Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Dozen Reasons Why You NEED to Keep a Gratitude Journal



If you’re not keeping a gratitude journal yet, maybe these snippets from scientists and leading thinkers and publications will jump start your practice. There could easily have been 100 snippets here … but the point isn’t to read about keeping a gratitude journal … the benefits only come when you DO it.

The Gratitude Miracles Journal grew out of my personal intention to practice gratitude and combines all the science I could find with the easiest, fastest way to embody gratitude. It will be available from amazon.com mid-August. Follow this blog by email for the release announcement. 
After completing six-weeks of using this journal daily, I can only say "Wow!" I'm an optimist so things seldom exceed my expectations. This one has. So, I hope you'll try it ... whether it's this journal or a different one, the practice is powerful.

The BIG One: Be Happier. The best way to reap the benefits of gratitude is to notice new things you’re grateful for every day. Gratitude journaling works because it slowly changes the way we perceive situations by adjusting what we focus on. While you might always be thankful for your great family, just writing “I’m grateful for my family” week after week doesn’t keep your brain on alert for fresh grateful moments. Get specific … Read more here: The Science Behind Gratitude

Gratitude Makes You Love Your Life. When you live your life in gratitude, you maintain an awareness of all things that are good in your life and focus less on what’s not working. When you acknowledge what is going right in your life, it’s impossible to become stuck in negativity. Gratitude keeps you thankful, happier, and more positive. Read more here: 6 Ways to Love Your Life More.

Attract More Good Stuff. Appreciation is one of the highest emotional states you can experience. When you cultivate gratitude, you’re able to feel true joy and contentment, no matter what you have or don’t have in your life. And since the Law of Attraction states that like attracts like, when you’re grateful for what you already have, you will naturally attract more for which you can be grateful. Read more here: 6 Daily Gratitude Habits

Be Healthier. Studies have shown that people who regularly practice feeling thankful have a leg up when it comes to their health. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California at Davis, has been a leading researcher in this growing field, termed “positive psychology.” His research has found that those who adopt an “attitude of gratitude” as a permanent state of mind experience many health benefits. Read more here: A Dose of Gratitude

Greater Success. Science tells us that people who are thankful for what they have are happier and reach their goals with greater ease. Your future health and happiness depends largely on the thoughts you think today. So each moment of every day is an opportunity to turn your thinking around, thereby helping or hindering your ability to think and feel more positively in the very next moment. Starting and/or ending each day by thinking of something you're grateful for is one way to keep your mind on the right track. Read more here: The Many Benefits of Expressing and Receiving Gratitude

Higher Energy. In adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention led to higher energy, more positive moods, a greater sense of connectedness with others, more optimistic ratings of their lives, better sleep duration, and better sleep quality (Emmons). Read more here: The Benefits of Adding Gratitude to Your Attitude.

Teaches Self-Discipline. One of the biggest struggles writers deal with is the ability to sit down and put pen to paper, even when they don’t feel like it. Starting off slow makes it easier. A gratitude journal can have a double-whammy effect in this case, teaching you to be thankful for what you have while also making you learn to discipline yourself to do a task for a few minutes at a time. It’s a great way to learn self control for any aspect of your life.

Improves Psychological Health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. Read more here: 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude

Less Physical Pain. Indeed, it seems there are few conditions or examples in which gratitude doesn’t appear to have a positive effect. A psychologist from the University of Birmingham noted in 2013 that the “list of potential benefits is almost endless: fewer intellectual biases, more effective learning strategies, more helpfulness towards others, raised self-confidence, better work attitude, strengthened resiliency, less physical pain, improved health, and longevity.” Read more here: 5 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude

Makes People Like Us. A five-minute a day gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent.a1,a2,a3 That’s the same impact as doubling your income! Read more here: 31 Benefits of Gratitude

