Do know that gratitude can affect our mental and physical well being? Last year I embarked on a 21-day journey of appreciation. I was challenged to write down ten things that I’m grateful for every morning, just after getting out of bed and before starting my daily routine. Next to each item I was to write the reason why I was thankful. The list included big things like my family to less significant things like the softness of my pillow. What happened at the end of the three-week effort was not only revelatory but it was empowering. And, it prompts me to ask you, do you ever give any thought to what you are grateful for? You’ll understand the importance of this question before I’m done.
In the beginning, like any new undertaking, I found it difficult to come up with ten things. In fact, it was a struggle and I thought I’d give up after the third day. At the start, I wrote things like:
- A loving family
- Great Friends
- Financially rewarding careers
- Published book
- Luxury cars
- Owning a home
- Being my own boss and so on…
As the days went on, and I began to run out of items to list. The second week forced me to start thinking a bit more out of the box. I came up with things like:
- Beautiful autumn colors
- Birds singing all around me
- A delicious salad dressing I’d just tried
- The coffee shop, Granola Bar, opening up in my town
- Living in a well managed community that cleans our streets regularly
- Local garden societies who care for public spaces and parks
- In-town living – close enough to everything yet on a quiet cul-de-sac
By the end of week two, I had mastered 140 items, not without struggle and questioning the point of it.
Week three proved to be the most valuable. It’s when I had a revelation. Having run out of positive things to list, I realized that I can also be grateful for the negative ones, too. A list like this emerged:
- Closest friends have moved away
- Aching muscles after a rigorous workout
- Our boys don’t live with us any more
- Long cold winters
- It’s taken me longer to master some yoga positions
- A slower than expected year in the local real estate market
Can’t see why I should be grateful for these things? Let me explain the reasons why I am.
CLOSEST FRIENDS HAVE MOVED AWAY
Having lost so many friends to relocations, today I don’t take any of them for granted. I make an extra effort to see and talk with them as often as I can knowing that circumstances change all the time. When something is always around, we tend to forget how precious it can be. It’s no different with friends. Now that they live far away, I appreciate them even more and are grateful that they’re in my life.
Not all friendships run smooth courses. There are times when relationships are strained. But, remembering how precious time is, after an argument or disagreement I can see friends in a whole new light. Why waste time on differences of opinion?
Not having pals close by forces me to consider the situation if the roles were reversed. In other words, instead of what they’re doing for me, what am I doing to be a great friend while I have time to be near them? Negatives can always be turned into positives.
ACHING MUSCLES AFTER A RIGOROUS WORKOUT
I’m grateful for the ability to sustain a daily Ashtanga yoga practice, even on the days when my muscles feel tight and I’m not in the mood to go. The rigorous training makes me sweat heavily releasing harmful toxins from my body. I appreciate perspiring especially if I’ve had a less than healthy diet the day before. Our founder’s son likens the yoga practice to smelting gold. The higher the heat, the purer the gold.
By the end of a demanding hour, I no longer have muscle pain. The body heat I generate during the sixty minute practice relieves any tightness I may have felt in the beginning.
Yoga gives me stamina and energy. I like being active, I love to dance and I can’t imagine life without some form of physical fitness. The endorphins keep me in a happy and positive mood. Starting to understand how to view things?
OUR CHILDREN DON’T LIVE WITH US ANYMORE
Similar to friends moving away, now that our children have their own homes, we’re more attentive about speaking with them. I’m grateful for Facetime, Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, text, instant messaging and so many forms of communication. It’s inexcusable not to be connected. Having a family (however that is composed) or being part of a community is essential to our happiness.
Unlike immigrants who came to the states in the early 1900’s, we’re fortunate today to have so many means of staying in touch with loved ones. When they left home, their families rarely heard from them. If they did, it would be weeks or months if they had any news.
