateful to, and why?
  • Think about things you take for granted. Talk about why you appreciate them.
  • Repeat your blessings everyday if they are meaningful, as long as you keep adding details and layers to them
  • Think about people that you overlook – people who have helped people you love.

[/list]

Inspired from Robert Emmons’ book Gratitude Works: A 21-Day Program For Creating Emotional Prosperity

gratitude

Day 2 – I am Grateful that Though I May Stumble, I Always Find My Way Back Up Again

I started today’s gratitude practice by reading Robert Emmons’s “Gratitude Works : A 21-Day Program For Creating Emotional Prosperity“. He opens with the story of a 98 years ‘young’ woman who stays mentally and physically healthy with a simple gratitude practice. She wrote him a poem called “I Choose“, which made me think hard about the little things that can inspire gratitude in us. Stop for a moment in your busy day and find moments like these where you release the tension that you are holding in. Sometimes the tension is physical like a dull ache radiating through your shoulders. Often, the tension is subtle, only recognized in the way your breath hitches with every passing hassle. The tightness in your chest that makes you feel simultaneously irritated and trapped.

The funny thing about gratitude is that you can start where you are. No matter how bad your situation is, you can start exactly where you are.

Emmons writes, “Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life. It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function, promote happiness and well being and spur acts of helpfulness, generosity and cooperation.”

Gratitude is far more powerful than you think. Try it today. Instead of focussing on the dark clouds, pay attention to the breathtaking mornings. Notice the little things that make the world around you beautiful. The mischievous laugh of a toddler. The smell of the earth after rain. The taste of perfectly brewed coffee rolling over your tongue.

Have that faith in yourself and the Universe around you that no matter how bad things get, no matter how badly you stumble, you will always be able to pick yourself back up. I’d like to leave you with the beautiful poem that I referred to at the beginning of this post:

I Choose

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]

I choose to be happy

I choose to be grateful

I choose to be caring

And always be thoughtful

I choose to be well

I choose to be fine

I choose to be healthy

All of the time

I choose to be patient

I choose to be strong

I choose to be calm

All the day long

[/quote]

Excerpted form “Gratitude Works : A 21-Day Program For Creating Emotional Prosperity.” by Robert Emmons

 

Affirmation Of The Day

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnvuUzoVBYg&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]
[message_box title=”I am grateful that though I may stumble, I always find my way back up again.” color=”beige”]

I’m not addicted to anything. I have no illnesses. I am not poor or disadvantaged. But I have bad days too. Days where I want to curl up under a rock and never see a single human being again. Days where I am angry, hateful depressed. Days where I feel like human existence is just an exercise in greed, stupidity and slyness.

Affirmation: I am grateful that thought I may stumble, I always find my way back up again. Every. Single. Time. I am grateful that there is so much to live for that I always have my faith in humanity restored after an internal storm.  I am grateful that I have the mental faculties to crawl out from under the dark cloud even on the worst of days. I am grateful that no matter how bad it is, there are reminders littered through my physical, mental, emotional space of the fantastic life I’ve been blazed with. I am grateful for a spouse, for loved ones who always recognize my need for space or my need for encouragement – whatever the case may be.

I am grateful that there is beauty in every single morning that draws me out of my bubble on the dark days and help me engage with real life again. I am grateful for the little hands that hold me and the little pink mouth that kisses all my boo-boos away.

I am grateful that every time I stumble, there’s a universal force that cradles me and brings me back up again.

[/message_box]

Today’s task:  Pick a person or event that makes you hurt, angry or uncomfortable. Spend a few minutes thinking about ONE good thing that came out of that situation.
housefeatured

Gratitude Challenge Day 1 – I am Grateful I Have a Place to Live

The #21daygratitudechallenge is about making your life positive, vibrant, worthwhile. This challenge features a daily multimedia recording of affirmations, daily pictures of things that inspire gratitude, an action challenge and personal reflections.

Why you need gratitude

There are numerous benefits to practicing gratitude. Our List is inspired by Robert Emmons’ (world’s leading gratitude expert) article on the Greater Good website.