Sleep Better. And perhaps the most popular practice is to keep a “gratitude journal.” As we’ve reported many times over the years, studies have traced a range of impressive benefits to the simple act of writing down the things for which we’re grateful—benefits including better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, and more happiness among adults and kids alike. We’ve even launched our own digital gratitude journal, Thnx4.org, here on Greater Good. Read more here: Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal

Ability to Focus Improves. In today’s society, keeping a gratitude journal is a must for all up and coming Career Girls. In her latest book Thrive, author (and powerhouse) Arianna Huffington explains the huge role her gratitude journal had in propelling her to success, and honestly, it makes perfect sense. Read more here: Gratitude Journal - First Step to Success

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Vision Is the Tonic


Barn in Utah
Consistency is not my middle name. I’m really good at starting new projects and new habits. Maintaining them over time … not so much.

So, it was something of a surprise to me this morning to realize that I’ve just finished 5 weeks of keeping the Gratitude Miracles journal. 35 days. Without a miss.

It made me wonder why I’ve been able to maintain this new behavior of keeping the gratitude journal when most of my new leaves have turned brown shortly after turning them over.

A couple of things come to mind … the system I designed for myself is easy and quick (5 minutes), and I completely believe that gratitude is powerful (the fact that there are scientific experiments confirming that helps).

However, last week reminded me of the interplay of vision and discomfort.

Leo Babauta talks a lot about discomfort and new habits in zenhabits.net and says that the one skill that changed his life was learning to be comfortable with discomfort. But, no one really wants to be discomforted, so that thought never got me far.

Last week, however, I did a 5-year visioning/planning workshop for a small company I’ve been involved with for the past ten years. It’s a successful, small niche company and the people are warm, generous and dedicated to quality for the clients as well as healthy, balanced lives for themselves.

One of employees shared an article focused on vision and discomfort (included below) with the main two-part take-away being:
  1. Execution invariably requires taking new actions, and new actions are often uncomfortable.
  2. Creating and maintaining a compelling vision of the the future that you want even more than you desire your own short-term comfort is the key to success.
I have some new habits I would like to start … and, this time, I’m determined to maintain them over time. The Gratitude Miracles journal has given me the confidence to think I can design a system that will work for me and the article below makes me think I can withstand the discomfort involved … if I can create a vision that’s bigger than the effort and discomfort required. 

It seems that there are three things required for “success” in any new endeavor:

Vision: a possibility or end result that’s bigger, more appealing, more delicious than the reality of today. Vision is the tonic that makes all things possible.
Action: doing new or different things … moving out of our zone of comfort, i.e. into discomfort and tolerating the discomfort long enough to achieve the vision.
Confidence: in the vision as a possible reality and in our own ability to tolerate the zone of discomfort to get there.

So, on this lovely Sunday afternoon, I am off to create a vision for a new possibility.
 
How about you?


More Information:
From:  The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington.

"Behind every impossible achievement is a dreamer of impossible dreams." - Robert K. Greenleaf

"All my life I wanted to be somebody. Now I see I should have been more specific." - Lily Tomlin
Effective execution isn't complicated, but it's not necessarily easy, either. In fact, most people and companies struggle to execute well. Execution invariably requires taking new actions, and new actions are often uncomfortable.
When faced with a course of action that includes difficult or uncomfortable tasks, the short-term costs of taking action can seem so much greater than the long-term benefits of reaching the goal. Because of this, individuals and entire organizations often abandon both the tasks, and ultimately, the entire strategy. We have found from experience that to execute successfully it is essential to have a strong emotional stake in the outcome.

Without a compelling reason to choose otherwise, most people will take comfortable actions over uncomfortable ones. The issue is that the important actions are often the uncomfortable ones. In our experience, the number-one thing that you will have to sacrifice to be great, to achieve what you are capable of, and to execute your plans, is your comfort. Therefore, the critical first step to executing well is creating and maintaining a compelling vision of the the future that you want even more than you desire your own short-term comfort, and then aligning your shorter term goals and plans, with that long-term vision.