I’m also grateful that our children have their own homes. They now appreciate all the comforts we provided as they grew up. Absence makes the heart grow fonder for people and for things. I never felt the “empty nest” syndrome. Perhaps it’s because I feel strongly that if they’re not calling, I’ve done a great job as a parent. It means they’re independent and too busy enjoying life. They’ve landed on their feet and it’s fun to visit with each other as adults.
LONG COLD WINTERS
I live in a part of the United States that has drastic and extreme temperatures. In Connecticut, it’s not unusual to see temperatures below 10 degrees in January. I used to loathe, despise and nearly go into a catatonic stage at the thought of an upcoming long cold winter.
On those radically cold days, especially when the wind is blowing, and we’re under five feet of snow, it’s not possible to do outdoor activities. That’s a great time to focus on productive online activities. I’m not referring to spending days on social media alone but on gaining new skills.
I’ve taken several great on line courses from institutions like Yale University including Quantum Physics, Day Trading, Investing and Online Marketing. If you’re snowbound, long cold winters are a great time to brush up or take on a new discipline.
IT’S TAKEN ME LONGER TO MASTER SOME ASHTANGA YOGA POSITIONS
I’m grateful for the fact that it’s taken me longer to master some Ashtanga yoga positions than it has for others. It has taught me that everything has its time. I don’t believe in being patient because if we ask for that, that’s exactly what we’ll get. I believe in the Law of Attraction. I now realize that everything comes at the perfect moment, when we’re ready.
It took me nearly four months to learn how to stand on my head. I never thought I could master the pose. What I didn’t know at the time is that my body had to get familiar with that position and my muscles had to readjust to accommodate being balanced upside down. Anything worth learning, takes time.
Not having mastered all the stances yet keeps my ego in check. Type A personalities, like myself, are competitive. But this kind of practice is not about being better than someone else. It’s about bringing out the best in ourselves. It’s about being better today than we were yesterday. It’s about tending to our own lives before we can help others.
I’ve always believed that failure is not an option. What I learned through the 3 week exercise is that mastering a new skill takes time. Achieving something at a slower pace than someone else does not mean failure. I had to rethink how I saw my progress.
To be a master yogi in Ashtanga, takes decades. The amount of time that it takes and the number of tries to complete a series are not signs of failure. They are lessons on how not to do something. In addition, the process gives our bodies greater strength and flexibility. I’ve learned to be grateful for my timing and to look back at my own practice to see how far I’ve come.
A SLOWER THAN EXPECTED YEAR IN THE LOCAL REAL ESTATE MARKET
I’m grateful for the unseasonably slow local real estate market. I live in a community that’s 28 miles from midtown Manhattan. My town is driven by financial markets and it has been affected by the downturn in global economies. It has been a quieter than expected year for most of the 1000 realtors that practice in our 50-square mile community. Some have experienced devastating economic losses and moved away. Many are facing divorce. A few are leaving the profession and still more are paralyzed not knowing what to do.
There’s not much that I can do as an individual to turn the economy around but I have complete control and power over how I use this time. Besides keeping my clients informed of the market and servicing existing businesses, I’m also using this slow period to sharpen marketing skills, improve my drone photography and refine my writing. I’m grateful for the opportunity to polish these.
The result of the twenty-one day exercise last year is that, after a consistent and sustained period, I now see things in a new light and with much greater appreciation. Scientists attribute this to a rewiring of the brain. Being grateful has given me emotional prosperity and well being.
I’d like to challenge you to start a gratefulness list for 21 consecutive days. If listing ten things each days seems too much, then start with 3 or 5. In the end, you’ll be amazed at how differently you will experience the world. You will see solutions instead of problems. You will see lessons instead of failure. You will see joy instead of sadness. You will be empowered. Your appreciation for all things will open doors you never even knew were closed. Appreciation will remove the veil over your eyes revealing a whole new world. Start right now, what are you grateful for?
ROXANA BOWGEN, Digital Marketing Strategist
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