Special Invitation to Bali!

A Special Invitation to all of my This Way Up Readers . . .

 

The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.

― Oprah Winfrey

Escape! Join a small group of women in beautiful rejuvenating Bali…….
The team at Rejuvenate Spa Retreats are excited to be going back to Bali!
This time we have 9 glorious nights at Villa Pantai Karang, Sanur, Bali. The villa is right on the beach and we’ll have the whole gorgeous place to ourselves.
LUXURY BEACHFRONT VILLA ACCOMMODATION

REJUVENATE Spa Retreats was founded in 2014 by Patti Clark and Deb Brock who have been running women’s workshops and retreats together for over a decade. They asked women from around the world:

“How would you describe an absolutely perfect holiday/retreat?”

Here’s what they said:
 
“To be able to really relax and have time just for me”
“Luxurious accommodation in tropical paradise”

“A well organized  retreat, spaciousness and freedom…
but no busy schedules”

 
And so our Bali Women’s Retreat was created with your happiness and well-being in mind. Our women’s retreats offer relaxation, pampering and creativity. They are pure indulgence & rejuvenation – allowing you to take time out for yourself and recharge yourself in paradise.Read what past participants have said…

Your Retreat Leaders Patti Clark and Deb Brock
Patti Clark is an award winning, international best-selling author, accomplished speaker and workshop leader. Patti’s book This Way Up was the Winner of International Excellence Self-Help Book of the Year. Patti’s work has been featured in several publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Mindful Word and is a frequent contributor to Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global.

Deb Brock is an established artist who lives on the spectacular Thames Coast, New Zealand. She works from her art studio at home, when not travelling to deliver workshops and retreats. She has a background in hospitality and is an experienced event planner, creativity tutor and workshop leader.

Can We Entice You? 
This is a retreat with a difference. It’s all about finding your bliss your way.
Lying by the pool …waiting for your massage … not a mung bean in sight!
And then there’s the Fuel for Inspiration Workshop!
The workshop is a gentle and inspiring process, using a variety of creative modalities such as journaling, music, drawing, creative visualization and art. Sometimes expressing our creativity can be very personal and we may feel vulnerable. The workshop experience is safe and nurturing. A previous participant said:
“I thought you were both incredibly supportive and flexible. You looked after the group very well, which was very much appreciated. If I was recommending to a friend on her own, I would feel confident that a single person knowing no one, would be well cared for and supported.”  – Sheryl A.
Your Retreat Package Includes:

  •     Nine nights luxury accommodation
  •    Drinks and pamper basket on arrival
  •    Arrival dinner and departure dinner
  •    All breakfasts
  •    Fuel for Inspiration Workshop
  •    3x  60 minute massage vouchers
  •    A day trip to explore beautiful Bali
  •    Pick up at the airport and transfer to the accommodation in Sanur

Cost:     From USD$1,899 (NZD$2,799)

Dates:   Arrive July 4th – depart July 13th 2019

Numbers limited to 10
Book Your Space Now!
Other Cool Things You Can Do in Bali….
We’ve factored in plenty of free time. You can grab a buddy and head to the beach or, if you are so inclined, Bali offers an abundance of wonderful experiences: cooking classes, shopping at local markets, and adventure tourism. Relaxing by the pool with a good book is also a great option.

Bali is renowned for its enchanting mixture of healing spa treatments, refined artistic culture and unique spiritual heritage.

Fancy a cooking class?
Or perhaps kite surfing at the beach?
Or maybe another facial at award winning The Nest Beachside Spa

You know you want to … contact us now to secure your place!
Copyright ©  2015 REJUVENATE Spa Retreats, All rights reserved.

To learn more about our retreats please visit our website:
www.rejuvenatesparetreats.com

Our mailing address is:
rejuvenatesparetreats@gmail.com
Our phone numbers are:
Deb: 064 21 258 0078
Patti: 064 27 777 4735
whatsapp: 064 21 258 0078 or 064 27 777 4735

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Always Cultivating Gratitude

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Thanksgiving is upon us. And although I live in New Zealand, where Thanksgiving itself is not celebrated, I acknowledge the day anyway as a day to cultivate gratitude. Daily I have so much to be grateful for… my Gratitude Journal today reflected:

Today I am Grateful for:

