Over the past few years, my life has changed quite a bit. Oh, who am I kidding? It has been a 180 and then some. There have been a series of events and circumstances which I have gone through that have led me to the position I am in now and while I don’t feel 100% ready to talk about everything in detail, I do want to ‘dip my toe in the pond’ a little. Good god I am old.
One specific thing that has changed a lot for me in these recent years is gratitude. While I would say that I have always appreciated the people, experiences and things that are in my life, I can say with great certainty that I never truly felt a deep sense of gratitude. I’m talking about a level of recognition & appreciation that changes you as a person. After Aaron and I came back from our trip, I went through some pretty dark times and because I internalize a lot of my emotions, it took quite a toll on me mentally. In all the work that I did to get through those months (and months) of despair, I stumbled upon gratitude. Without a doubt, creating a practice around gratitude has been one of the most beneficial things I have done for myself: both mind and soul. I credit creating a routine of habits that encourage gratefulness for getting me out of bed on days I felt chained to the pillow and for moving each foot in front of the other when I felt cemented to the ground.
I talk a whole hell-of-a-lot about the Headspace app on this blog. This post will probably give you a better understanding as to why. The benefits of meditation are all over the internet, so I won’t bore you with the details. When I first discovered meditation, I used it like an Advil. If I was going through something, I would pick up the practice and once I worked through things, I would stop. When things started to get rough after we returned to the US, I decided to make the commitment to meditating every single day. Whether that means sitting down with the Headspace app for a “proper” meditation or just closing my eyes for three minutes and counting my breath, I do it every damn day.
Also, it is important to note that you don’t have to use Headspace in order to meditate. In fact, you don’t need anything but your body and the floor to get the job done. With that being said, having a guide to coach you along the way and to ‘support’ you during the experience can be really beneficial. Apps like Headspace also offer a range of topics such as grief, sleep troubles, and stress, which is where I acknowledged my disconnect with gratitude and started working on it.
Want to be grateful for even the smallest things in your life? Force yourself to write down three things every single day that you are grateful for. What those things are is completely up to you, but just get them on paper. This routine demands that you take a few moments from your day to consider the good things you have going for you. Don’t have 5 minutes to grab a pen and paper and write them down? No excuses – simply take a few moments to say three things you feel grateful for out loud. In the shower, in the mirror, in your car – doesn’t matter where, just do it.
This exercise can have such an influence on your mindset. There were days where my bank account was empty, I still didn’t have a job, and PB&J was the only thing on the menu. These moments made me feel like I had nothing – literally nothing (which of course could not have been further from the truth.) Even on those days, I would find three things that I did have to be thankful for and I would jot them down. In the words of Oprah “the more grateful you are, the more you get.”
The other day I was at the gym and I was not happy about it. They didn’t have the fans on, I was PMS’ing big time and all I wanted to do was hop off the treadmill, walk to the store next door, buy a bag of oreos, and head home. After finishing my internal temper tantrum and my workout, I left the gym and in the parking lot saw a man going into a neighboring store. The man only had one leg. Now, exactly can I covey what a piece of shit I felt like? Here I am with both legs – capable of whatever I want/need physically – and I am watching someone without the same opportunity walk around with a huge grin on his face. This happens sometimes – that smack-in-the-face moment that quickly makes you realize how grateful you should be.
Just like the example above, I always feel a pure sense of gratitude when I am helping others. Whether it’s volunteering at my local homeless shelter or donating to a family in need, helping others is a great way to be grateful for what you have and to do some good for those who are less fortunate than you are. I used to volunteer weekly at a shelter in Philadelphia with my friends and it was honestly something I looked forward to every single week. I really enjoyed being with people I love and interacting with the community. So, whether it’s helping out at an after-school program or ‘adopting’ a family for the holidays – get out there and help someone. You’ll be surprised at how much they can help you back..
title photo: stil