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A Gratitude Exercise For the Holiday

Shepherds, Angels and Wisemen; a gratitude exercise for the holiday


The holidays, regardless of which one or how you celebrate, are typically bursting with nostalgic looks back at memories from days past. While this can be beautiful and warming to the spirit. It can also be a way to enamor ourselves with things more distant and leave us forgetting appreciate the good things we have had most recently. In a year like this one, an actual exercise or practice of gratitude may be more needed than ever.

Because the nativity holds a special place for me in reflection this time of year, I like to use subjects from it. You can rename the three subject titles however best fits your family’s traditions,  beliefs or practices.

And yes, this can be adapted for use with kids as well. It can be a great way to share a practice of acknowledging what we have and hold dear in life. And adults can be an example by participating and sharing about ourselves as well. Might make a nice new family tradition?

So, here we go.

First, get some paper or use your journal. Yes, keep it ‘old school’ and hand write this. (it matters in several ways – including brain/memory). Find a quiet and comfortable place where you can sit with your thoughts and put them to paper without much distraction.

Shepherds;

These are people from your same walk of life, your neighborhood, old friends, coworkers – people who come from familiar territory; even if they have different roles, tasks. They are diligent, reliable and fierce defenders of your goodness. And, they support you and honor the ‘real’ you in some manner.

Write down the names of 3 people who have been shepherds to you in the past year and a few examples for each of them of how you have benefited from their presence in your life; how you have felt their support, love and camaraderie.

Angels;

These are people whose presence in your life has come to a conclusion this past year or a significant change. It could be a relationship that ended, it could be the result of a change of residence or career, or even someone who has passed away. The presence of them has added to your life, your learning, your appreciation or in some other way. Big or small, they have impacted your life and you will remember them.

Write down the names of 3 people who have been angels to you in the past year and few examples for each of how you have benefited from their presence in your life and why that matters to you. (Try to focus on ones from the past year. It’s sometimes easier to jump to larger losses of the past – try to refrain from this and focus on exits from this past year).

Wisemen (and Wisewomen);

These are the people who are very different from you. They may hold different careers, have different lives, perhaps have different faith traditions and cultures. Their lives are very different from yours and yet they have served as a guide to you; knowingly or unknowingly. They have gifted you a very different perspective. They do not challenge or dismiss you, but their presence has brought something new and unexpected into your way of living life. They may inspire, invite or share – but in all their action, they honor who you truly are.

Write down the names of 3 people who have been wisemen/wisewomen to you in the past year and a few examples of what their presence in your life has brought you; what you have learned, how you have changed or grown.

Finally, to bring this exercise into full resonance, share your answers for this year with someone else – talk about it. Elaborate on your responses and talk about the gratitude you hold for all of these people and your experiences. Put into words, aloud, how you are a better person for it. How your life has been added to by having them in it.

To really stretch – you can also opt to contact those people whom you can from your answers and let them know that you appreciate them being in your life and some of the ways who they have been to you in the past year has been impactful.

At bare minimum, when you complete the written exercise (not typed – handwritten), put it down for a while and come back to it a few hours later. When you do, read it out loud – not just the answers, but “One of my shepherd this year was _____ because she/he __________, _________ and __________. I am grateful for them and my life has grown in ways such as ______________________ and __________________.” (or something similar).

Don’t forget you can change the titles ‘shepherd’, ‘angel’ and ‘wisemen’ to whatever subject titles best fit your spiritual beliefs and practices.

Handwriting, reading and hearing are all different paths into memory. Discussion with someone else adds layers to this as well. Gratitude must be practice for the brain to learn to seek it out. The more we visit gratitude in our thoughts, the more readily and frequently we are to recognize the other things to be grateful for. Things that have always and will always come through life – if we only see and acknowledge them.

Peace, health, happiness and prosperity to you and your loved ones this holiday and in the year to come.

Pace’ Tutti –
Ben

 

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3 Ways Gratitude Is More Than Merely Feeling Thankful

3 Ways Gratitude Is More Than Merely Feeling Thankful

It’s that time of year where we all start thinking about the things we’re thankful for. Those feelings can (and should) go well beyond the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Even though this year has been so challenging, most of us have plenty to be thankful for, and plenty of ways to show gratitude.

For example, I’ve spent time this year counseling organ transplant patients. These are people who have to undergo major surgeries due to health conditions and other untimely situations. Although they may be fearful or concerned, many of them learn to be grateful for things like modern medicine, skilled doctors, etc.

So, why is gratitude more essential than just “feeling” thankful? Let’s take a closer look.

1. Gratitude Is a Way of Life

Gratitude is an action. You might argue that feeling thankful is, too, but there are some differences. When you are thankful, it doesn’t usually extend beyond a feeling — you’re thankful that something happened.

Gratitude is a response to that thankfulness. It is something you can show. Therefore, it can be seen as a result of thankfulness that can turn into a positive, active way of life. When you show gratitude, especially toward another person, it can often create a ripple effect. That person might feel thankful for your gratitude and continue to pay it forward.