My beautiful sons – so grateful for the delicious relationship I have with both of them and the close relationship they have with one another
My husband – we’ve been together for so many years, seen so many ups and downs and grown together. So grateful for our bond.
My friends – people to share my life with
My sister – such a gift to have a sister in life
My wonderful home – warm in the winter, cool in the summer, a deck with a view of the sea and a stream in the backyard. Incredible sunsets over the water from my bedroom, a walk to the beach to swim when it’s hot. I love my home!
My work – I love the work I do and the people I meet doing it.
My health – at 60 still feeling fit and healthy
Yoga – I love my yoga practice
Books – I get such joy from reading! And there are still so many books that I look forward to reading. It’s so soothing for an addict to know that I’ll never run out!
My spiritual practice – so grateful for my relationship with my higher power and the soothing response I get from meditation
Writing – I love to write and journal. So grateful I have found a creative outlet where I can play.
My Recovery and Sobriety – without which so much of my life would not be as it is.

If you are looking for ways to actively practice more gratitude, here are a few ideas. There is a great Gratitude Journal Research Project you can join: – Thnx4:

Thnx4 is a sharable gratitude journal. Take the 14-day gratitude challenge, learn more about yourself, and add to the growing body of research on the benefits of saying thanks!

Keeping a Gratitude Journal is one of the “Ten Ways to Become More Grateful.” This is a wonderful article by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. – the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology.

Today I’m also grateful for the amazing master class that my friend Alexis Cohen is running:
AWAKENING THROUGH ART

There is no doubt about it, we’re going through a transformational time on the planet. We’re waking up to our awesome ability to create our reality and a new vision of the planet is emerging.
That’s why Alexis, visionary artist, creativity mentor, and shamanic practitioner has created Awakening Through Art Online Masterclass. It’s a Free interview series, starting December 3rd 2018.

It brings together more than 25 artists, healers, teachers and visionaries, including me! We will share our creative wisdom, tools and hand-on-techniques to activate healing, inspire connection and amplify love all around the world.

Reserve your spot Now.

To close, I want to share one of the videos by Robert Emmons from The Greater Good Site, The Benefits of Gratitude.

The Benefits of Gratitude

Please share some of your recent Gratitude Stories, I always love to hear them.
And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

The Path to Well-Being . . . Yes you can get there from here!

“The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being.”
– Emma Goldman
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What do you want? No honestly, what do you really truly want in your one wild and precious life? to mis-quote Mary Oliver. Most studies show that happiness and well-being are at the top of this list. But that is often immediately followed by but I don’t know what to do to get there. The good news is that there is a path to well-being, and you can start travelling this path today.

 

Well-being is actually a skill that can be learned and practiced and improved. Well-being can be achieved by focusing on four main keys. One of my heroes that I’ve written about is Dr. Richard Davidson. Dr. Davidson is the founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and he has studied and discovered the four science-based keys to well-being.

Davidson explains that well-being is a skill and it boils down to four main attributes:

Resilience, Outlook, Attention and Generosity.

From his research, he and his colleagues have learned that:

Each of these four is rooted in neural circuits, and each of these neural circuits exhibits plasticity—so we know that if we exercise these circuits, they will strengthen. Practicing these four skills can provide the substrate for enduring change, which can help to promote higher levels of well-being in our lives.

1. Resilience

Yes it’s true ‘Shit Happens.’ It happens to all of us and we can’t always stop it or avoid it, but we can change the way we react to it. Davidson explains that:

Resilience is the rapidity with which we recover from adversity; some people recover slowly and other people recover more quickly. We know that individuals who show a more rapid recovery in certain key neural circuits have higher levels of well-being. They are protected in many ways from the adverse consequences of life’s slings and arrows.

Recent research that Davidson conducted at UW Madison asked whether resilience could be improved and if so, how. The good news is that answer is yes; resilience can be improved by regular practice of mindfulness meditation. … The bad news is that it takes thousands of hours of practice before you see real change. But hey, it can be done.

2. Outlook

The second key to well-being is one’s outlook on life. Davidson explains:

Outlook refers to the ability to see the positive in others, the ability to savor positive experiences, the ability to see another human being as a human being who has innate basic goodness.

The good news regarding outlook is that unlike resilience, research indicates that simple practices of lovingkindness and / or compassion meditation may alter this circuitry quite quickly.
There was a study done in 2013 where individuals who had never meditated before were randomly assigned to one of two groups.

