How to develop an attitude of gratitude

How to develop an attitude of gratitude

The definition of attitude is “a way of thinking”,a frame of mind” or “a view point”. All too often “having an attitude” is said implying that it is something negative. That if we have an attitude, or a particular view point, we are stubborn, difficult or challenging… Or contrary is another word one could use. Or maybe just different for simply seeing something from a different, but less appreciated angle than someone else.

 

But what about developing an attitude of gratitude?

 

We hear about the potential benefits of adopting such a frame of mind, that perhaps it may just be worth pursuing?

When I went to look for some research on the subject of the benefits of gratitude, a friend of mine kindly pointed me in the direction of this article, which let’s say saved me an enormous amount of hours! In this lengthy article the author have compiled the findings of 40 research studies on the benefits of adopting an attitude of gratitude.

He lists out 31 (!) but I have taken my top 10 favourites and listed them here:

  1. It makes us happier
  2. It makes others like us more
  3. It makes us healthier
  4. It strengthens our emotions, making us more resilient against stress
  5. It makes us more optimistic
  6. It makes us less self-centred
  7. It makes us feel good
  8. It strengthens relationships
  9. It improves our decision making process
  10. Basically we become nicer people over all and much more fun to be around!

 

So since all the reasons for WHY we should develop an attitude of gratitude is listed out in the article mentioned above, I thought it may  be better if I instead focused this blog on HOW we can put this into practice in our everyday life.

I think developing a gratitude practice is a little like developing any other new practice / habit we want to bring in to our lives, because we feel it could be of benefit to our health / wellbeing / happiness. The key is: we simply have to remember to do it often enough till one day it become part of our everyday routine, just like brushing our teeth! Consistency is going to be key. And even if we miss a day or two, or three… as soon as we remember, we just begin again.

To be honest, even though I feel that developing an attitude of gratitude is important and perhaps one of the most powerful tools we can use to make inroads towards self-love and self-appreciation, along with the practice of self-compassion, I do not have a daily practice of it established myself (yet). I’m kind of still in the “remember-to-do-it” stage…  This is why I will share with you three of the ways I’ve been using over the past few years to keep gratitude at the forefront of my life.

attitude of gratitude

About two years ago I stumble across The Five Minute Journal, though not the cheapest of investments, this cleverly laid out journal is a great place to start if you want to commit yourself to cement a gratitude practice in your life.

It is a lovely hardback “book”, with no dates so you can pick it up at any time and start where ever you are. The journal is split in two halves, a five minute practice for the morning that consists of writing down three things that you are grateful for, three things that would make it a great day and one affirmation for the day. And then there’s a quick prompt to spend another five minutes at the end of the day to recap what was amazing that day, as well as what could have been done better.

This way of having a “script” or a structured outline makes it really easy to get into the practice of gratitude with a reflective angle. Reading these questions everyday, and then thoughtfully writing down the answers does make for good practice of developing our awareness for what is good in our lives already. Especially for those times when we may be preoccupied with all the things we want, but don’t have. Or when life is handing you lemons…

I was doing quite well at filling out my Five Minute Journal for about 2 months or so… Until what usually happens, my unstructured self got the upper hand. So last year I decided to try a different approach to my gratitude practice.

Enter the Gratitude Jar.

I got this idea from a friend who shared it on FB, and I think, she in turn had gotten it from someone else. This jar concept has been around awhile. It’s as simple as it sounds, and a little less structured so it does require that we remember to do it!

Take a large glass jar and then each and every time that you are grateful for something, then write it down on a piece of paper and then put it into your jar. At the end of the year, open your jar and go through all the blessings that you received. It does make for some inspiring reading.

This approach seems to suit me a little better, well as far as I remember to do it that is!

straightforward nutrition

The third tool / approach that I’ve found as a path to develop gratitude and open the door to happiness, is to take some intentional moments, or breaths, to take in the beauty that is (always) all around us. This simple practice is very much on the lines of cultivating mindfulness, through basic awareness of just noticing things. To shift our attention to something in our physical reality, is such a simple yet effective way of anchoring the mind and the body in the present moment.

I’ve been doing this for some time now, especially if I catch myself feeling overwhelmed by the business of life and all that is on my to-do-list. Just to literally stay still for a tiny moment of time and allow my senses to open up to what surrounds me, can refresh and calm me no end. It is also much easier to do than it often is to find some time “sit down to meditate”.

