The Daily Gratitude Project

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. She’s about to go all ‘Oprah’ on me.  But as many of you know I have read a few (!) books on happiness and one of the biggest takeaways is that gratitude is an essential ingredient for feeling happier.

For those of you who read my blog about my bouncing time with Tony Robbins you may recall I committed to 90 days of practicing gratitude following his routine. Every morning for 10 minutes (I’m taking his word for it) he meditates on what he is grateful for. Controversial in itself as for most meditation is about clearing the mind as much as possible. However here’s what he suggests:

Dedicate 3 mins to thinking about what you are grateful for right now, today, yesterday. So that’s everything from the wind in your hair, the colour of the green leaves, a beautiful sunset to a good cronut (!), a big break through you’ve had, your bed, the laughs you recently had with a friend. Whatever.

This is followed by 3 mins of being grateful for those outstanding folk in your life and/ or sending people love who come up for you and you feel may need it (hint: they may not be close friends and family – it’s fascinating who ‘shows up’). Just the act of sending love and good feelings has been quite transformative for me.

Finally 3 mins meditating on gratitude for what is coming into your life. So if you have a vision board – it is that! Spend time feeling yourself achieving your goals and being grateful for them coming into your life.

I realise this does not add up to 10 mins but by the time you drift from gratitude for the hot chups you ate last night, to sending your over-friendly neighbour some gratitude then launch into visualising your ridiculously amazing future you’ll find ten mins goes like that!

A couple of key points.

  1. Doing it when you first wake up in bed usually ends in you falling back to sleep. Get out of bed or at least sit up. Do it somewhere comfortable but not so comfy you end up dribbling on yourself.
  2. To help with timing I use the Simply Being appmusic so I know when my time is up – nothing like a bit of ‘calm ocean shore’ to keep one focused.
  3. I love a good multi task so I attempted the ‘gratitude-drive’ – though potentially talked to myself so not the best look let alone the concentration levels. I had a few gratitude ‘runs’ though sometimes was side tracked by the ‘vistas’ en route to Bondi.  My favourite locale is a little spot above a local beach first thing in the morning where nobody goes and the ocean just stretches out forever. The only distraction is the odd large Aussie ant crawling scarily close to my shorts.
  4. When you notice yourself drifting off thinking about whether you needed that cronut or not – just observe it (don’t freak out and tell yourself off) and bring your mind back to your gratitude.
  5. I get it. Some days are completely rubbish & you really don’t feel like it. Or you have those well meaning folk who tell you how you should be grateful for something that in that very moment you are not feeling so grateful for – perhaps a screaming child or a horrific flu that is ‘just telling you to slow down’. Hmph. Perhaps on that day you just focus on very simple things that are good – like the sun, a fresh towel or one nice thing someone said to you.

I can 100% say that incorporating this 10 mins of daily gratitude has had a huge impact on how I deal with the everyday especially those days when I’m a bit flat or running low on the happy tank. I can tell you that because at the start of this year it slid out of the habit pattern (oops) and I really noticed the difference.  I’m pledging to do another 90 days it felt so good. Thanks old mate Tony!

Try it for 7 days and let me know how you go.

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The Happy Buddha, Mekong Delta. Vietnam.

Can we make this Christmas a chillmas?

I always have a wee chuckle to myself with any annual event but this one is a classic… We know it’s coming. It’s not like..oh my god Christmas is when? Are you kidding! Nope we knew alllll year but yet you can feel the stress levels rising in the air as mild panic starts rippling across the streets.

Copy of MERRY CHRISTMAS

I’m also heavily focused on it because annoyingly for my younger brother I was born on Christmas Day.  If you don’t know me too well you will be lucky enough to escape the Becmas extravaganza and I’m not shy to admit I do love a good jingle bell rock! However as excited as I get about it, I realise not everyone shares my enthusiasm. And beyond my excitement I also peak out often, without warning and get squawky without real necessity.

The stress begins for many as we see the decorations going up in Westfield (hello 1 Nov!), hear Mariah belting out “All I want for Christmas” at Kmart with which you end up panic buying some barbells & a new flashing Rudolph for the front door & then Coles sticks a Heston ‘Hidden Orange’ chrissy pud on the end of every blimmen aisle so the pre chrissy diet is looking slipperier by the second.

As  one attempts to cross off the mother of to do lists of cards, pressies, tress, lights, groceries, hols packing, appointments and coffee catch ups galore which simply MUST BE done before the big day you seem to wind yourself into an unnecessary spin – I remember two Christmases in a row I had a couple of oopsies ‘nudging’ into the back of some Nana cars because I was so busy planning how I could  take on the world before the big day.

And down under – it’s hot. So you’re usually sweating up a storm, retreating to air con shops (smart on their part) and feeling a little bitter to those ‘o so organised ones’ parked up under their brollies at the beach. Hmph.

It also coincides well with monster hangovers. End of year parties where there are a few loose cabooses at the office send off and you pray as you wake up the next day reaching for your coconut water, it wasn’t you. Feeling dusty certainly does not add to the enjoyment of trawling about Target searching for the latest ‘Frozen’ accessory.