2. Gratitude Comes From Within

When you go to the store, or someone gives you something or does a favor for you, what’s your automatic response? Unfortunately, the phrase “thank you” has become a bit of a surface response for many people. That doesn’t mean you aren’t thankful for those things, but it can often feel impersonal.

Gratitude, on the other hand, feels very personal. It’s what you feel when you’ve had time to reflect on the things you’re thankful for. It also doesn’t require another person to be triggered. For example, you might have gratitude for your job, where you’ve been steadily employed for ten years.

3. Gratitude Lasts Longer

Thankfulness, although necessary, can be fleeting. You might be thankful for someone’s actions as they happen, but you lose that feeling moments later. Because gratitude truly comes from the heart, it can last for years.

Gratitude will affect you profoundly, often more than feeling thankful ever will. You might feel grateful for someone or something, and that feeling will last for years. A sense of gratitude doesn’t go away, and it isn’t fleeting. For example, if you’re grateful for something (or someone), you may not see it (or them) for years, but that feeling will be just as strong the next time you do.

Using the example from above, when talking about transplant patients. Those patients will be forever grateful for the doctors and medical staff that worked on them. They aren’t just thankful for the completed work but grateful for their knowledge, skill, and dedication.

Gratitude often sparks a chain reaction. That doesn’t necessarily make it more important than feeling thankful. However, it does require us to go deeper into our own feelings because gratitude is a matter of the heart, while thankfulness tends to stay on the surface.

So, this holiday season and beyond, consider the things in life that you’re grateful for. What are you going to do about it? What does that gratitude inspire you to do and change? Maybe even try a gratitude meditation before jumping into your annual traditions?

If you want to know more about how gratitude and thankfulness impact the way you feel, please contact me. Together, we can talk more about the importance of gratitude and how it can actually change the way you think, feel and act while shifting your perspective on things.

If you’re interested in talking about your current work/life situation and what you are wanting to move towards or change, reach out anytime.

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8 Daily Practices of Generosity & Gratitude

All across the web, we encounter articles and lists urging us to become more successful. While some of this content can be helpful, most of it takes for granted that we all similarly define “success.” Sure, we need resources to survive and thrive. But what about the many other elements of an enriching and fulfilling life? In particular, what good is our material gain if we have not cultivated daily practices that enhance and expand our sense of generosity and gratitude? Here are 8 daily practices of generosity and gratitude that take only a little investment and yet the pay off can be life-changing.

Generosity in the Digital Age

We are all connected in previously unimaginable ways. However, even a casual glance at the dreaded Internet “comments section” demonstrates how our digital connections don’t always result in generosity. To be a giver means more than likes and shares or color-coded profile pictures. Quite often, it means doing something more face-to-face. But whether IRL or online, generosity is intended to describe a selfless act.

As the inimitable Fred “Mister” Rogers once stated: “I hope you’re proud of yourself for the times you’ve said ‘yes,’ when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly helpful only to somebody else.”

Gratitude in the Digital Age

Our devices have the power to extract us from the present moment. When we are not present, gratitude is hard to find. Gratitude lives in each moment — in the here and now. It is a counterbalance to the allure of social media notifications. It is an antidote to the notorious “fear of missing out (FOMO).”

8 Daily Practices of Generosity & Gratitude

1. Start Each Day With Intention

There is so much we cannot control. Our greatest power, therefore, lies in controlling what we can. Set an intention for each day.  Take responsibility for yourself, your feelings, and your responses to others. Strive to make your time and energy count.

2. Take Tech Breaks

Again, our devices can shatter our most generous and grateful tendencies. Schedule deliberate breaks to be present in our own life — and the lives of others.

3. Pay Attention

The poet Mary Oliver reminds us: “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” Your attention may be the greatest gift you can bestow on anyone. It is also the lens through which you recognize for whom you and to what you show gratitude.

4. Keep a Gratitude Journal

Don’t leave things to chance. Keep a daily journal of the things that make you feel grateful.

5. Ask Others If and How You Can Help

Helping is not about what we think others need. It’s about letting them guide us to be generous.

6. Pledge to Listen More and Listen Better

A version of paying attention, listening is a gift. Increase your listening time. Hone your listening skills.

7. Get Involved in Volunteer Efforts — Or Create Your Own!

There are so many helpers out there. Get involved. If you can’t find a group doing what you wish to do, create a new group! There is always a need – so stretch and give of your time, talents or both.

8. End Each Day By Choosing a “Headline”

Before you fall asleep, mentally “write” a headline to describe the highlights of your day. Honor your efforts and pledge to do more tomorrow.

How to Tap Into Your Generosity & Gratitude

None of us are immune to daily stresses and pressures of modern life. There is no shame in asking for help with our emotional growth. Working with a therapist provides us with such an opportunity. Frequently, we may be our own worst enemy when it comes to cultivating daily practices. Your counselor is like an unbiased guide offering another set of eyes — experienced and trained eyes.

Together, you can identify behavioral patterns that hamper your growth. From there, new approaches are created and tried out. This process of discussion, followed by trial and error, is a proven path toward personal evolution and fulfillment.

Please contact me today if you’re ready to begin this journey toward a more fulfilled life. Or, visit my page on heart disease and depression counseling to learn more.