Living In Gratitude: The Value of Mindfulness

Each of us makes an experience good or bad. The action or activity is what it is. We define it by our attitude toward it.

Traffic on the highway is heavy. We get impatient and annoyed.

We don’t get a promotion at work. We are hurt or upset.

Our child didn’t get first place. We are indignant. 

Someone says something with which we disagree. We are offended.

Whatever the situation, our attitude defines that experience as either positive or negative. As humans, our inclination tends toward criticism and as such, much of our responses tend toward the negative. These less than favorable outlooks and our reactions to a situation creates tension in our bodies and mind. We have an internal dialog about how stupid, annoying, etc. it is, creating a story so immersive we distance ourselves from the actual experience.

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Living In Gratitude: Reframing Rejection

When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.  –Shannon L. Alder

Rejection is not something most people enjoy or even understand how to effectively handle. Typically, we do our best to avoid rejection because, let’s face it, being refused hurts. It makes us uncomfortable, fearful, and embarrassed. It erodes our self-confidence and makes us doubt our self-worth.

Yet like most things i life, rejection is a reality. We can do our best to run from it but is that really doing us any good?

By developing a healthy relationship with rejection, we can come to terms with it, using it to our advantage. When we shift our rejection mindset from one of fear to opportunity, we can reframe it as a chance to stay engaged, offer explanations, and even negotiate. 

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Living In Gratitude: A Gratitude Journey

A.J. Jacobs is an “immersive journalist,” someone who submerges himself completely into a project, then writes about what he learned and experienced along the way. Intellectually, he knew that gratitude was good for him but, being a self-proclaimed pessimist, it was a behavior that didn’t come naturally. 

One of his most recent books, Thanks A Thousand: A Gratitude Journey, started with what the author thought would be a very simple way to begin a gratitude practice – saying thank you to everyone involved in making his morning cup of coffee. But when he really began delving into who was involved, he discovered there were literally thousands of people – farmers, chemists, artists, presidents, truck drivers, mechanics, biologists, miners, smugglers, and goat herders –all of whom played a part in his ability to enjoy his morning caffeine ritual.

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Living In Gratitude: Do All The Good You Can

…By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as you ever can.

~John Wesley

As a New Year approaches, many of us contemplate setting resolutions. For some, these objectives revolve around health and wellbeing, spending more time with family, or striving to excel in our career. These resolutions are great ways to help us reach an individual goal and are to be applauded. 

But may we offer another, additional resolution to consider. 

“Do all the good you can.”

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Living In Gratitude: Breaking The Complaining Habit

You can complain because roses have thorns or you can rejoice because thorns have roses. ~Ziggy

Studies have shown that a good majority of us complain once each minute during a conversation. Why do we engage in this behavior so frequently?

Because it feels good. But just because it feels good doesn’t mean it is good for us.

In fact, research shows that complaining is damaging to our health.


Any time we repeat a behavior, it becomes easier and easier. This is true of things that are good for us as well as bad.  Just as paths in a meadow that are traveled frequently become more defined, so do the cognitive pathways that we exercise become more enduring. When we continually complain, our brain rewires itself by building neurological information bridges. As we complain more and more, these bridges become more distinct, resulting in this negative pattern developing into a default behavior. Read more

Living In Gratitude: When to be Grateful for Indecisiveness

Embrace your indecisiveness because it may help you to make a good choice. ~ Karin Sieger

We’ve all encountered people (possibly even ourselves) who can’t make a decision, even about the simplest of things. The tendency to be tentative or uncertain, especially on a regular basis, can negatively impact our creativity, result in anxiety and depression, as well lead to conflict with others as they become impatient with our lack of progress.

According to UK-based psychotherapist, Karin Sieger, there are times in life when indecisiveness has an upside. This is especially true when we are going through a significant transition in life. Often we need to settle into our new normal before we implement any additional decisions.

There are many reasons for the inability to make decisions including:

  • Fear of making a mistake
  • Lack of trust in ourselves to make the right decision
  • Avoiding blame
  • Risk aversion
  • Not having the proper decision-making tools
  • Being afraid to say no and instead, taking a stance of uncertainty
  • Fear our decision may cause conflict with others
  • An inability to make commitments

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Living In Gratitude: Setting Healthy Boundaries

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. ~Brené Brown

Many of us lack boundaries in all aspects of our life. We allow others to make demands on us as well as our time without our permission. Instead, we acquiesce for fear of hurting someone’s feelings, being excluded, or simply out of obligation.