One group received a secular form of compassion training and the other received cognitive reappraisal training, an emotion-regulation strategy that comes from cognitive therapy. We scanned people’s brains before and after two weeks of training, and we found that in the compassion group, brain circuits that are important for this positive outlook were strengthened. After just seven hours—30 minutes of practice a day for two weeks—we not only saw changes in the brain, but these changes also predicted kind and helpful behavior.

3. Attention

The third key to well-being is paying attention. Research has shown that most people do not pay close attention to what they’re doing about forty-seven percent of the time. The quality of attention that you pay to what you are doing is vital.

William James in The Principals of Psychology explains that:

The ability to voluntarily bring back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgment, character, and will. An education that sharpens attention would be education par excellence.

Davidson explains that educating attention can be done through a contemplative practice.

4. Generosity

It is well known now that when individuals engage in generous and altruistic behavior, they actually activate circuits in the brain that are key to fostering well-being. Davidson believes that:

Human beings come into the world with innate, basic goodness. When we engage in practices that are designed to cultivate kindness and compassion, we’re not actually creating something de novo—we’re not actually creating something that didn’t already exist. What we’re doing is recognizing, strengthening, and nurturing a quality that was there from the outset.

In addition to the four keys that Davidson outlines, science has also shown that gratitude hugely increases our feelings of well-being. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. It magnifies positive emotions. With gratitude, we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators. You can become more responsible for creating more well-being in your life by the simple act of being grateful for what you are experiencing in this present moment.

By practicing gratitude and focusing on these four keys, Davidson assures us that:

Our brains are constantly being shaped wittingly or unwittingly—most of the time unwittingly. Through the intentional shaping of our minds, we can shape our brains in ways that would enable these four fundamental constituents of well-being to be strengthened. In that way, we can take responsibility for our own minds.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, no one explains it better than Dr. Richie Davidson himself!

I’d love to know if you have found that a meditation practice impacts your well-being.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.

This Way Up Six Week Online Live Interactive Workshop!

““Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
— George Bernard Shaw
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There are still a few spaces left for the This Way Up Six Week Online Live Interactive Workshop.
The six-week series begins on Tuesday 23 October at 5pm PDT and runs for six weeks:
Tuesday 23 October – Tuesday 27 November.

Here is some info about the workshop:

The workshop is completely free. There is no set fee at all. At the end of the six weeks, if you decide you want to donate something, you are welcome, but there is no expectation.
Each workshop is live, and videoed. If you miss a day in the series, you can go to our private You Tube page and watch what you’ve missed and do the day’s visualization. There is time for questions and discussions during each workshop. The shared community of women from around the world is wonderful!

This video will answer some questions for you, and if you have any other question, you can contact me at
patti@thiswayupbook.com

I hope to see you there!

Exciting Announcement! Interactive Online Workshop Series!

“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams”

– Oprah Winfrey 

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Hi Everyone –
I’m so excited to announce a new workshop series! In this interactive online workshop you will learn to:
  • Identify Limiting Beliefs and Move Beyond Them
  • Overcome Obstacles that Prevent You from Moving Forward
  • Move Toward Achieving Your Dreams and Living Your Best Life!

One of the first questions that people have is – What’s the cost?  The answer is simple – Whatever you want to pay. That’s right.  I want this workshop to be completely accessible to everyone that is interested, and I absolutely do not want money to be an obstacle.

This Workshop begins Tuesday May 29th at 6pm PDT
Sign up today to start your journey!
patti@thiswayupbook.com

Want more info?

 

Still have questions?

Please email me at:   patti@thiswayupbook.com

I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Manifesting Change in Your Life

“Within all of us is a divine capacity to manifest and attract all that we need and desire.”
– Wayne Dyer 

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I receive lots of inquiries from people asking how I got my book published.

I usually respond glibly – Tenacity! And that was certainly one aspect of the process.

But the truth is that I practiced what I actually preached in my book and focused a lot of energy and belief on The Energy of getting my book out there. In my opinion, this is how one sets out to manifest what they are focusing on.

I believe, after reading books by Deepak Chopra and a myriad of other authors, that everything is energy. And that belief shapes everything else. And on top of that, each energy has a specific vibration as Esther Hicks/Abraham explains. And we must be on the ‘same frequency’ to use a common metaphor, to be in alignment. Once this alignment is met, things start to happen. If the vibration is high, as in joy and gratitude, you start experiencing more joy and gratitude, and more things that bring you joy and gratitude start to come your way.