Think about what you truly want to achieve.
What legacy do you want to create?
What do you want for yourself and for your family?
What do you want spiritually?
What level of security do you seek?
What level of income and fulfillment do you want from your career?
What interests do you wish you could pursue?
What do you really want to do with the time you have been allotted?
If you are going to perform at a high level, take new ground, and be great, then you better have a vision that is compelling. In order to achieve a level of performance that is greater than your current performance, you will need a vision of the future that is bigger than the present. You must find a vision with which you are emotionally connected. Without a compelling vision, you will discover there is no reason to go through the pain of change.
Vision is the starting point of all high performance. You create things twice; first mentally, then physically. The biggest barrier to high performance is not the physical manifestation but the mental creation. You will never outpace your mental models. Vision is the first place where you engage your thinking about what is possible for you. 
You must be clear on what it is you want to create. Most people focus primarily on their business or career, but business is just part of life, and it is actually your life vision that gives traction and relevance to your business. That is why we begin with your personal vision, what you want your life to look like in the future. After that is established, we move on to what your business needs to look like in order to align with and enable your personal vision. The more personally compelling your vision is, the more likely it is that you will act upon it. It is your personal vision that creates an emotional connection to the daily actions that need to take place in your business.
In order to tap the incredible power of your vision you need a future that is bigger than the present. If you're going to create a breakthrough-if you're going to reach the next level-you will need to move through fear, uncertainty, and discomfort. It is your personal vision that keeps you in the game when things become difficult.

A compelling personal vision creates passion. Think about something that you are passionate about, and you will always find a clear vision behind it. If you find you're lacking passion in either your business or in a relationship, it's not a crisis of passion; it's a crisis of vision. We will show you how to craft a compelling personal vision and a business vision that aligns with and supports your life goals.

The first step is to create a personal vision, a vision that clearly captures and articulates what you want in life. The personal vision should define the life you want to live in all areas, including spiritual, relationships, family, income, lifestyle, health, and community. The personal vision creates the foundation for an emotional link to your business and career objectives so that there is a strong alignment between what you pursue in your business and the life you desire to live.

Your business vision is most powerful when it is developed in light of your personal vision. The reason so many people fail to follow through when things become difficult is due to this lack of connection with their personal lives.

Your business objectives are not the end in themselves, but the means to an end. Too often, managers and associates plan for business success but fail to connect with the real power source that will enable them to achieve that success. In essence, the personal vision is the reason why we work in the first place.

Once you understand the linkage between your life vision and your business success, you can define exactly what level of income or production your business must deliver in order to support your complete vision.

Vision provides you with that line of sight, that emotional link, to help you overcome the challenges and execute. When the task seems too difficult or unpleasant, you can reconnect with your personal objections (I think they meant objectives!) and vision. It is this emotional connection that will provide you with the inner strength to forge ahead in spite of any difficulties, thus enabling you to achieve your dreams and desires.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

My New Backyard: A Miracle

Click here for video.
Week 3 of Gratitude Miracles ended yesterday … and, fittingly enough, with a miracle.

I moved to Grass Valley a little over a year ago. It’s a lovely area … tall pine forests, lakes and more cultural activities than any one person could possibly do in a normal week. Last year I was too busy refurnishing the house (I had downsized drastically on my last move, including all my furniture) and getting organized to pay much attention to the postage-stamp, bare dirt back yard fringed with solid ivy.

As the rains ended this spring, I started paying attention to the yard which borders on the office/pool area of the funky, mobile home park where I live (I liken it to camping in a forest … operative word: affordable). A friend was visiting one lovely day and I invited him to help me clear the yard of the ivy. He really got into it and started clearing some of the office lot that borders mine.

When I realized how much that extra space opened up my possibilities, the wheels started turning.

I realized some time ago that I have a “Photoshop mind.” It works in layers. I never have a clear idea of what the end point will be, but, if I take the first step … the first layer … then something calls me to the next one. Well, my first layer was figuring out what to do with the ton of rocks and mosaic yard art I had moved. (I had room for rocks but not for furniture.)