What I didn’t know though is that there’s a practice that is called “The Ten Breath Practice”, which deepens this experience. My dear friend Jen Ardis (who’s not only a friend but also my collaborator for our Nutrition & Mindfulness Retreats that we are holding here in Fermoy) gifted me with the book that explains this simple yet powerful practice. The book is called Ten Breaths to Happiness, touching life in its fullness, by Glen Schneider.

The book explains the simple technique of  how to with intent and purpose allow ourselves to fully take in the experience of something that we find beautiful. And how by doing this, can open up new neuronal pathways in the brain, paving way for more feelings of contentment and happiness. Sounds good to me! I particularly like the simplicity of this practice as well as it being such a practical and sensory experience.

I also had the pleasure of witnessing how this practice can enhance people’s lives when I sat in on one of Jen’s Mindful Selfcare classes the other week!

This practice works for even the busiest person. Even for those who like one of my client’s once when I suggested starting a gratitude practice replied immediately with the words “I’m too busy”. To be honest, her reply threw me a bit…

Though come to thinks of it… I have found myself thinking along the same lines too, like “Do I have time to stop and spend 10 breaths on enjoying this moment?”.

I remind myself that yes I do have 30 seconds or perhaps even a full minute to enjoy what is here and now.

Because what else is there?

mindful living

When judgement gets in the way of change

When judgement gets in the way of change

I’ve been pondering all week, what to write about next. As I wass doing some research into the relationship between stress and digestion for our 1 day retreat this past weekend, I thought perhaps I should share some of those findings with you.

But then I thought, what about the stress around making the “right” food choices?

What about the “being-a-good-girl inner voice”, which in my experience can have a pretty nasty condescending tone? And the judgement that often follow when we don’t make that “right” choice…

 

judgment in the way of change

For some reason, I’ve struggled emotionally in the past week or so with “being good enough”. I think it may be related to a recent opportunity that presented itself and that I’ve been wanting to be part of for a very long time. So when I finally got the chance, of course I was ecstatic, which then followed by self-doubt. Can I actually deliver on what I say that I can? What if I can’t?

Oh the beauty of the turbulence of emotions! I even caught myself thinking that, perhaps I should just throw in the towel and quit and say that I’m no longer interested. If you quit you can’t technically fail, right? This “quitting” pattern is one of my old protective mechanisms for when things get stretched a little toooo far outside that famous comfort zone. So I’m totally aware of the lure of taking the “easy” option out.

Thing is, there’s a distinct difference about quitting without even trying, or to pivot and try something different because what you are currently doing isn’t working.

The fear of the unknown is what’s playing out here, together with some self-judgment, which can all to easily lead to self-sabotage.

Each and everytime we try something new, we can never be certain of the outcome. Well come to think of it, each and every morning we open our eyes we cannot even be certain of what the day will bring… We can have hopes and expectations, but we can never be sure. Hindsight is as they say “a wonderful thing”.

Whether you’re embarking on a journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth, a new way of eating or even something as simple (yet sometimes challenging) as trying a new recipe, embracing the uncertainty of it actually means that anything is possible!

 

But it is scary. There’s certainly many times in my life I’ve wished for a crystal ball…

 

And then we decide to take the leap anyway, and before we know it, this voice of self-doubt and  judgement creeps in.

Self-reflection can be a wonderful gift to gift yourself. I’ve seen both for myself and with clients the leaps and bounds that happens in a transformational way when we start looking in the mirror and begin to question what we believe, think and do. But… And this is a BIG but, if we bring judgement into the picture, it becomes a big hindrance in the process of change.

 

when judgment gets in the way of change

 

Why? Because when I am busy lambasting my own actions with my own self-righteousness, THIS is where my focus is at. If I’m so busy getting down on myself and my actions, I can’t actually see the reality for what it is.

Maybe the decision I made seemed to be the right one at that particular time, with the information that was available to me. And if it turned out afterwards that it actually wasn’t the wisest move, I am missing a valuable opportunity to learn why it turned out it wasn’t the wisest one, if I’m caught going around in a mental circle of self-ridicule.

Take for example the common thing of having a “bad” food. Perhaps something that’s not the most nutritious thing you could ever ingest. But eating any kind of food doesn’t indicate that we ourselves are “bad” in any way.

Now, if I start judging myself for this one particular food choice and place some of my self worth based on these choices, I completely miss out on the information of how this food actually makes me feel.

