Category Archives for "Gratitude"

Elevate your health and happiness with these three habits

by Teena George

Hi there! Let’s start with a quick round of Two Truths and a Lie. 

Here goes – 

I have: 

  1. left my office at 3 am one day and reported back to work at 9 am on the same day
  2. passed out at work owing to immense stress and had to be taken to a hospital in an ambulance
  3. continued hosting a work event despite getting a text message that my husband was in an accident

Which statement do you think is a lie? 

If you guessed 2 as the answer, you’re right! 

Well Done Reaction GIF by X Factor Global

GIF source: https://giphy.com/ 

You may be thinking that the other two statements are just as unbelievable. I agree with you. However, reading them gives you at least some idea of how seriously I used to take my work. 

I cringe now as I write this. However, at the cost of my health, an earlier version of me is guilty of: 

  1. working for insanely long hours and even working on weekends 
  2. pursuing perfection in all the projects I undertook 
  3. wearing ‘busyness’ as a badge of honor

And as we say about Tiny Habits: “Tiny changes, big results.” So it is with seemingly small bad behaviors that we have. They compound over time and lead to life-impacting changes. For me, continuous stress coupled with long hours at work and consistently neglecting my health resulted in me getting diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease. (If this is the first time you’ve heard this term and want to know more, I’ve shared a link at the end of the blog.) 

They’re right when they say, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Frequent unannounced dizziness, a symptom of Meniere’s, helped me understand and appreciate that GOOD HEALTH IS THE ONE THING ON WHICH EVERYTHING ELSE DEPENDS.

Come to think of it, if you have good health you can invest your time and effort to build and strengthen your relationships, perform optimally at work, achieve your goals, make your dreams come true, and contribute to the greater good by helping others. Needless to say, your ability to do any of this becomes limited when your health suffers. 

I am grateful that I got Meniere’s Disease when I did because it made me pause and re-evaluate my priorities, and it helped me start taking better care of my health. As of today, Meniere’s is an incurable disease and it’s progressive. So, while the symptoms do show up uninvited every once in a while, the three habits outlined below helped me manage Meniere’s and find my way back to good health. 

It goes without saying that you don’t need to have Meniere’s or any other ailment to start any of these. They’ll benefit anyone.  

1. Gratitude: Being grateful for what I have, focusing on what I can do as opposed to what is out of bounds for me, and counting my blessings have helped me from going on a downward spiral.  

 Image source: https://www.azquotes.com/

2. Exercise: While the variety of exercises I can do are limited, I have managed to lose 8 kilos and keep it off (something I struggled with for almost seven years.)  

 Image source: https://awesomeatyourjob.com/ 

3. Meditation: Meditating has helped me stay calm when I get anxious or overwhelmed. It has helped reduce the instances of Meniere’s attacks and generally changed my earlier perception that meditation is only for those with monk-like focus. 

 Image source: https://twitter.com/

These three practices are proven ways to build and sustain good health. I go into the details in my Uplift Your Well-being with Tiny Habits course. 

Here are Three Tiny Habits® Recipes to get you started with these powerful practices: 

  1. After I sit on my bed at night, I will be grateful for one person/thing in my life. 
  2. After I switch on the coffee maker, I will do three stretches. 
  3. After I brush my teeth, I will focus on my breath for three breaths. 

Like these Tiny Habits Recipes? Download them here

Which of the three (gratitude, exercise, meditation) are you already doing daily?

Which of the three do you want to start?

If you: 

  • want to be healthy to savor the good things in life
  • have been meaning to start focusing on your health but haven’t found the time
  • want to be able to manage stress better
  • would like to be more creative and productive
  • just want to be happier…

join my Uplift Your Well-being with Tiny Habits course featuring Dr. BJ Fogg and his colleague + my fellow Tiny Habits Certified Coach, Stephanie Weldy. 

