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Cultivating Joy and Gratitude Even in the Toughest of Times

Summer is quickly approaching and it’s hard to believe many of us will soon close out nearly two months in quarantine. Our old way of life is a distant memory that we continue to long for and many of us are trying to wrap our heads around the fact that quarantine might become the new normal for some time to come. As several states begin to open and release some of the social distancing restrictions, slight whispers of fear lead to an internal surrender that things may never feel the same. These are tough times.


My family and I are about to embark on our seventh move with the Army. We are leaving the DC area, a place where our hearts feel the most at home, and heading to Georgia. We are leaving the dearest of friends, an amazing school system, and the warmest of neighbors. We will depart without the big end-of-school-year bash, without a long list of final playdates, without farewell parties, and without tight hugs. Millions of people across the world are experiencing a myriad of transitions, some permanent in nature, without the basic opportunity to say thank you to the ones we love or a gentle embrace. These are tough times.


Our lives are full of tough times and special challenges, all individually unique and personal. How we handle those challenges is what matters most. Do we see this as a time of missing and loss? Do we focus on all the things we are not able to do? Do we let our melancholy weigh us down? Or do we flip all of that around? Acknowledge and accept the things we miss, the sad feelings we might have, but then move forward with actively seeking the positive and find the joy that still abounds. What if we change our approach to these challenges, not only because it feels good, but because it is good for our very own health and well-being?


HAPPINESS IS GOOD FOR OUR HEALTH

Gratitude increases our happiness and happiness can increase our overall health and well-being.  Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, and author of Gratitude Works! A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity, says that “gratitude is medicine.” Dr. Emmons says that gratitude increases our happiness, preventing debilitating issues like depression and anxiety, as well as lowering blood pressure, improving our immunity, and allows for better quality sleep. Bottom line...when we feel happy, we feel good. When we feel good we want to do things that maintain that feeling...fueling our bodies with healthy nutritious foods, exercising and being physically active, recognize and enjoy the blessings in our lives, we sleep better, and we are more productive. 


3 PATHWAYS TO HAPPINESS

Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, found that during his early research of the subject there are three pathways that contribute to an individual’s overall happiness. 


1. Doing things that feel good. 

Seeking out opportunities to optimize pleasure and reduce pain. Going for a bike ride, spending time with family and friends, getting a massage, watching a great movie, spending time at the beach, taking a vacation. 


2. Engagement.

Purposefully engaging in tasks and activities without distraction. Taking an awe-inspiring walk, practicing mindfulness activities, meditating, spending time in nature. 


3. Doing things outside of ourselves.

Serving others and making others feel loved in turn makes us feel good. Random acts of kindness, letters of appreciation, homemade gifts, volunteering. 


3 WAYS TO PRACTICE GRATITUDE AND ELEVATE HAPPINESS

Here are three simple ways to practice gratitude and elevate your happiness:


1. “Three Good Things” exercise.

For this exercise, each day you are going to put pen to paper. Open your journal and spend time thinking about the good things that occurred during the day. List three good things that happened and explain why they were good. They don’t have to be complex, they can be very simple. Spending purposeful time seeking out the good in our days can slowly shift our thinking away from the negative and allows us to embrace all of the positive that is still happening in our lives.


2. Awe-Inspiring Walk.

For this exercise, you will leave your earbuds and music at home. Take a walk around your neighborhood or along your favorite hiking trail. Be purposeful and take note of your surroundings. Notice the small details, seek to see your normal surroundings in a different light. Stop along the way to explore areas you have never explored before. Use this opportunity to be fully present and allow distractions to slip away.


3. Letter of Appreciation.

Kind words can go a long way. For this exercise, send a note to a friend or loved one. Tell them how much you appreciate them and how much they mean to you. Thank them for all that they offer in your life. Oftentimes we take for granted the opportunity to tell people how important they are to us, and everyone likes to feel appreciated and loved.


We all experience tough times and challenges in our lives. The current pandemic has taken away our normal and left us with something that isn’t normal. But here is the truth that you will not read on the nightly news, it will end. It will end, and your life will continue. What shapes your mind, body, and spirit will be in when the cloud lifts are all up to you. Seek the good, embrace the positive, and be grateful for what we are given each and every day. It takes practice, but eventually practicing joy and gratitude can become one of the healthiest habits you adopt. Like the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” Practice the positive and see how your mindset shifts.


If this speaks to you, let’s chat. I would love to explore healthy habits with you. 


Be healthy be happy be you,


Sarah


Interested in working with Sarah, schedule a consultation with her.

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