And then the day approaches and the catastrophizing train starts to build momentum about what may unfold. Will everyone get on? Will you have to be involved in back yard cricket?  Will you have the same conversations you’ve had twelve years running with your long lost uncle and his 5/6th new partner? Will you overeat so much that you enter a food coma and then miss the little cousins pantomime (unlikely to be  as choice as the one you used to do anyway).

So how can we take it from a stressmas to a chillmas? This year I have taken my overly honed organisational skills down a notch. I’m saying no to catch ups pre xmas if it’s going to get me in a flap. Some people couldn’t make my extremely early birthday celebrations (because squeezing into the diary of a Sydney lady is near imposs). That’s cool. I’ll see them next year. It’s not different from seeing them in November instead of October is it?

This all may sound a little selfish. And hey, isn’t Christmas all about selflessness and giving? Well, being in good spirits and enjoying yourself is selfless in my book. No one wants to hang out with a cray cray, tired, crabby pants!  This is your time to reflect over the year that has been and celebrate with your family – whether it be your blood relies, your urban family or your newly acquired mates you have forced yourself upon on your random overseas mission.

There’s a great article on being an approval whore by Martha Beck where she suggests ‘holiday season’ is where our need for approval is at an all time high…“your efforts to please become truly exhausting and other people’s appreciation is less and less rewarding. If you feel drained or angry as the season progresses, it’s time to get off the street. Learn to respect yourself. Give yourself the gift of the real you, clean and sober”.   Lets face it, you’re a much nicer person when you’re doing stuff you actually want to do, as opposed to forced. I get it. Some stuff you just have to do. But before you commit maybe take a moment to reflect & ask yourself – can it wait? Will I be better placed to do it next year with a refreshed frame of mind.

I’m not denying it, a huge element to a great chillmas is  solid (but not hysterically anal) planning but it’s also considering saying no to your third espresso martini at the work office do after midnight, taking time out for meditation or exercise (no it is not illegal to exercise on Christmas Day), buying Christmas Mince pies unless you think you’re the next Masterchef and when you do one nice thing for someone, do one nice thing for yourself. You can also grant yourself a long nana nap, let annoying relie comments brush off you like teflon and spend a little time every day practicing some good old gratitude.

Christmas doesn’t have to be stressmas. It’s our choice what we say yes or no to and whether we choose to spend time catastrophising about what will or won’t happen.  Enjoy the build up and the excitement –  remember those feelings you had when you were a kid? Search those out! After all, Christmas only comes once a year.

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Be inspired.

This past week I noticed a few inspiring stories making the rounds on Facebook of random strangers who have experienced traumatic events and you can’t help but be moved by them. I’ve also always been drawn to autobiographies which describe the harrowing tales from which hugely influential positive change agents emerge such as Christina Noble, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Waris Dirie and of course the legends of Mother Teresa, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

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In recent months I have received many comments about how brave I am to be starting up a small business and even some who have said they feel inspired. And while the ‘Tall Poppy’ (which according to Tony Robbins exists worldwide – we’ve just named it) inside me says “don’t get too excited sunshine” – it did get me thinking about who has inspired me to be a little bit brave. Is it the inspiring leaders and TED talks I spend hours absorbing or is it in fact a little closer to home?

 

As I reflected on the last couple of years I thought about the world around me.  I have had a close friend who suffered severe neck injuries in an accident pursue a completely new inspiring career path despite continuing to be in constant pain. I have cousins and friends who have lost their beautiful mums and dads and dear friends who lost their precious baby daughter who through it have shown so much strength and courage. Close family who constantly demonstrate absolute determination to conquer their chronic illnesses and a 95 year old grandfather who has just developed Alzheimer’s but still heads to the gym weekly and cooks up a storm (albeit a rhubarb and sausage combo one night recently). Several of my girlfriends – many with small children are in the midst of emotionally exhaustive divorces but maintain their utmost dignity through it all whilst brave couples undergo relentless IVF treatment. There are the friends who have the guts to quit their jobs when they no longer feel respected while others  have totally stepped up in their previously difficult roles, owned the change and turned it around. I’ve had girlfriends having the ‘balls’ to take stock of their long term safe intimate relationships and say, “This isn’t working. Can we make it work or should we go our separate ways?” I have mates who complete triathlons every month, family who cycle over 600 km in a weekend and even one buddy who is sailing his boat back from Europe to Australia next year. Then there are those who have given up their safe comfy worlds with dozens of friends and blossoming careers to pursue their dreams solo in far flung parts of the globe.  I have mates who have started companies with much more risk, size and scale than me – an innovative modular building company in post-quake Christchurch, a new creative design agency, mobile app builders, personal training enterprises and mining companies. I have highly qualified mentors who go out of their way to support my new career giving me their most lucrative asset. Time. Not to mention all those Superwomen and Clark Kent’s out there juggling careers, renovations, kids, pets, chores and everything else in between.

 

Yes the Mother Teresa’s and Nelson Mandela’s of the world have inspired me. They were incredibly powerful, transformational leaders who positively influenced the course of history. The dozens of TED talks and stories on Facebook constantly draw me in and I think wow, now that is incredible.  But it’s the people I’m surrounded by who truly inspire me. I see them facing their fears, dealing with huge obstacles, taking on high risk and just cracking on with it.  And I think ok Bec, just get going.

 

Who inspires you?