Physical
  • Stronger immune system
  • Fewer muscular aches and pains
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Less stress-induced heartburn
  • Increased awareness of physical health
  • Increased physical activity
  • Longer and deeper sleep
  • More refreshed in the mornings
  • Better postures and parasympathetic responses

 

Psychological
  • Increase in positive emotions
  • Increased alertness
  • Increased feelings of joy, pleasure, optimism and happiness
  • Feeling “alive”
  • Higher self esteem
  • Blocks toxic emotions
  • Increased presence and attentiveness
  • Refreshed by positive thoughts regularly
  • Reduced stress

 

Social
  • Engaged relationships
  • Increased positive behaviour (helpfulness, generosity, compassion)
  • Increased social interaction
  • Reduced feelings of loneliness and isolation
  • Less superficial relationships
  • Authentic interactions with others
  • Less compulsion to put on a “front”
  • Reduced feelings of hostility and fear of others

 

Studies show that happiness strongly linked to gratitude. More than material possessions, marital status or age. Later in this challenge, we will share a video of people engaging in acts of gratitude and how it changed their perspective.

Robert Emmons, a professor at UC Davis and an authority in gratitude research has conducted numerous studies and written textbooks on the topic of gratitude. In fact, his studies show that practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%.  He talks about the concept of a happiness ‘set-point’ – your baseline level of happiness.  Good or bad events temporarily raise or lower your happiness but you always returns to your set-point once the effect of the external stimulus has passed. Practicing gratitude raises your happiness set-point so that regardless of external circumstances, you stay at a higher baseline of happiness. Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Emmons’ website:

[message_box title=”” color=”beige”]

“In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events” (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).

“A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment: Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.”

“A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others). There was no difference in levels of unpleasant emotions reported in the three groups.

“Participants in the daily gratitude condition were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another, relative to the hassles or social comparison condition.”

“In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.”

Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008).

Those who practice gratitude tend to be more creative, bounce back more quickly from adversity, have a stronger immune system, and have stronger social relationships.

[/message_box]

For the next 21 days, we want you to look at the people, challenges, personal tragedies, daily hardships and pet peeves in your life with a gratitude filter on your eyes. Whether you are materially blessed or just getting by, we want you to cultivate the habit of seeking gratitude and positivity in every life experience. One thing we promise, the more you practice living in gratitude, the more natural it will become.

Some of our exercises and activities will include:

[list type=”check”]

  • taking the 365 gratitude photo challenge
  • writing letters that you may or may not share
  • reflecting on situations in your life
  • journalling
  • keeping a gratitude diary
  • random acts of kindness
  • refocussing on the positive things
  • ignoring negative energies

[/list]

Obviously there will be many more as we delve deeper into this month’s intensive.

It is our hope that as we approach Thanksgiving festivities this month, you will join us in focussing on personal growth rather than material things. Rather than stuffing yourself full of leftovers, we ask you to join us in our practice of mindfulness. Your belly will thank you,  so will your mind.

If you want to join us on our journey, simply use the hashtag #21daygratitudechallenge on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.  You can connect with us on these social media platforms by clicking on the icons at the top right of this page.

We want to leave you with the following affirmation to kick off the first day of our #21daygratitudechallenge:

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]I am grateful I have a place to live.[/quote]

There are scores of people all over the world who cannot boast this basic luxury.  Check out this powerful article about the lives of homeless people by John Hwang, who started the “Being Kind is Cool Project

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjpJwvWjVUw[/youtube]

Today’s Task: Give the money you would normally spend on a dinner to a homeless person in need.

Finally, here’s a transcript of our multimedia recording for those of you who are watching this at work, beside a sleeping baby, on the subway or anywhere you need some silent reading.

[message_box title=”” color=”beige”]
As I get chauffeured home everyday, I pass by scores of homeless people. The reality of living in a developing country. There are naked toddlers. There are little girls with ragged dresses. Mothers breastfeeding their kids on the infernal streets of the dusty,  arid city I call home. Finally, there are boys that look barely above ten. Labouring at construction sites with pickaxes almost their size.

Affirmation: I am grateful I have a place to live. I am grateful I have running water, electricity, a house made of stone and glass. I am grateful I have the security of a gated community and the luxury of privacy. I am grateful my child never has to experience the harsher realities of life. I am grateful she not only has a big house to live in, but also a big garden where she can safely romp. Where the biggest danger she faces is to get thirsty, tired or tanned. There are kids out there whose playground is a dirty, dangerous, high-traffic road. I am grateful that with or without these material luxuries, I am alive, loved, fed and sheltered. I am grateful for things that I used to think were a scourge: a mortgage, car loans, having to mow the lawn. I am grateful because these ‘problems’ mean that I have a roof over my head. I am sheltered from the heat, the noise, the pollution. I am even sheltered from other people. I am grateful that as a result of a random, perhaps divine lottery, I have been blessed with things that these street people I would consider unimaginable luxury. 
[/message_box]

meditationfeatured

Mindful productivity- working in the present

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.
– Khalil Gibran[/quote]

In a discussion about productivity, people seldom expect to talk about mindfulness. Sometimes though, mindfulness is exactly what we need in order to stay productive, just like in other aspects of our lives.