Does it make me feel satisfied, or more hungry, or perhaps it may even cause me physical discomfort. Or maybe it turns out I didn’t enjoy the taste as much as I initially thought I would? All vital clues and cues for how I might choose next time I am presented with a choice of having this food or not. But if I’m caught in a spiral of judgement, all I’ll hear is how “bad” I am, and that I should know better, etc. Which will just leave me with guilt, shame and a stress response that my body now also have to digest…

Judgement simply gets in my way of learning from my experiences, experiencing life as it is as well as preventing me from perhaps making a different choice that may serve me better next time.

 

mindful living

 

I love this great poem by Portia Nelson, which I first was introduces to by a client last year, but that we also shared at our recent retreat. It pretty much sums it up.

Autobiography in Five Chapters

I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk

I fall in.

I am lost…

I am hopeless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I’m in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in…it’s a habit

My eyes are open; I know where I am;

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

 

So open your mind, get curious and look at any and all of your experiences as valuable learning opportunities.

And most of all, be kind to yourself.

 

Feeding the Hungry Ghost – Cravings & Desires

Feeding the Hungry Ghost – Cravings & Desires

Have you ever heard the saying “feeding the Hungry Ghost”?

 

In Buddhism these creatures are depicted as having large empty bellies but with thin necks so they don’t get nourished and are never really satisfied.

These ghosts are always looking for external satisfaction. What is the next “thing” I need / want?

It hit me one day before Christmas when I was out walking my dogs, how busy I’ve been feeding my own “hungry ghosts”. I was busy thinking about some particular things I wanted to buy and how great it would feel when I could get them, but which current budget restraints where stopping me from buying. I caught myself thinking “When I get this then I will be happy and satisfied”. And then I realised that I am always looking for something, or something more. More money and more TIME (definitely always more time!).  More of this and more of that.

As I was making this observation, I could see that my wanting was partly coming from my scarcity mindset, of “not enough.” Because why would I want for example more time if it wasn’t for the fact that I believe that I don’t have enough of it?

I also realised that this feeling of not enough, can manifest both as a feeling of Fear of Missing Out (or FOMO as the cool kids say), and as a way of thinking “I will be happy when…”

Both of which puts my happiness on hold until some unforeseen date in the future…

mindful eating

 

Cravings can have many faces. Especially when it comes to food and eating, not to mention our body! But in my understanding what tends to drive them all are a desire to feel better. Whether that is in ourselves or about ourselves.

The renowned Physician Gabor Máte who has spent a large part of his career working in the field of addition touches more on it here in an excerpt from one of his books.

Luckily many of us don’t live our lives on that extreme end, but with that said, we all have cravings of various kinds to grapple with.

 

Are cravings and desires the same?

Not necessarily.

 

I see cravings as something that has a sense of urgency, as well as something that is of external nature which we use (like a substance or behaviour) to make us feel better in the moment.

For me a desire is more something that’s generated from within. A desire to feel a certain way or act in a certain way. How do I want to feel? And what do I need to do to feel that way?

There’s nothing wrong with desires or wanting to improve on what we are. What we have to be vigilant and watch out for though is when we get caught with thoughts that go “If only… then I would…” Or “I will be happy when…”.

I heard a colleague speak in an interview recently about how she once heard the Dalai Lama ask his audience the question “If you had everything you ever wanted, would you feel satisfied?”. She relayed that when she pondered this question for herself , it gave a profound insight into the fact that our “wanting” and desire is part of human nature. Which in turn made me think that even though one of my aims for this year is to own less “stuff”, there’s no point in telling myself that I shouldn’t buy any stuff.

That kind of restriction would definitely back-fire, for me. It would be the same as saying no more chocolate (ever)! So rather than restricting myself, my plan is to be a lot more discerning with my choices this year. Do I need it? What will it bring to my life? Why do I want it?

straightforward nutrition

There’s so much information that can be gotten from asking ourselves those kinds of questions, which help us move from a place of not enough and a fear of missing out, to a place of freedom, that comes from choice.

Perhaps in this space we can also see that, yes for sure some things and certain stuff may enhance our life in some way, but it will never give us a deep sense of fulfillment, like the sensation that we can generate from within.

So it becomes important continue to ask the question “What do I need right now?”, with kindness and curiosity.

