The Power of Gratitude

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, we can all use a little bit more gratitude this year. Just because things didn’t go according to plan and we were faced with many challenges, tuning into thankfulness can strengthen us and remind us of what we do have in our lives right now.

So how do we tune into this state of gratitude?

Here are some ways on how to tap into gratitude and how to make it a habit in your life.

Gratitude list 

A gratitude list is a simple thing to write, yet it has the power to put us in such a good mood. Start with writing 3 or 5 things you can be grateful for while you’re reading the newspaper or you’re having your morning coffee or evening tea. You’ll notice that not only will you be more appreciative of the small things and the big things, you’ll also think about more and more things to put on that list. As it gets longer, your mornings and evenings get better. 

Gratitude meditation 

Ive done a little experiment this year: from January 1st, I have done a gratitude meditation every evening. 

Why evening? Because going to sleep with a feeling of gratitude allows you  to wake up happy and fulfilled. 

Here’s my thought on this experiment: although it was though – the more I felt down or sad, the furthest away I felt from doing a gratitude meditation. But right on those moments, the downs, is when we need something to uplift us. So, even if it was challenging, I did my meditation every evening and it always made me feel amazing. What changed from the version of me before the meditation vs after the meditation? Nothing but my mindset and perspective. I didn’t receive any news, nothing actually changed in my day or my life, but solely by putting myself in a gratitude mindset made me feel so calm, light and happy. 

So a gratitude meditation is a beautiful way to express your thankfulness, and I’ve created this daily gratitude meditation on Insight Timer. Try it out, for free, and notice how you feel before & afterwards.

Shifting your perspective

Instead of saying, I am sorry I am late, say: thank you for waiting. Shifting your words and thoughts when you catch them being passive, or negative, is your biggest challenge and teacher. When we notice our thoughts heading into a negative spiral, we can stop for a moment, smile at them, knowing they are not real, and instead bring in the positive side of it. It can be anything – from a random thought popping up or a certain situation that has happened and that you perceive to be negative.

Shifting your perspective can be very powerful. Here’s a small exercise I’d like you to try out: write down all the experiences in your life you first thought were absolutely catastrophic, but then turned out to have a positive influence on your life. For me, this was my biggest break-up, after being together for 4 years I got dumped. I was absolutely crushed. Heartbroken. I was a mess. But this breakup allowed me to grow, and go my own way, and when I look back now, I see I completely transformed in a good way. It brought me closer to myself.

This is just an example of how we can find unexpected blessings in what e first though to be curses. For this, we need to let go of the expectation and stop holding onto a certain outcome. 

We often take lots of things for granted, but when we stop for a moment and realise how much of a blessing it really is, we rewire our brains to see the positive side of things, and consequently, that means more happiness and less complaining. 

Scientific research has shown us that when we feel gratitude, we cannot experience negative feelings at the same time. Its gratitude, and gratitude only, that courses through our bodies. How amazing is that?

Another benefit of giving thanks might seem a bit more woo-woo to some, but nonetheless very powerful: we are energetic beings. Yes, we are. We are made out of millions of cells. When we put these cells under a microscope, we don’t see something vast, we see energy. So, if you zoom out of the picture, we are made out of energy!

What we think of, and what we feel, we attract more of in our lives. Tapping into gratitude puts you into a state of receiving: you evoke the feeling of how it is to already have something in your life. This feeling of abundance, of joy and happiness, will then allow you to attract more of that in your life. 

Giving thanks can uplift us and rewire our brains to see the positive in even challenging situations. Start with small habits such as writing a gratitude list, or trying out a gratitude meditation, to tune into this beautiful state of mind.

How to Adapt & Navigate Through A New Season

2020 has been a lot, right? Maybe this week has been a lot, or even this day, as you’re reading this.

There’s nothing we can change about what happens around us, but there we can take care of our own wellbeing by showing up for ourselves and others the best way possible.

Here are a few ways on how you can navigate through (another) lockdown and the beginning of a new season. Because as the seasons change, so do our natural rhythms.

1. Check In With Yourself

We tend to rush through our days, constantly pushing through and waiting for that moment – Friday night, the weekend, finishing up work,… while taking a moment to calm down and check in with yourself can be all you need at that time.

Before your next meeting, presentation or whenever you have a minute, take a seat, take 3 deep breaths and relax the tensed parts in your body. If you have some more time, turn it into a mini-meditation, where you gently watch your breath as it comes and goes, and allow your thoughts to come and go as well, like clouds.

You will notice that taking this small moment to check in with your body, notice how it general feels and how you feel emotionally, can do wonders. Bringing in mindfulness into our daily lives allows us to stop living on auto-pilot and start living with intention and awareness.