In particular, being mindful of our internal dialogue, limiting beliefs and personal strengths can be helpful in identifying the style of work that is most productive for us.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life. ― John Lennon[/quote]

In her best-selling book Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, author identifies that human beings have two primal responses to stimuli- fear and pleasure. Those of us that are governed by fear are preoccupied with protecting ourselves and seeking safety. Those of us who are governed by pleasure seek excitement and novelty and new situations. Obviously both temperaments in excess can be harmful. The fear brain can lead you down a path of worry, nervousness, suspicion and negativity. The pleasure brain can cause u to seek out excesses, hush-risk activities, and even substance abuse in order to feel that thrill of doing something unique.

The body, like the mind, also has two responses to any situation – yes and no. The next time someone asks you a question or proposes an idea, observe your body closely for its internal answer. When your internal answer is yes while thinking of an idea, a question or a situation, you are relaxed, and positive. Your breath is even, the tone of your voice is level.  When it is no, you scrunch up and tense. Your shoulders pull up to your neck, your breath quickens, your body tightens.

 

[message_box title=”Try This…” color=”beige”]

Jot down two or three questions that have been on your mind lately.

Keep these questions in mind as you proceed through the exercise.

Sit down on the flow or in a yoga mat. Cross your legs put your palms on our thighs. Imagine a thick gnarled root coming out of your spine, grounding you into the earth below. Think of your head sending out a million shoots and leaves reaching high towards the sky.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Notice the tension in your shoulders, let it go. Notice the tension in your abdomen, let it go.

Notice what is going on in your body. Breathe like a baby – with abandon and trust.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Ask your first question.

Suspend your conscious thinking. Do not try to think logically or drive the answer into a certain direction. Restrain your rational and logical responses.

Listen instead to your body. Is your body tightening up, grabbing on to your roots? Are you holding tightness in a particulate part of your body as you ask this question? Just observe the reaction of your body as you hold his question in your mind.

When you’re satisfied with the answer, breathe, and let this question go.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Ask your second question

Repeat the thought process above for the first question.

Maybe you’re feeling free and peaceful as you think of this question. Is there a sighing, a release, a sense of relief as you hold this question in your mind. What is your body telling you?

When you’re ready, breathe and let go of this question.

Repeat the whole thing if you have a third question.

Breathe.

When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes and reflect upon the wisdom your body has just shared with you.

With practice, you will learn to respect and recognize the powerful decision making of your body. The silence that this bodily awareness creates in your mind will be more valuable, restorative and productivity-inducing than any expensive vacation you will ever take.

[/message_box]

 

Often people think of meditation, inner peace and achieving a state of “flow” as some esoteric mumbo jumbo. But these things can be applied in your everyday working life too.

Here are some ways you can infuse awareness into your everyday work activities:

  • Being present in the moment. Wherever you are, truly engaging in conversations and making meaningful connections with those physically around you will create a special bond and magical memories more than conversations online ever will. Remember there will always be time to write on someone’s facebook wall, or send your crush a text message.
  • Focusing only on the current task. Eliminate any negative feelings that keep you from being productive. Attempting to achieve multiple goals all at the same time is not only an inefficient venture but also a counterproductive one. Remember that grasping new concepts and getting a project done properly is a big responsibility and requires all the attention you can give it.
  • Not worrying about the past or the future. This is similar to being in the present moment, but cultivating mindfulness can help reduce anxiety, nervousness and agitation which stems from negative experiences or feelings of the past, and anticipation of what is to come.

 
The ability to identify both fear and pleasure stressors in our lives, create a quiet space to rejuvenate and work free of your everyday tensions can create an avalanche of productivity in your everyday productivity as you learn to let go and ease into the activity at hand.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor. ― Thích Nhất Hạnh[/quote]

 

Working in fear

Fear is a manifestation of misplaced hope. When you are constantly hoping for an external miracle to solve all your problems,  you’re also in constant conflict with reality. Leaving behind your fantasies about life to fully embrace the reality that is present here and now is the key to unlocking your happiness and creativity.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear. ― Cheri Huber[/quote]

Contrary though it may seem, giving up your rigid notions of the world, can set you free. There is no limiting beliefs or castles in the air interfering with your fluid perception of reality. And when these limiting beliefs are gone, you can really work with yourself and get into the elusive “flow”. Speaking about the state of “flow”, working in the “zone” isn’t really different from mindfulness when you think about it. When you work in the “zone” you are present, fully focused on what is in front of you. No past and no future limiting, obscuring or altering your present reality.