I’ve always wanted a rock garden so the pile of rocks were moved one-by-one to a point just beyond my lot. I figured if someone complained, I could always move them back. My local grocery store was selling some large pots for a very reasonable price so I put one of them in the midst of the rocks. A Japanese maple planted in that pot made a great focus point and boundary marker … and was also moveable, just in case.

And, that’s the way it went, one layer leading to the next. Yesterday probably wasn’t the last layer, but it was the one that made me realize I now had a real outdoor living area, including a moderately enclosed area for qigong so I wouldn’t feel like I was in a fishbowl, a table for eating or potting plants, a bright conversation area, and a rock/succulent garden altar complete with a rather beaten up but beautiful Quan Yin.

As I was sitting admiring the yard yesterday, I thought back over all the yards I’ve had and realized that this one is absolutely the best. It fits me … shady places to sit and enjoy the breezes or read, a place to meditate and do qigong, tiny spots of color and greenery that don’t overtask my brown thumbs … and close enough to the wifi that I can sit outside and work.

Even with all of that, It wasn’t until I was describing my yard to a friend this morning that I realized it was a miracle. (Mainly because she told me it was one.) 

Not only does it make me happy, it adjusted perfectly to all the yard stuff I’ve been carrying around for far too long, and it called synchronicities into being … from my friend who cleared enough ivy that I could see what might be, to a yard sale that offered me a dozen round stepping stones that were exactly what I didn’t know I needed, and five English laurel bushes that the previous owner had planted in a perfectly straight (and perfectly legal) line in the middle of the yard and are now transplanted to a graceful circle (outside my lot boundary) and will someday form a privacy hedge.

My friend reminded me that miracles are easy to miss. We have to watch for them and feel immense gratitude for them. Because I was working to pull this yard together, I didn’t think of it as a miracle. I forgot all the magic that went into it … the unused available space, the perfect mixture of trees that provide shade at all times of the day, the impulse to save way too many yard items in past moves, and my own willingness to take this step-by-step approach to creating exactly the outdoor environment I was longing for.

Above is video of my back yard miracle. I can hardly wait to hear about your miracles.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

What Is a Miracle?


White Pasque flower seed head found in New Mexico.
Dictionary definitions of “miracle” include:
  1. a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.
  2. a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.
  3. an amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something.
Regardless of how we define miracles, they produce a sense of awe and wonder and reverence. Those are powerful, positive emotions which make us happier, healthier and more successful in our relationships and friendships.

If our definition of miracles is limited to things like number one above, events like walking on water or the raising of the dead, we aren’t going to see many of them. Therefore, we won’t have experience many events that produce those positive emotions of awe, wonder and reverence.

Broadening our definition to include number two still leaves miracles in the “highly improbable” zone.

Number three, however, opens the door to a new perspective. Rather than waiting for miracles to come our way, what if we turned the definition around? What if we actively looked for anything that produced the feelings of awe, wonder and reverence? What if we actually cultivated those feelings by seeing the miraculousness in everything around us.

Winning the lottery would be, for most folks, a miracle of the definition-two level. Hoping for that, we buy a ticket and cross our fingers. When the machine says, “Sorry not a winner,” as it does in almost all cases, we feel a sense of disappointment. Disappointment is not a positive, powerful feeling. The more we play, the more we lose. Disappointment grows and steals away our happiness.

For quite a long time, I bought a Powerball ticket once or twice a week, generally when I stopped at a gas station for what I called “candy coffee,” the hot, sweet, caramel-colored, caffeinated stuff that comes out of machines. It became a habit. I told myself it was a small, harmless indulgence. (If you know what I’m talking about, see #1 below.)