 Image source: https://www.azquotes.com/ 

You can read more about Meniere’s Disease here

Contributor: Teena George 

Connect with me at:

Website: https://www.habitsandmindsets.com/ 

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/teena-george1 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/habitsandmindsets/ 

Five Tiny Mindfulness Habits That Have a Big Impact

By Kristen Manieri 

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it,” says renowned writer and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. What a paradox! Mindfulness—the act of bringing our attention into the present moment—is easy… if we’re mindful! 

It’s true that nearly anyone can cultivate the skill of mindfulness. In fact, most of us learn present-moment awareness without being formally educated in it, without ever being told what mindfulness is and why it matters. We have all experienced what it’s like when our attention returns to the moment we are actually in right now, regardless of how fleeting that particular moment of presence was. This is mindfulness. Easy. 

But try to build a mindful life—a life so steeped in present-moment awareness that mindlessness is battled nearly to extinction—not so easy. 

The good news is that we are all capable of more mindfulness when we make a commitment to practice more often. A reliable tool for regular practice is habits. Any activity we do with enough consistency to become automated no longer requires our focus or deliberateness. Once we habituate an activity, it becomes seemingly effortless. 

Using the power of habits, mindfulness can become effortless, too.

Whether your goal is to become more present or productive, compassionate or creative, it all starts with turning your awareness to the present moment. Mindfulness habits, coupled with the right intention and attention, dig mental grooves that allow you to return to your awareness and the present moment over and over again. 

When we merge the science of habits with the art of mindfulness, we discover a formula for a mindful life and a solution to Sharon Salzberg’s challenge. Mindfulness isn’t difficult. And we CAN remember to do it. We just need a little help. The following habits are a great place to get started. 

HABIT #1

30-Second Check-In

Mindfulness is a homecoming. So much of our day is focused on the exterior of our lives. When we slow down and pause, we’re invited to revisit and re-inhabit our inner world, even for just a few seconds. 

The practice of a 30-second check-in is simply pausing to tune in to the feelings, sensations and thoughts in the body and mind. Think of it like a weather report. Close your eyes and check in. Is it stormy, breezy, or sunny? Are you holding any tension or ruminating on any worries? 

Noticing what’s happening inside grants us an opportunity to tend to it. Are you thirsty, hungry or achy? What needs is the body asking to be filled? With our awareness turned inward we may notice anxiety, stress or frustration building. Maybe you need a break or to step away to get perspective. When we are mindful, we can choose to regulate ourselves, which helps us access the higher functions of the brain where our capacity to make good decisions and wise choices is stored. We become less of a knee-jerk reactor and more of a thoughtful responder. 

Try this: Start tiny! Close your eyes for 10 seconds and simply see what’s there. How do you feel? What are your dominant thoughts? What emotions are present? Notice what it feels like to return to yourself. 

Here’s a habit recipe you could try: 

After I use the restroom, I will close my eyes for 10 seconds and check in with myself. 

HABIT #2

Mindful Mealtime Pause

Put up your hand if you sit down to eat and just start mindlessly chowing down. If you could see me, you’d see my hand up, too. Meals are perhaps some of our most mindless moments. It’s tough to eat mindfully, but I find it gets easier when I begin my meals with the habit of taking a mindful pause. 

When I sit down to eat dinner, I close my eyes and let myself feel my hunger. This pause offers me the chance to feel very grateful for the food in front of me, all those who played a part in getting it to my table, and to appreciate how fortunate I am to have healthy food to eat. I find this pause also slows me down long enough to savor my food, at least the first few mindful bites. 

Here’s a habit recipe you could try: 

After I sit down to eat, I will close my eyes, pause and feel grateful. 

HABIT #3

Waiting in Gratitude

I had a terrible habit of checking my phone when I’m stopped at red lights and I really wanted to break it. As I learned from BJ Fogg, it’s much easier to replace a habit than to break one, especially one that we’ve been doing for a long time. 

So, I began the habit of placing my phone in my purse instead of in the center console. Having it out of reach lowered the temptation and removed the visual prompt. Then when I arrive at a red light, I take a moment to think of a few things I’m grateful for. 

