Fuel HappinessA few weeks back while scrolling through Twitter I saw a picture posted by Lululemon:
I re-tweeted the picture and challenged people to write down three things they were grateful for. Little did I know all that was to unfold just from a simple re-tweet (more on that later). Over this last year I’ve been writing down daily at least two things I am grateful for:
I’ve always seen the gratitude jar and the idea surfaces each New Year, but have never really committed to doing so. Last year, I decided I was going to do it. I started reading through all of my notes (from this past year) on New Year’s Day and there were days as I am looking back that were just simple entries, “birds chirping, sun rising, and the smell of fresh cut grass (seen on my run)” and then there were days that were a little deeper, “thankful my friend made it out of surgery – while it was more intensive than previously thought, she’s going to be okay – grateful for her friendship and all that she means to me.” It’s hard to put into words how the gratitude jar changed me. But it did do just that, change me. The simple truth is that each and every day there is something to be grateful for. I’m blessed with a good job, a family that loves me (and friends too), and my health. I believe the change came in looking at challenges/stresses that I would face as growth and opportunities to learn versus having a negative attitude/reaction about them. One example is that I had my purse stolen the day before Thanksgiving. The gentleman came into our work area under the premise that he had just been diagnosed with diabetes and what was he going to do as it was the day before Thanksgiving. He said he needed “help”. A thief preying on our good nature and the essence of what we do, helping people. Having my purse stolen before I probably would’ve reacted by letting it ruin my whole day. As it was, I definitely had a moment right after it happened (he used the card at the Dollar Store for $337 – how did they not check his ID with that big a purchase?!) but within an hour I was already reflecting on the good – I was safe, my purse/license, etc. could be replaced, and this gentleman was obviously stealing because he didn’t have enough. Total different reaction than what I would’ve had before. I’ve been using this as my mantra: “gratitude always in all ways” – in a weird way I was actually grateful my purse was stolen. My purse was/is just a material possession and everything that was in there was able to be replaced. Sure we’re a little more careful around the office and close our doors and lock them whenever leaving the area. But even though this gentleman preyed upon us by using the “recent diabetes diagnosis”, I knew that I can’t/won’t change who I am as a person – the next person that walks through the door really might need help with a recent diagnosis of diabetes. This one rotten apple won’t spoil the whole bunch – I’m grateful that I am able to educate people and help them with their diagnosis. This thief was good but he won’t leave me jaded. The gratitude jar allowed me to start my day with something that I was grateful for and also end my day with something that I was grateful for. Even on those tough long days I always made time to reflect on the day. It would have been easy to skip the jar, but reflecting at the end of the day I always was able to see the good in the bad (as they say).
After I re-tweeted the picture from Lululemon it began to create a dialogue with one of their employees through email. As part of the picture and the tweet I said something to the effect that meditation helps me to be grateful. She asked me how I meditate and what has been my experience with meditating? I told her my goal is to meditate daily, however, my struggle has been with consistency. Let’s be honest, my mind races!! It’s hard for me to sit still and just be. There are times when I’ll sit at my desk at lunch (another unhealthy habit I plan to work on in the coming year) but where I take a moment and just sit and breathe and block everything out. Sometimes my meditation is just for a minute or two. And while this allows me to focus and work on the rest of the day, by the time I do get home I’m exhausted. If I close my eyes, I might be down for the count. So, consistency in meditating has been my challenge. The Lululemon representative wrote back and told me to be on the lookout for a “surprise”. A week or two went by and lo and behold there was a surprise in the mail. Enclosed in the package was a letter giving me a year subscription to Headspace – a meditation app. The letter said that Headspace is an app that “offers support in practicing mindfulness which is so important to maintain over the holidays” – um, just what I needed!! Again, I am no expert when it comes to meditation. I call it an exercise in breathing and doing nothing to help you focus when it really matters (with your mind wandering and re-focusing as many times as needed). I know I’m not the only one, but as I said, my mind races all the time. During my yoga teacher training, my teacher made me cover my eyes with a scarf because obviously I was looking around at everything (my mind racing). Taming your mind is hard work! The app has helped me to be more consistent. I would meditate before, but just wasn’t truly consistent and so every time that I would start would be like starting over for the first time. Meditating is truly just that – breathing and beginning to focus, getting lost and starting over, and then getting lost and starting over all again – it’s what we do! But the important part is I’m aiming now more on my consistency. Meditation is a bicep curl for the brain. My hope is that with consistency in meditating I get stronger and will truly be more present and “in the now”, simply put, being focused and present in all that I do. I’ll keep you posted. J
The next little gift that was enclosed were a deck of cards enclosed with a separate note. It asked, “What if the only thing you practiced this holiday was happiness?” It went on to say that “happiness is a practice” and said that there were 35 research-based practices on the cards that can help to fuel our happiness this holiday. One card for example was labeled “Positivity” –
This past week I gave up listening to music. It might sound like that’s an easy thing to give up (and I thought it was something easy I was starting with). But for me, when I’m cooking I listen to music. There’s been a lot of cooking this past week (I’ve been off from work) and with no music it gave me a LOT of time to think. Today when the week was up, I played some music while cooking and believe me when I tell you how MUCH I appreciated having the music play J Now to think about what I’ll give up next month for a week. I am looking forward to continuing this month after month to get the full effects as they say. Cultivate positivity. Try giving something up.
I’m not one to set “resolutions” in the New Year. However, I do sit and reflect on the past year to see what changes I will make to help better myself in the New Year – I’d rather call it an aim or an intention. In my professional life this past year, my intent was to learn and soak up as much as possible at work and aim to take the Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) exam. I did just that and PASSED! Yay!! I think there is always more to learn and while I now have this title after my name I truly believe that I was a CDE even had I not passed the exam. Luckily I passed J So, it got me thinking about this next year. What would be my intention? The gift from Lululemon made it clear and evident. First and foremost, meditate. I have a tool (the Headspace app) that enables me to focus and improve on taming this mind of mine. I look forward to hearing the 10-minute sequence that is set before me each day. I started before the New Year in hopes that I would truly begin to be consistent. I’m currently on Day 13. There hasn’t been an easy day yet. But that’s okay. I’m exercising my brain and that takes work. My goal is simply to be more focused and really truly present when I’m engaged in different activities. Secondly, I’m going to work on “fueling my own happiness” – I know that happiness is a skill, a practice, something that I can train (meditation suggests so). It doesn’t mean that my external circumstances aren’t going to impact my happiness. It just means that with meditation it will help me to navigate it with a little bit more ease. Where will I start? How does one “practice being happy?” That deck of 35 research-based cards (given to me) will be a start. They have ideas of ways that can help “fuel my happiness” that have been proven to boost my mood and truly help me to flourish. Why wouldn’t I try some of these out? “Fueling my happiness” will make my days happier, interactions with others happier, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll spread happiness to the people in my life. I’ll share throughout the year (Twitter and Instagram) some of the ways I’m fueling my happiness J
So, again, it’s that time of year when you take time to reflect on the closing year and begin to make resolutions, goals, intentions (whatever you care to call them). You probably have already done so, but let me challenge you to include one of the concepts I’ve presented to you today:
1. Keep a gratitude jar (or journal)
2. Meditate. Breathe. Focus.
3. Fuel Happiness – find what fills you with passion and purpose. It’s all up to you. Ignite a ripple effect in your community.