This absence of personal boundaries teaches others that we can and will do what they ask of us, no matter how inconvenient. And those same people will continue to test this lack of boundaries, always pushing to see if we will go one step further, put up with one more inconvenience, take on one more project at work.

One large contributing factor to a lack of personal limits is our smartphones, tablets, and computers. There is a prevailing belief that we MUST respond instantaneously to an email, text, social media post, or phone call.  Being tethered to our devices keeps us at the mercy of others, enabling them to make demands on us anytime and anywhere.

Establishing unyielding boundaries are an indicator of our relationship with ourselves. These limiters are indicative that we value ourselves and firmly believe that we are entitled to determining what demands or requests we accept or decline. These personal restrictions shouldn’t be compromised or altered to fit different situations or relationships. Setting healthy boundaries helps reduce the drama, chaos, obligation, and stress the results from taking on other people’s problems or agreeing to participate in something that doesn’t serve us.

When we fail to set steadfast boundaries for ourselves, we openly allow others to take advantage of us.  Establishing and adhering to healthy boundaries are representative of the respect for ourselves, our values, and our time. These restrictions do not mean we care less for others but rather that we are honoring our needs and standing up for ourselves.

If you are one of the many who don’t have limitations in place or whose boundaries are much more fluid than they should be, here are five steps to defining and implementing healthy personal boundaries.

  1. Identify your core values

Determine exactly what things are important to you in all areas of your life: work, family, friends, romantic relationships, etc. This step is not about avoiding or trying to appease others but should be about you. They should focus on things that allow you to minimize stress and anxiety, allow creativity and productivity, and maintain a sense of personal satisfaction and stability. Read more

Living In Gratitude: Self-Acceptance Leads to Higher Happiness

Let go of who you think you are supposed to be and be who you are.” ~Brené Brown

Many of us are able to be kind and accepting of others but find it difficult to extend the same love to ourselves.

Numerous studies have shown that when we accept and appreciate who we are as a unique individual, our happiness quotient increases. People who practice self-compassion, who accept themselves – flaws and all – are significantly less inclined to suffer from anxiety and depression. Self-acceptance leads to reduced stress, a more optimistic outlook on life as a whole, and makes us more grounded and at peace.

Appreciating and accepting who we are as distinct, unique individuals can be tricky. After all, we are bombarded on a daily basis with images of what we should look like, about the glamorous and fulfilling lifestyles we should be living, about the amazing house we should own, the cars we should be driving, the high-powered careers we should have.

All of this perfection is unfounded and unrealistic but still, many of us buy into this ideal. We compare how we look, what we earn, what we own, and what we’ve achieved to all of those “perfect” people out there…and we fall frighteningly short.

This ingrained practice of comparing ourselves to others as well as to who society and the media tell us we should be is dangerously self-deprecating. The majority of us don’t measure up to these false set of societal ideals, causing us to believe we are “lesser than”.

Don’t lose your real self in the search for acceptance by others.” Nishan Panwar

When we stop attempting to “fit into the world” and instead, give of our unique talents and embrace the authenticity of who we are, we can nurture a healthy self-image that helps us to accept and appreciate that being “us” is perfectly okay.

So, how do we begin to be our true selves and tune out all of the external expectations and input?

It starts with an intentional practice of self-love and acceptance. Below are four mindful techniques to achieving self-compassion and appreciation.

  1. Forgive yourself

It is okay to not be perfect. No one is. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t risen up the corporate ladder fast enough (or at all), acquired that luxury home, married the perfect person, had those 2.5 children. But cultivating forgiveness of ourselves involves reframing how we think about life: what it means to be successful and disembarking from that societally-imposed, never-ending arduous journey for excellence.  We each need to decide on our own definition of personal success and discard unrealistic ideals that erode our self-worth and acceptance of self. This is the first step in forgiving.

  1. Give Yourself Permission To Be Yourself

Even author and authenticity advocate, Brené Brown, sometimes fall prey to meeting others expectations. Being true to ourselves is not a default behavior, says Brown, who admits that sometimes even she finds it easier to “just be what others want us to be” rather than forging our own path. When she feels the pull of conformity in her appearance or behavior, she will write herself a permission slip to be her true self. This could mean wearing sensible shoes when others are wearing high heels to letting your exuberance show when everyone around you is restrained. Brown keeps this slip on her person as a reminder and a source of strength to be who she is.