 

Working with pleasure

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more. ― Mother Teresa[/quote]

Joy is the pervasive happiness that stays constant regardless of the internal and external circumstances pressing upon us. Unlike the superficial notions of happiness, living in a state of joy simply means focusing solely on the present. It means living in the present moment with intensity, experiencing the world around us with a heightened sense of attention.

Working with joy doesn’t mean that you’re not aware of the negativity around you. Instead, working with joy means that you’re constantly living the present moment with a pervasive awareness of the grand perspective of things. Working with joy means stepping back from our fear and pleasure stressors and working in a “zone” that is neither altered by the situation nor the actions of totters around us.

 

beach-84533_640

How taking a vacation can boost productivity

In our busy, everything to-go filled lives, it is important to take a moment to reflect on the impacts of such a lifestyle. First, let’s acknowledge that working too much is bad for you, your employer, your family and friends. Yet it is a lifestyle that so many of us fall victim to. We live under the illusion that everything we are doing is equally important and more often than not, get so drowned in all the important tasks that we completely give up. The busy routines we find ourselves in are not providing ideal lifestyles for our productivity and creativity to thrive.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking. -Earl Wilson[/quote]

Every once in a while, get out of your routine. Even though routine is thought to be the core of productivity, often what is missed is the need for a break. It is extremely important for us to take time to take a break. Both on a small scale and a larger scale. In this article, I will convince you on why you need to take more vacations. In the next article, I will discuss the benefits of taking small breaks throughout your day.

The best phase in my life which was coincidentally the most productive one as well was after my most memorable vacation in the summer of 2009. I travelled to India with my family after seven years and was completely rejeuvinated upon return. I’ve noticed after coming back from every vacation since then, there is a magic that follows after every period of rest and relaxation. Leave a comment to share your experience.

[message_box title=”Exercise:” color=”beige”]Think back to your last vacation. When was it? What is your best memory from it? On a scale from 0-10 think about how badly you needed that vacation. Now stop reminiscing and come back to the present. How much do you need a vacation now? Do you constantly feel irritated, anxious, tired, frustrated of it all? How close to burnout are you? [/message_box]

 

The Facts

An estimated average of 9.2 vacation days were left unused by Americans in 2012. More than 6 out of 10 Americans reported working through their vacation. While advocating for more vacations, Tony Schwartz, Energy Project CEO compared energy to time. “Like time, energy is finite; but unlike time, it is renewable,”  he wrote in the New York Times. “Taking more time off is counterintuitive for most of us. The idea is also at odds with the prevailing work ethic in most companies, where downtime is typically viewed as time wasted.”

 

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it”  Jim Goodwin[/quote]

 

The Logic

Our bodies are very flexible and accommodating of what we put them through, for the most part. However, living with chronic stress which comes along with our busy lifestyles hinders the body’s ability to resist infection, maintain vital functions, and its ability to avoid injury. When we’re stressed out and tired, surviving on only a few hours of sleep and a poor diet, our immune systems become weaker and we are more likely to become ill. Chronic stress also has impacts on our mental health. We become more irritable, depressed, and anxious. It is also linked to memory problems and poorer decisions.

Vacations have the potential to break into the stress cycle. We need to take breaks in order to allow our bodies to recuperate from all the insults and catch up on rest. During the vacation, we gain perspective on our problems, get to relax with our families and friends, and get a break from our usual routines. As the vacation ends, there is a sense of empowerment; we emerge from a successful vacation feeling ready to take on the world again.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]The purpose of a vacation is to have the time to rest. But many of us, even when we go on vacation, don’t know how to rest. We may even come back more tired than before we left. – Thich Nhat Hanh[/quote]

 

Benefits of taking a vacation

  1. Recharge and enjoy life
    • Avoid burnout
    • See the bigger picture
    • Gain more energy
    • Experience new things
    • Strengthen family ties
    • Allow for personal growth
  2. Increase productivity
    • Enhance job performances
    • Increase focus
    • Promote creativity
    • Improve mental skills
    • Gain new perspectives
  3. Stay healthy
    • Relieve stress
    • Improve mood
    • Catch up on sleep
    • Reduce risk of depression
    • Boost heart health
    • Promote well-being

[message_box title=”Try this…” color=”beige”]What is the one place you have wanted to visit since you were a child? Why haven’t you been there yet? What is the one activity you have been thinking of doing? Take a few minutes to plan your next vacation. If you don’t have the money or time right now, plan a stay-cation budget trip. Take just 2 days from your busy life where you will just let everything go and exist in the present- worry free.[/message_box]

Pack your bags, cut out the routine and take a vacation, and watch your productivity fluorish in the weeks that follow! Stay tuned for an article on planning a vacation.

complimentsgracefully

Embrace compliments with grace

Over the years, I’ve noticed that I’m awful at taking compliments. After talking to several people about it, I realized that many people feel the same way about themselves! So I thought a post on the topic would be appropriate and useful.