Because as it’s been said a million times (probably since it is a universal truth), that it is only in this moment that we can make a choice and to make it one that will serve us right now, but perhaps also may ripple into our future.

And if it turns out it wasn’t the best one? Sure, we can always begin again.

What choices are you going to make this week, to honour what you need,

and not just what you want?


 

Do you long to let go of obsession around food, eating and weight? Would you like to feel freedom and peace around meals and beyond, but need some help and support to get there?

It would be an honour to walk with you on this path. Please email me HERE to set up a free 30 min consultation to explore how this may be possible for you too.

 

Life Lessons Learnt from Hiking

Life Lessons Learnt from Hiking

Why is it that sometimes we need to repeat the same learnings over and over?

 

Last week, I started the week with all guns blazing, lots of enthusiasm and energy for the task at hand.

Sometimes I get so consumed with a project and the desire to complete it that pretty much everything else take a backseat. Including selfcare and eating… It’s back to that ever repeating lesson of learning that thing called “balance”, and what it takes to keep it so, in our daily lives.

Of course, starting out the week with such a fast and furious pace, set me up for arriving at a the place of feeling a bit “burnt out”  a few days later. No surprise there really. Yet this is something I often find myself doing. Even though “ I should know better”… Sigh… Why is it when it comes to certain areas of our lives, we may be slower to pick up on the message in the lesson?

 

Last week I also happen to come upon some lovely and relevant insights around this topic of “doing”, that’s so prevalent in our modern lives. These insights weren’t about the fact that we sometimes attach our self-worth to how much  we are doing (or not doing). The point and angle the author was coming from, was the fact that we so often move from doing one task, then on to the next and the next, without ever stopping to reflect on our accomplishments, learnings or achievements.

In a sense, that’s very much like constantly moving the goalpost, just that little bit out of reach, meaning we can easily end up defeated or deflated because we’re feeling like “we’ll never get there”.

This brought me back thinking about some of the life lessons and the metaphors I’ve learnt from hiking.

straightforward nutrition

I can still remember the time I did my first summit, about 6 ½ years ago. We don’t have huge mountains here in Ireland, so getting to the top is quiet doable for most people. That said, it wasn’t without its challenges. Though for sure, all the huffing and puffing was worth it, as we were blessed with the clear view from the top (not always guaranteed).

Here’s the thing though, whether we are out hiking, or we use and apply hiking as a metaphor for life in general; There is much beauty to behold on the way to the top. So if we just keep our focus on our feet and our minds on the goal for “what awaits when we get there”, we miss out on so much!

Since that first summit, I’ve done more hikes and hopefully 2107 will bring more opportunities to get out and explore the beautiful Irish mountains.

The other metaphor and life lesson on this very same theme that I’ve picked up from hiking is.

 

“It’s only when we turn around we realise how far we’ve come”

 

So it’s not just about pausing once in awhile to take in the view, it’s equally as important to turn around to realise the distance we’ve already travelled, to acknowledge the hurdles we’ve overcome and the challenges that have shaped us along the way. No, of course I don’t think we should dwell on the past, or get stuck there, but I do think that there’s learnings to be had by realise that we are stronger than what we often may think.

Here’s another thing, metaphors from the mountains does not just apply to life at large. We can zoom in and take them as a way of looking at our relationship with food and eating too.

mindful eating

The dynamic we experience between emotions, food, eating and our bodies is one that keeps intriguing me, with a desire to explore it deeper and deeper.

As much as I believe in the power of food as medicine, I also believe in the power that is healing our relationship with food. Because until we do, making choices that truly serves our bodies and our health is challenging. (I will speak more on these barriers in another blog post).

The result of my sprinting start this week, followed by the burnt out state a few days later ended up much reflected in my food choices too. Like a burger and chips from a chipper one night…!

I know, I may just have shattered any illusion you may have held of me being perfect, as a trained nutrition professional. But here’s the learning. I no longer struggle with guilt or shame, after eating something like that. There was a time I would have, especially if I were on any kind of diet, but these days I see these food choices more like cues. When I find myself looking for quick carbohydrates and fried foods like this, it is usually a sign that my inner state of being is that of “fried” as well. So rather than beating myself up for what I just ate, I take stock to see what it is that I really need. Like going to bed a little earlier so I can have some more sleep, a hot bath to unwind, and a good conversation with a friend.

From looking at the symbolism in my food choices, I see that my own selfcare has been neglected and that is what needs attention! And usually my own selfcare routine also includes feeding myself with fresh colourful foods.