  1. Do What Is Important To You

Rather than aligning our values with other people or with what others expect from us, decide what is important to you as an individual, what resonates with you and your life. You don’t need to justify yourself or apologize for being different. It takes courage to be you. It is so much simpler (but much less rewarding) to do what everyone says we should.

  1. Celebrate Your Accomplishments

We live in an achievement-oriented society that tends to focus on the material and ignore other vital accomplishments such as happiness and mental/emotional wellbeing. By understanding and being true to our own unique values, the things that are the most important to us as an individual bubble to the top. These are the goals we should strive toward. Focus on what makes you complete. It could be exploring the world, staying home with your children, getting a degree, volunteering your time to a cause or organization, ditching that career that makes you miserable and finding something that speaks to your soul… When we work toward our goals instead of the goals of others, we are motivated, inspired, and much more likely to achieve a positive outcome. And, when we do reach a milestone, celebrate! You’ve worked hard to get where you are and it is important to raise a glass to yourself.

You are the most important person in your life.

Think about that for a minute. Yes, our significant other, children, family, and friends are important but none of us can fully give of ourselves if we don’t “put our own oxygen mask on first.

By learning to appreciate yourself, to accept and embrace your individuality, and move purposefully in the direction of your choosing, you honor your truth. This mindful harnessing of your authenticity increases your happiness, wellbeing, and makes you much more able to appreciate, love, and accept others.

There is no better way to invite more grace, gratitude, and joy into our lives than by mindfully practicing authenticity.” ~Brené Brown

May your day be filled with self-love, gratitude, and good things.


Living In Gratitude: How To Live A Fulfilled Life

Gratitude is the single most important ingredient to living a successful and fulfilled life. ~Jack Canfield

After Steve Jobs passed away from pancreatic cancer in October 2011, there was a story circulating online that claimed to recount his final words. Though this enumeration has proven to be false, the thoughts and advice offered in Job’s fake personal eulogy offer food for thought about how to live a successful and fulfilled life. Even though he knew they were not true, Jobs’ “last words” inspired friend and billionaire Richard Branson, who posted them on his blog.

In a nutshell:

True inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world. What makes our hearts full and our lives meaningful is love, joyfulness, wonderment, gratitude, and a sense of purpose.

As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we begin to understand that, whether we are wearing a $300 or $30 watch, they both tell the same time.

If the car we drive costs $150,000 or $30,000, we still travel the same roads and arrive at the same destination.  Read more

Living In Gratitude: Loneliness

“We are facing a loneliness epidemic.”

According to experts, the lack of social connections could be as harmful to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

With social media and all of the connection it offers, you would think we would we all be reveling in relationships but instead, studies have shown that the more frequently we engage and use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms, the more we tend to feel socially isolated.

This issue is especially prevalent among young adults. Their primary connections are made through technology instead of face to face. This results in a lack of meaningful and fulfilling relationships and creates social isolation rather than a sense of belonging.

In a Ted Talk that discusses the top predictors of a long life, the top two were having close relationships – people you can rely upon when things get tough – and social integration –how many people you speak to and interact with throughout your day.

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These two things far outweighed exercise, healthy eating, clean air, and a variety of other things one would think would play a major role in longevity.

To enhance not only our personal happiness as well as possibly extend our lives, it is important to cultivate meaningful relationships. This means in person. Face to face. Find people that you connect with on a deep level, that you enjoy being around and can share your innermost secrets with.

And, it is equally vital that as we move through the world, we interact with people. Smile at everyone, engage in small talk with someone in line behind you, chat with the grocery clerk, make eye contact and say hello to people you pass as you walk down the street or in the halls at work. Both of these types of interpersonal connections will do more for our personal wellbeing than any amount of social media.

There is a place for social media but we’ve replaced authentic personal bonds and social integration with interacting superficially through our smartphones. This has resulted in many of us feeling more isolated and lonely than ever.

Forget Facebook. Don’t spend another instant on Instagram. It’s time to turn off Twitter and interact with people in person.

May your day be filled with gratitude, close relationships, and good things.