Here are habit recipes you could try: 

After I get into the car, I will put my phone out of reach and out of sight. 

After I stop at a red light, I will think of three things I’m grateful for. 

HABIT #4

Three Deep Breaths

Without getting too much into the science, believe me when I say that just taking three deep breaths has a tremendous influence on your nervous system. We breathe short, shallow breaths when we’re stressed. It’s a way of our body getting us into a position for either flight or fight. 

The trouble is, we don’t typically face any real threats most of the time. But we think threatening thoughts, which make our body think that we’re in trouble. A good way to reset and to restore our inner peace and calm is to slow and deepen our breathing. 

Try this: Once a day, sit somewhere comfortably and close your eyes. Take a breath in through the nose to the count of five or six. Hold the breath for a second or two and then exhale through the mouth with a big sigh. Repeat this again two more times. 

What you’ll likely notice is a feeling of ease as your nervous system starts to register the signals that you’re safe and well. You might even say silently to yourself, “all is well.” This quick, little reset can help you power down at the end of the day, shift from work to family time, and can help you regulate your emotions when you’re feeling upset. 

Here are a few habit recipes you could try: 

After I get into bed at night, I will take three deep breaths. 

After I get into the car after work, I will take three deep breaths. 

HABIT #5

Mindful Hand-Washing

Handwashing is something we all (hopefully) do automatically and mostly mindlessly several times a day. This makes it a great anchor for a mindful moment! 

For this habit, you’ll still wash your hands as you normally do. The only difference is that you’ll wash them with your attention singularly focused on the task at hand rather than letting your mind wander or rushing through. 

I like to use this moment of presence to practice keeping my attention focused on something that’s pretty mundane. My mind isn’t really interested in focusing on washing my hands because it’s something I’ve already done a million times and I don’t need any special attention in order to do it correctly. Being with my mind as it naturally wanders away with thoughts of my day or what I’m going to do next is an interesting exercise in simply training my mind to stay present. And since I wash my hands about a dozen times a day, I get loads of practice. 

Try this: As you turn on the tap and put soap onto your hands, tune into the sensory experience (sight, sound, smell, touch) of this everyday practice of washing your hands. Allow yourself to drop deeply into the experience and really feel all the sensations you’re experiencing. Use this practice as a mini holiday in your day and a chance to come home to yourself, even for just 20 seconds. 

Here’s a habit recipe you could try: 

After I put soap on my hands, I will bring my full attention and awareness to the act of washing my hands. 

Making Habits Stick

If you’re up for it, pick just one of these habits to work on in the next week. Instead of aiming for a slam dunk, set the intention to simply learn about how you build habits. Troubleshoot and pivot rather than throw in the towel if a habit isn’t sticking. And remember, keep it tiny and easy. You can scale up your habit once it’s sticky. 

How to turn obstacles into opportunities with Tiny Habits

On the 4th of September, my life changed forever. Of course, I had no way of knowing that would be the day. I thought I was in Bali to celebrate my friend’s marriage and figure out the next chapter of my life. You see, my husband and I had decided to separate only a few days before. I had no idea the universe was about to deal such an unexpected hand. 

I was drugged at the wedding, abducted, violently, and repeatedly assaulted, and had a huge accident coming off a motorcycle trying to escape. This resulted in a mild traumatic brain injury and spine, neck, head, and nerve injuries. I couldn’t do much at all for more than two years. I couldn’t even legally make my own decisions because of my traumatic brain injury (TBI).

I was terrified of doing anything which might limit me. I avoided people; I avoided love; I avoided connection. I avoided friends, family—everyone. My natural state is an adventurer, explorer, extrovert, and I love people—but I became a hermit. I stopped exercising and socializing, which I had done all my life. I barely left the house. I told no one, not even friends or family or even my mother, what was going on. I didn’t show up to things when I said I would, though I prided myself on my reliability and reputation before this. 