I focused on the joy of writing my book as often as possible, and the gratitude that publishers were looking at it. I didn’t make stuff up, I just found joy and gratitude in what was already happening.

As a woman I know, Jaqui Sive, describes:

“If you’re thinking about being in debt, you’ll only attract more debt, because the feeling of being in debt can only attract being in debt, because that is the frequency you’re on.”

The very best way to become an energetic match for something, is to think, feel, and behave as if you’ve already received it. In my book I describe it as Acting as if – that’s where we start. Living in joy and gratitude. By living in that joy and gratitude, you unlock the emotion of having it, and that allows the frequency of that energetic match.

The emotion of it is so important. From what I’ve read and understand, manifesting anything is very much about the emotion behind it. That’s why in my book I talk about the Power of Why. It evokes the emotion around the Heart Centered Goal Setting. Feeling it is crucial. My experience is that it is next to impossible to manifest your dream if your emotions are conflicting with that goal.

For example, if you are focusing on finding true love, but your emotions and limiting beliefs are telling your that you are not good enough, then that blocks the energy.

You may write your goal: “I now have a wonderful relationship that brings me true joy.”

But if your emotions and limiting beliefs are saying: “But I’m too fat for love.” Or “But I’m too old to ever find true love, my boat has sailed.” (both of which I have heard from readers) – then you are sabotaging your own life! These limiting beliefs will de-rail your goal almost immediately. If you believe you do not deserve something, then that will keep on playing out in your life. Your sub-conscious mind will believe your old limiting belief. That is why there is an entire week in the workbook in This Way Up to help you get clear on your limiting beliefs. You need to be clear on how your own old thoughts are limiting your own progress.

So after you’ve uncovered those limiting beliefs and have come to believe that you are worthy of whatever it is that you are focusing on, then it is time to use the emotion within you to help generate the creative energy.

For me, the secret lies in Visualization. I talk at length about visualizaiton in my book. You can find all of my visualizations on my You Tube Channel. When you are doing a visualization, it is vital that you focus your positive energy on that vision. Feel like it is actually happening, the more details the better. Feel how good it feels to be in a healthy, positive relationship; or how wonderful it feels to have your book published and have people reading your work. Another option I outline in my book is writing about it. Write about your Ideal Life Scenario. Get as specific as possible.

The creative process you use in not important, it’s just important that it brings you joy! Evoke the joy and the gratitude of achieving that which you are focusing on. By being in the joy of having that (whatever it is), we live that joy and we begin to manifest it. It is only by being in that place that it begins to come to us. It’s an absolute conundrum!

There is another important piece here, as Mike Dooley, from The Universe Talks, explains:

“Expecting “end results” – such as wealth and abundance, health and harmony, friends and laughter – in broad brushstrokes, is part of the secret formula for manifesting the life of your dreams.”

But remember, don’t get stuck in the minutiae, or the ‘cursed hows’ as he describes it:

“Expecting your path to follow a certain route – such as writing a bestseller to accumulate wealth, having a particular someone fall in love with you, or insisting upon this idea, that diet, or the other invention to be your deliverance – is just plain messing with the cursed hows and severely limits options.”

Dooley asks us to:

“Release any expectations you may have of how you think your dreams will come true but by all means, with every fiber of your being, expect that they will, as you busy yourself enjoying who and where you already are.”

So act as if you already have your dream. Look for the good in things you experience, try to live in joy as much as possible. Start every day with gratitude, before you even get out of bed focus on what you are grateful for, choose three things every morning. Write them down in a journal if you have the time and the space, but if that feels too hard, then just say it in your mind, feel the gratitude of having a warm bed, of knowing you can take a hot shower, of having food in your fridge. Focus your gratitude on what you already have in your life; this will impact your entire day.

And as you think about that big goal, act as if it is already yours.
Be in your life as if that goal is already there. Feel the joy of it.

After all, ultimately aren’t we all searching for more joy?

I’ll close with a video of Oprah interviewing Esther Hicks about manifesting, among other things.

 

I’d love to hear how you manifest things in your life.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choose to Make Your Life Sacred

“Something opens our wings. Something makes boredom and hurt disappear. Someone fills the cup in front of us: We taste only sacredness.”

– Rumi 

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Today I choose to make my life sacred. By focusing on the beauty and the sacredness of life, I can move away from the fear and uncertainty.

“It feels good and right to lift our faces to the sunlight.  It feels good and right to follow our hearts. Something in all of us ignites when we live this way.”