What I began to notice about the Powerball tickets was that, even though I did not expect to win, I felt a surge of disappointment when I didn’t. Finally, sanity returned and I broke the gas station fix for both candy coffee and Powerball tickets and shifted my harmless indulgence to flowers.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a dahlia plant from Costco. $12 for a two-foot plant covered with radiant, plumy-violet, saucer-sized flowers. I cut a single stem and put it in a slender glass vase filled with marbles. When it faded, I replaced it with another one, and another. There were enough to share with a friend. All of the original blossoms are gone now but new buds promise another round. 

That plant, for me, is a miracle. It’s a color that I don’t see often and it fills me with awe, wonder and reverence for it’s beauty, simplicity, and abundance.

As I write this, I realize I didn’t count it as a miracle this week. I should have.

Miracles Defined

In order to have the broadest possible playing field for attracting the feelings of awe, wonder and reverence, the definition of miracles used by Gratitude Miracles is "Unexpected delights that make you say, “Wow!”



Plus Dottie’s Weight Loss Zones provides this information:
French Vanilla Cappuccino, 20 oz (360 calories/13 g fat/2 g fiber/57 g carbs) 8 points (my normal was the 16 oz … 288 calories of pretty yucky stuff. At least the sand didn’t have calories.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

INVITATION: PRACTICE Gratitude: the Experiment

Studies show that people who practice gratitude, feel happier, healthier and more successful. 


You're invited to try the Gratitude Miracles experiment for 21 days at no cost.

It will take about 2-5 MINUTES per day.
Simply subscribe using the box to the right and you will receive an email with the link to your complimentary pdf journal.

(If you don’t have enough time right now, 
please don’t try the experiment.)

Life is a do-it-yourself project.
No one can do it for you.
Same for gratitude.



Gratitude creates miracles.
(Not the walk-on-water, win-the-lottery
type of miracles ...
the unexpected-delights-that-make-you-happy-to-be-alive type.)


Only you can define what’s a miracle for you,
but if it makes you say, “Oh, Wow!” with a smile on your face,
it probably is one. Count it!

In the 21-day experiment, we think you will discover 3-5 (probably more) miracles that definitely make you smile and say, "Oh, Wow!" (Do you remember that those were Steve Jobs' last words?)

If you want a longer explanation of why it's important to practice gratitude, go to the page "Why Practice Gratitude?"

(Your email address will never be sold or used for any other purpose than this project.)

Monday, July 4, 2016

Gratitude and the Hero/Heroine's Journey

Click for more about this image.
 She doesn't call it that, but I believe this passage from Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love is a perfect description of the hero/heroine's journey fueled by the practice of gratitude (highlighted in yellow).

She states:

"I've come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call "The Physics of The Quest" — a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity or momentum.

And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this:
If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments)
and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally),
and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, 
 and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher
and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself... 
then truth will not be withheld from you.
Or so I've come to believe."

 If you haven't read Eat, Pray, Love or her newer book Big Magic: Creative Living beyond Fear, they are both incredible reads.

Click here to see at amazon.com
Click here to see at amazon.com

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Guide: Jon Kabat-Zinn

Click for Life Is Right Now video.
“Mindfulness is a way of living your life as if it really mattered. Defined as moment to moment, non-judgmental awareness.” 
-- Jon Kabat-Zinn, Life Is Right Now
YouTube video

"The latest research in mindfulness is showing that it is actually possible to pay attention in systematic ways that change the way the brain is wired, changes the way the brain functions, changes the very structure of the brain in ways that enhance well-being, and clarity, and multiple intelligences."

Jon Kabat-Zinn is a professor of medicine emeritus and founding director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program in the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

He is the author of many books, including the best-selling Full Catastrophe Living and Coming to our Senses.

“Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves. The tangerine I am eating is me. The mustard greens I am planting are me. I plant with all my heart and mind. I clean this teapot with the kind of attention I would have were I giving the baby Buddha or Jesus a bath. Nothing should be treated more carefully than anything else. In mindfulness, compassion, irritation, mustard green plant, and teapot are all sacred.”

More about Jon Kabat-Zinn: http://www.mindfulnesscds.com/

Click to see on amazon.com