If I was still stuck in my old “dieting mindset”, chances are that I would have beaten myself up for my food choices at that time, followed by “sure I’ve broken it now so I may as well keep eating” , and probably ended up continuing on with some kind of binging… Maybe you recognise yourself in this kind of pattern? Truth is, it’s a harrowing one. One that’s draining both on our precious energy as well as on our self-worth and self-esteem.

But you know what, truth is, it IS possible to overcome it! Because that project that I was so feverishly working on, it is designed to do just that. Go and check out the Happy Healthy Me Programme.

Food freedom is possible. Though it can be bumpy ride at time, or a challenging path to walk (just like mountain hiking), I promise that the view from the top is totally worth it! And so too, is the beauty of the surrounding i.e the unfolding.

 

Do you long to let go of obsession around food, eating and weight? Would you like to feel freedom and peace around meals and beyond, but need some help and support to get there?

It would be an honour to walk with you on this path. Please email me HERE to set up a free 30 min consultation to explore how this may be possible for you too.

What speed are you living at?

What speed are you living at?

“If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a  perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live”

– Lin Youtang

 

Twice this week I had reminders of the modern speed of living. Early in the week a colleague posted on Facebook about the convenience of buying “cauliflower rice” all ready to go, and then another colleague posted a link to a lovely article reminding of us about the importance of slowing down. From one extreme to another, basically…

This picture of the cauliflower rice, really got me thinking. What speed are we living at when we don’t even seem to have time to chop a head of cauliflower for dinner? Do we need more things to simplify our lives, or do we simply need to slow down a bit?

Trust me, I am all for keeping it quick and simple, hence why many of the recipes you find here have just a couple of core ingredients and are straightforward enough to make. Many of the meals I make for myself take less than 30 min to put together.

So when you can buy a head of cauliflower grounded up, in a plastic bag and for triple the price, I’m not sure if it is true convenience or just very clever marketing!

mindful living

Of course I’m not the first one to mention neither the speed of modern day living or the benefits that can be had if we slow down. But it seems like it is something that we all (or most of us at least, myself included) need to be reminded of on a fairly regular basis. Though how do we do it? Like how can we achieve balance in the midst of our full on lives?

Back to the pre packed cauliflower rice…

Here are my take aways; Don’t fall for that kind of clever marketing! You’ll be paying triple the price for convenience that is minute. I love cauliflower and it is a really useful and versatile vegetable. One that is also packed with important nutrients that can support the body’s detoxification system as well as being cancer protective. And it is one of the cheapest vegetables around, which usually does NOT come wrapped in plastic. (I have a thing for vegetables being  wrapped in plastic.)

To make a quick meal  from it, i.e. “cauliflower rice”, which is finely chopped cauliflower and quickly cooked in boiling water,  all you need is a sharp knife. And a pot of boiling water, of course. It will take just minutes. I promise!

The other thing that I feel is slightly off with the idea of cut and pre-packed vegetables, aside from the plastic packaging and the fact that much nutrition has been lost in the process, is that when eating this way we lose connection. Connection with where the food comes from. Connection with nature and perhaps even connection with ourselves.

Or maybe we are already feeling disconnected and out of touch…?

mindful living

Rather than seeing cooking and feeding ourselves as an inconvenience or just another thing to tick off on our to-do list, we can flip it on its head and look at it as a way of engaging in a creative endeavour. As a way of being mindful and present in that moment. And as a way of taking care of ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I eat the odd take away, bag of chips from the chip shop or even a bar of chocolate as a snack… But over the years I flipped this one on its head too. So now, rather than getting stuck in a cycle of guilt that I happen to have these types of foods, on occasion, I try see these occasions as cues.

 

Why am I feeding myself on autopilot?

 

So when I notice that one meal of mindless planning, turns into a second grab-and-go one, that is my cue to look at what it is I need to change and improve upon  in my life, to bring things back into balance and practice some selfcare!

And just like one of my clients came to realise for herself is, “cooking is selfcare”.

Or like the brilliant Harvard Researcher Ellen J. Langer puts it;

“My research has revealed that our mindlessness can be very costly and that an increase in mindfulness results in an increase in competence, health and longevity, happiness, creativity, charisma and makes us more satisfied with our work, to name a few of the findings.”

 

So this week, how are you going to take care of yourself?