Sarah Blondin takes us on a beautiful journey of making our life sacred in her podcast Live Awake. Blondin, the creator of Live Awake focuses on the sacredness of life in her podcasts.

“She decided after waking from what felt like years of sleep, that nature was responsible for loving her awake. She decided the earth breathed its grace up from the roots of her feet. The trees gathered together to give her grounded strength. She decided the wind carried loving whispers from the divine to her slumbering ears. She decided the sky showered her with wisdom and mirrored the boundless nature of every soul walking this earth.  She decided after waking from what felt like years of sleep, that she would live forevermore wide open to all that came to be in front of her. She decided that living awake was a choice, and in that moment she became free. And in that moment she chose to be the beam of light that reaches toward all other life, to be the beam that assists the earth in breathing and loving others awake.”

I invite you to listen to the podcast here, on Soundcloud, Make It Sacred. It’s a beautiful uplifting podcast. There are several Live Awake podcasts available on the wonderful free app –  Insight Timer.  There are hundreds of guided meditations by wonderful teachers available on this app.  I recommend it whole-heartedly.

I’ll close this post with another video from the Live Awake archives, Choosing Harmony.  It is a lovely way to spend nine minutes.

 

 

Let me know your thoughts on how you make your life sacred.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Practice Some Mindful Self-Compassion this Holiday Season!

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

― Jack Kornfield

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The holidays are upon us. Tis the season to be jolly and all that. But for many people, this is the season of stress and depression. People tend to push themselves beyond their limits. Overspending is rampant; people overindulge in food and drink; there is increased stress due to travel and obligatory family get togethers. And often, our sleep suffers and we have less time to recharge our batteries. And then to top it all off, most of us beat ourselves up because we haven’t done enough or haven’t done it right. “Are the presents just right?” “Did I make enough pies?” “Did I make a fool of myself at that party?”

This holiday season, I am committing to a whole new approach. In order to be fully present for my loved ones, I need to take care of me. My plan centers around Mindful Self-Compassion; with an added focus of paying attention to what my body needs.  I describe this plan in my latest article in Thrive Global.

 

 

Thrive Global, by the way, turned One Year Old this month!  Congratulations to the founder Arianna Huffington!  I have been a contributor since the inaugural edition.  If you missed my first article in Thrive Global in December 2016 on Forgiveness, you can read it here.

But back to practicing Mindful Self-Compassion.  If you want to learn about this wonderful topic, look no further than Dr. Kristin Neff. Kristin Neff Phd is one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion. She explains that with self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. This quote by Neff sums it up pretty well:

“You don’t want to beat yourself up for beating yourself up in the vain hope that it will somehow make you stop beating yourself up. Just as hate can’t conquer hate — but only strengthens and reinforces it — self-judgment can’t stop self-judgment.”

This holiday season, by treating myself like I’d treat a loved one, I’m hoping to increase my emotional well-being and resilience. Here’s my plan:

  1. Take time for myself

During the holidays, we are so quick to give our time and energy that we can end up feeling completely depleted. This holiday season, I plan to take the time each day to check in with myself: “How am I feeling?” “Have I done something good for me today?” This will require setting boundaries with others as well as myself. I don’t have to do everything for everyone these holidays. I commit to taking time to just be; to go on walks and to read. I don’t have to bake the cookies and host the community carolling party. I can choose to stay home and read with a cup of tea instead of joining one more holiday party. Self-care and self-compassion bring me peace and joy, which in turn will allow me to bring peace and joy to those around me.

2. Slow down and meditate

Part of my plan to take care of myself will include making sure I have plenty of time for me, and just plenty of time period. The holiday season tends to be a time of rushing around, hurrying from one event to the next. This year I plan to focus on many mini moments of mindfulness as Andy Puddicombe refers to it in his program, Headspace. And I’ll make sure I make time in my busy schedule to meditate. I know that those 15–20 minutes in the morning make all the difference to the other 23 + hours in the day.

3. Gratitude

I know from experience that when I’m in a place of gratitude everything in my life just works and feels better. Neuroscience has proven that actively practicing gratitude protects your brain from stress and depression. Recent research shows that even just thinking about what I am grateful for increases dopamine and serotonin. But, I’m not just going to think about what I’m grateful for, I commit to writing down three positive things that I’m thankful for every morning in my journal. I have learned that this simple activity trains my brain to be more positive by looking for the good in life rather than the bad. And I plan to share my appreciation too, to articulate my gratitude to others. These simple statements of gratitude to others for who they are and what they are doing are like small gifts, often appreciated more than that box of chocolates.