Reasons you are not good at it

[list type=”check”]

  • You are shy
  • You are super conscious
  • Growing up, you didn’t get too many of them
  • You still don’t get them too often
  • You want to be humble
  • You are unsure of how to react
  • You’re caught off guard
  • You find it a little awkward

[/list]

 

Reactions in the moment: Do’s and Dont’s

[list type=”check”]

  • Don’t think about what the appropriate response would be or plan an elaborate thank you.
  • Do genuinely thank them. Let them know it’s very sweet and your appreciate their words. Say something thoughtful and simple. Say something thoughtful and simple.
  • Do give them a big smile.
  • Don’t be afraid to show your true reaction of surprise or happiness. There’s no need to be stoic.
  • Do remember practice makes perfect.
  • Do make the other person feel good about their decision to compliment you. Positive reinforcement will lead to getting more compliments even more often!
  • Do return the compliment if there is something you genuinely want to compliment them on.

[/list]

 

Things you can do to improve

As with everything in life, you can improve your compliment-taking skills with a little work in the right area.

1. Compliment yourself. Do so every morning and throughout the day. The more you do it the better. After all, practice makes perfect. This self loving will improve many different aspects of your life with near to no effort. Many star athletes use this technique before performing to empower themselves and boost their confidence. Look in the mirror and say it out loud, or use it as the anchor to mental meditation. You can use the same compliment each time or change it up every time. You are the boss. Find a mantra that makes you feel good. What needs to happen, is you need to get used to hearing good things about yourself. People often don’t hear good things from their spouse, siblings, children or colleagues. Various reasons for it, but none justified. Also, if you really want to do something nice. Start telling the people in your life good things about themselves. I’m not saying be fake, but it is important to share genuine thoughts you hold about them. There is nothing more special than knowing you’ve made someone’s day a little brighter.
2. Expect the unexpected. Another thing you can do is to pack away all your preconceived notions about people and intentions. Don’t try to be a detective on a mission to uncover why someone completed you. In most cases, people only give genuine compliments. So when you get one, don’t go about your day over analyzing the true motive of their words. It doesn’t matter. What matters is they were kind enough to appreciate you. So be flattered & smile! Even if you didn’t expect it from a certain person, learn to expect the unexpected.
3. Allow it to empower you and flatter your ego. Many of us have low a self esteem. Whether it is because you’ve bought into all the advertising about the ideal body build of a man or woman, or you’ve had a history of abuse and neglect, the fact remains that these ideas are simply not true. You are beautiful and exactly how you are supposed to be. Realize that most people only give genuine and honest compliments. So when they do, don’t overthink. Just run with it! Be flattered that they find you or something of yours worthy of appreciation. Allow it to make your day and empower you. All this while, remain humble and be gracious. And of course, thank the compliment bearer for making your day!

openyourheart

Open Your Heart to Love Again

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″] Just because you are angry, it does not give you the right to be cruel.[/quote]

Whether you’ve been hurt just once or dozens of times in the past, it is likely that you are a little colder, a lot shrewder. Betrayal and disappointments have become your biggest fears. You are more cautious. And rightly so.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for learning from your mistakes. Protecting ourselves from hurt or pain is a very natural physiological reaction. But if we hang on to our fears for too long, they tend to become irrational.

Though you may no longer need to shut yourself off emotionally anymore once you have healed, by the time this happens, it has probably become a habit. It is now ingrained in your mind that opening yourself up to love means opening yourself up to pain and disappointment. So you continue living in your shell, away from any chance of being let down. This is not healthy. Nor is it really beneficial once this behaviour has served its purpose.

Also, remember that having been hurt in the past doesn’t give you a right to hurt others and undermine people’s feelings and reactions. You will only find yourself alone and cold. So allow yourself to open up your heart again. Learn from your past mistakes, but don’t shut off the world either. Be brave and explore the bright colours of life and love again!