Another way to check in with yourself is to journal. Take 5 minutes for a free flow – write down whatever comes up in your mind, and gently release it from your mind onto paper. If you’re not the writer, try to come up with a gratitude list and write down only 5 or 10 things you can be grateful for. Gratitude helps shift your focus from what is missing to what you have in your life and be thankful for.

2. Listen To Your Body

Coming back to the pushing through we normally do, I would like to remind you that rest is productive as well. Breaks are needed. Rest is needed.

We have entered a new season -fall/winter. During this season, it’s time to retreat within, to reflect, to rest and to listen to your mind & body. It’s the time of the year to nestle and spend time at home, to go inward. Animals hibernate, as we need to take more rest and sleep more, too. It’s how our natural rhythms work.

So next time you feel tired, drained or burnt out, take a moment to listen to your body. Don’t feel guilty for resting or taking a nap. It’s not selfish, on the contrary: if you don’t feel well, how can you be there for others?

Starting out with the basics – fuelling your body with the right nutrients, drinking enough of water and getting enough sleep (7-9 hours), can do wonders for your general health & wellbeing, thus influences how you feel, too.

I’ve never been the type to work out or even move daily, but since this year (and lockdown), I’ve realised that movement is medicine. In the morning, gentle stretches or morning yoga help me tune in with myself and wake up my body. In the evening, I love to relax my muscles and gentle prepare my body for a good night rest with some restorative yoga. Everyone’s body is different, so take a moment to notice what your body needs, and pick a movement you enjoy doing – it can be as simple as waking. Setting an intention – to relax, energise or restore – helps in having a successful session.

Breathwork can work miracles. A session of energising breathing exercises (breathing in for 6, breathing out for 2), kicks in better than a morning expresso. On the other hand, whenever you feel all over the place and in need of focus, the box breathing, often used by athletes to heighten concentration and performance, works its magic: breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, and old for 4. Repeat as many times as necessary. And lastly, to help you relax and calm down: the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. Breathe in for 4, hold for 7 and breathe out for 8.

3. reach out to close & loved ones

More than ever, social contact is important. We need to remind ourselves that social distance doesn’t mean emotional distance.

If you’re separated from most of your friends and family and you live abroad like I do, try to schedule video calls with the family, digital dates with your BFF and regularly check in with each others simply by sending a quick text.

If you can still see your close & loved ones, enjoy the quality time you can have with them as much as you can. It’s important to cultivate meaningful relationships, and maintaining them is equally as important, if not more important. Try out fun things to do on a date, head out for your favourite food or go on a Christmas shopping spree. I personally love to spoil people with gifts, and even if I am not sure I will be able to spend Christmas with them this year, I definitely plan on sending them the gifts in case I cannot be there. Intention is what counts, and that feeling is what people remember too.

If you can still go outside, definitely do that, too. Even a small adventure, staycation or venture out in nature can do wonders for your wellbeing, whether you’re alone or can have some company.

4. rituals & routines

One thing I have learned through the year, is: when all is uncertain, create your own certainty. Hold on to that certainty and let it grow you.

Creating nourishing routines & rituals helps you stay grounded. When you wake up, what is the first thing you do? Let’s say it’s grabbing your phone and checking in with the online world. Is that a routine that makes you feel good, or not?

I’m not the one who is telling you whether a routine, habit or ritual Is good for you or not. I am the person who gently reminds you to be mindful of what you do, speak, eat, and consume. They all have an influence on your mind and body. Starting your morning the right way launches a beautiful day. Ending your day the right way allows you to relax and rest, no matter what happened during the day.

Some mindful moments I picked up after a year of working from home and navigating through challenging times, are:

  • Drinking a glass of water
  • Morning stretches or yoga to wake up my body
  • Write a gratitude list/free flow journalling
  • Meditate
  • Get ready
  • Read
  • Check phone

Whenever I wake up not so great, I know that after stretching or after meditating, I feel so much better. Routines are there to help us create certainty in our lives, no matter what uncertainties are taking place beyond our control.

When I finish my day, I make sure to do some restorative, relaxing yoga, watch my favourite show or something that uplifts me, schedule in some self-care time (a face mask, mani/pedi), have a warm drink and journal about the day and do anything else that relaxes me at that time. Before I drift off, I love to put on a sleeping meditation or some natural sounds, like ocean waves.

I’ve noticed these habits shift my mood and my wellbeing so much, no matter what happens throughout the day, so I highly recommend you to think about what routine or habit serves you or you would like to start trying out. It’s those small moments that help you prepare for what’s next, whether that is a fresh day, a big presentation or a night of rest.

I genuinely hope these tips will help you navigate through a new season and perhaps a new lockdown too, whenever you are in the world. We can get through this. You can get through this. Remember to take care of yourself and fill your own cup, before you start pouring your empty while giving to others.