4. Eat well and not overindulge

We all know it’s common to put on weight during the holiday season, and then to beat oneself up mercilessly for the next few months. I know when I eat healthier, I feel better. I don’t plan to deprive myself of holiday treats, but I will eat in moderation. And when I do put on those extra holiday pounds, I will be kind to myself in the new year, just like I would a good friend. Instead of berating myself and calling myself fat, I will suggest that perhaps a long walk would be a great idea.

5. Stay Active

And speaking of long walks, I know that exercise is essential to my well being. I will make time this holiday season to go on long walks and do plenty of yoga. I know that physical activity reduces stress, improves my mood and prevents depression. I know this from experience, but the research shows it as well; exercise triggers the same hormones (dopamine and serotonin) in my brain that are targeted by anti-depressant medication. So I know that exercise won’t just help me with those few extra pounds this holiday season, but it will greatly help my mood as well. But you know what, if I miss a couple of days of exercise, I won’t beat myself up about it either!

6. Sleep

Finally, this holiday season I commit to protecting my sleep. There are few things that mess up my health and well-being like poor sleep. I know that not sleeping well leads to stress, irritability and just feeling like crap. A lot of us lose sleep around the holidays, whether it’s from staying out late, overindulging in food, drink and sugar, or over-caffeinating. But I know that the best way for me to be cheerful this holiday season is to get enough sleep.

So this holiday season, I invite you to follow my plan and make a commitment to yourself. Take care of yourself over the holidays and practice some self-compassion. Let’s all remember Soren Kierkegaard’s wise words:

“Don’t forget to love yourself.”

If you want to learn more about how to practice Mindful Self-Compassion, you can find many videos by Kristin Neff on YouTube.

I’ll close this post with one of my favorite videos by her:  Overcoming Objections to Self-Compassion

 

I’d love to hear about how you plan to take care of yourself this holiday season.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Practicing Conscious Gratitude

“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” 
― David Steindl-Rast

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In the Muppets’ Christmas Carol Movie, Kermit sings: “Tis the season to be jolly and joyous” . . . But what if you’re not feeling overly joyous? As we enter the holiday season this year, many people are feeling less than joyful. The political scene is grim and there is a lot to feel anxious and unhappy about. And for many, the idea of spending more time with family during the holidays does not fill the heart with glee. How you feel is your choice, daily. But if you want to feel more joy, not only this holiday season, but in general, there is an answer.

Science tells us that happiness and joy are things we can cultivate. Thanks to the advent of fMRI machines (functional magnetic resonance imaging), we can now watch our brains in real time and see which areas of the brain light up when we’re angry, frustrated, or joyful, and we can also watch the brain change depending on what we focus on. The idea that our brain architecture can change has been termed “neuroplasticity.”

We can literally rewire the neural pathways that regulate our emotions, thoughts, and reactions. This means we can create new neural pathways that lead us to compassion, gratitude, and joy instead of anxiety, fear, and anger. We can reprogram our brains’ automatic response with a conscious effort to build new pathways.

 

In a study done by The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Neural Correlates of Gratitude, it was found that gratitude can be a natural antidepressant. When we consciously focus on what we are grateful for, certain neural circuits are activated; when activated, an increase of dopamine and serotonin is produced, which is similar to how many antidepressants work.

Building new neural pathways may not come easily at first. A good analogy is bushwhacking through a jungle. Imagine trying to walk through a jungle in a dense rain forest. It requires a machete every step of the way to clear the path the first time through. After a few more times, you might lay down some stones to keep the path clear and eventually the path becomes a road and soon it becomes easily travelled. As you walk the path more and more, you continue to reinforce it and make it even stronger. Eventually, this new neural pathway becomes a habit.

To add to the strengthening of some pathways, our brain also has a way to ‘prune’ the pathways used less often. Scientists call this “use-dependent cortical reorganization,” meaning that we strengthen whichever neural pathways we use most often, and lose the ones we use the least. Hebb’s Lawstates “neurons that fire together, wire together.”

                    Neurons that fire together, wire together

 

So how do we do this? How do we create these new neural pathways and start to rewire our brain towards happiness, compassion, and joy? Many studieshave shown that cultivating gratitude, or practicing Conscious Gratitude, is the most powerful way to start building new pathways.

Seth Godin, best selling author, recently stated in an interview: “I think that gratitude is a profound choice. It is not just something that some people do. There is a way to look at life as either “have to” or a “get to”. There are all these things in life we could do because we have to do them, or there are things in life we do because we get to do them.”

Godin goes on to explain that this has nothing to do with the truth of what is going on in the world around you. It has to do with our narrative about what is going on.

Living life knowing you “get to” do something is better than constantly feeling like you have to. Godin poses the question: “What is the opposite of gratitude?” And he believes the opposite of gratitude is entitlement. “People who believe they are entitled to something, walk around expecting that the world owes them something, whereas the people who are grateful for something are eager to share that gratitude with others, and that lines up exactly with “have to” and “get to.”

So if we agree that being grateful can lead to joy, then how can we start feeling more grateful?

“Look closely and you will find that people are happy because they are grateful. The opposite of gratefulness is just taking everything for granted. ” ― David Steindl-Rast,

David Steindl-Rast, the highly-respected Benedictine monk, author and spiritual leader, explains his methodology for staying in a gratitude mindset in Anatomy of Gratitude:

“There is a very simple kind of methodology to it: stop, look, go. Most of us are caught up in schedules, and deadlines, and rushing around. And so the first thing is that we have to stop, because otherwise we are not really coming into this present moment at all. And we can’t even appreciate the opportunity that is given to us because we rush by. So stopping is the first thing … and finding something in that moment … I don’t speak of this moment as a ‘gift’, because you cannot be grateful for everything. You can’t be grateful for war, violence, domestic violence, or sickness, things like that. There are many things for which you cannot be grateful. But in every moment, you can be grateful. For instance, the opportunity to learn something from a very difficult experience. So opportunity is really the key when people ask, can you be grateful for everything? No, not for everything, but yes you can be grateful in every moment.”

Seth Godin believes that acting “as if” is underrated. “If you start acting as if you are grateful, you start feeling more grateful and you will become more grateful.”

Here are some things you can do right now to start practicing Conscious Gratitude:

1. Choose a time and focus on gratitude

Choose a specific time everyday where you will stop for a moment and focus on what you are grateful for in that particular moment.
I use 11:11. I have an alarm set on my phone to go off every day at 11:11. I stop whatever I’m doing (within reason- if I’m driving on a highway obviously I don’t stop) and I silently focus on what I am grateful for in that moment. Even if I’m stuck in traffic, I can be grateful for my car or a good sound system or enough money for gas to get me where I am going.

2. First thing in the morning, before your feet hit the floor, be grateful

Before you hop out of bed in the morning, take 30 seconds, (it really does not take more than that) to think about 3 things you are grateful for. This can be done silently in your head. Or better yet, if you have a partner that you share your bed with, ask each other to list those 3 things. It can be as simple as gratitude for a comfortable bed, a warm house, and a good nights sleep. It’s been shown that starting your day in gratitude positively impacts you for the rest of the day.

3. Start a Gratitude Journal

Choose a journal that you like the feel and the look of, and make sure that it is used solely for writing about things your are grateful for. How you write this is up to you; it can be as simple as list making. I like using colorful pens playing in my journal, but use what ever works for you. Make it a routine, try to write in it daily, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day.

4. Start new traditions in your family — like gratitude at meals

This may feel uncomfortable at first; but with time, the practice of going around the table and saying one thing you are grateful for that happened that day, can become a cherished family tradition. It’s a great conversation starter and a wonderful way to lift the energy at any meal time. Another tradition can be saying one thing you are grateful for before going off to sleep. If you have children, it is a wonderful way to end the day just before they go to sleep. Another tradition to reinforce gratitude in relationships is texting to a loved one in the middle of the day, one thing you appreciate about them. This works well with teens and couples with busy schedules.

So this holiday season, if you are hoping to embody Kermit’s words . . .

Tis the season to be jolly and joyous
With a burst of pleasure, we feel it arrive
Tis the season when the saints can employ us
To spread the news about peace and to keep love alive

. . . You can start by practicing gratitude consciously today. And if that doesn’t come naturally, start by ‘acting as if’ you are grateful. And pretty soon, what was once an act will become a habit.

 

I’ll close with a great interview with Brené Brown talking about Active Gratitude.

 

I’d love to hear how you practice conscious gratitude.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.