I took approx 12 types of medication—anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, pain relief, sleeping tablets, sedatives, nerve medication. Otherwise, I could barely move, and I looked kind of like I had MS as a result of my collapsed spine pressing on my nerves. 

In the beginning, it was so bad I needed help to remember to do basic things, like take a shower. I’m grateful I didn’t need to learn to read, write or walk again—I was fortunate to have a mild TBI. Space and time seemed to merge into one for me. I had an excellent memory before the incident—it was one of my superpowers. Afterward? I couldn’t remember anything, but I was too embarrassed to tell anyone, so I wrote down what I did each hour of each day in my iPhone calendar in case someone asked me what I had been up to; otherwise, I couldn’t recall.

I gained a lot of weight as I was recovering, which was the least of my worries, to be fair. I didn’t look in a mirror anyway as I couldn’t look at the woman who stared back at me. Who was she? I didn’t recognize her at all. I relived the trauma day after day. I had flashbacks and was often terrified to go to sleep. My hair fell out. I never felt safe. I installed locks on every window, deadbolts on my doors, and locks on each internal door inside the house. I checked the locks countless times each day. I had the consistent pestering thought, “You’re not supposed to be here.” I felt endless shame and guilt that my recovery/getting back on track was taking so long. I felt like an utter failure day after day.

I was abducted. And that makes me an abduction survivor.

I narrowly escaped with my life.

My spine did collapse, and I did have a TBI (traumatic brain injury) from the experience.

And yup, I was violently and repeatedly assaulted.

Yeah, it did take several years, teams of people, and emptied my bank accounts to recover.

No, I didn’t tell many people when it was happening as I was so ashamed.

Dad drowned in a boating tragedy, check.

Mum went to prison; I had a violent stepfather, a tumultuous upbringing, check.

My best friend died while this was happening. My marriage ended. Yeah, I can tick those boxes too.

Each of us has a story to tell.

Our own version of these types of struggles and challenges.

Each of us has a life filled with trials and tribulations, ups and downs, highs and lows, the good times and the bad. Some of us have had horrific experiences as part of our destiny, some of us have had a life filled with shiny, magic moments, and most of us have some sort of combination.

What each of us takes out of these experiences — whether consciously or unconsciously — will ultimately shape our future.

We may not get to choose what happens to us, but we decide what we will make things mean.

What we decide shapes our experience of the world and our identity.

I have never worked so hard in all my life to overcome my obstacles, but at some point, I thought there has to be a better way, there has to be something I can do, and this is where Tiny Habits entered my life.

How the Tiny Habits Methods helped me overcome obstacles

At the time, I barely wanted to leave the house. Starting exercising seemed insurmountable.
I wasn’t lacking motivation; I was so terribly full of fear and feeling unsafe that I felt I couldn’t face people. 

But walking to the letterbox and back? Now that I could do.

Getting my exercise clothes ready for a workout? Now that I could do.

The Tiny Habits Method was helping me achieve both Fogg Maxim #1 & #2.

Fogg Maxim #1: Help people do what they already want to do.

Fogg Maxim #2: Help people feel successful.

So, where did I start? Where you can begin, too:
Start way smaller than you think you need to. Set yourself up for a win. 

Tiny Habit Recipes for Wellbeing, Exercise & Weight Loss

After I prepare my PJs in the evening, I will prepare a set of exercise clothes/shoes and put them in the bathroom and celebrate by smiling and thinking, “I got this!”

Why this works: I was already getting clothes ready to wear after my evening shower—my PJs and robe. So it was very easy to open another drawer and take exercise clothes to the bathroom with me. I even moved my exercise clothes to live in the drawer next to my PJs, so it was super, super easy.
I recommend this—making things easy to do, rather than relying on memory or motivation.

The pairing: Well-being stuff in the bathroom always works well for me (and my clients & fellow coaches too.) The only thing I needed to do was open another drawer and take a set of clothes out. I also started storing exercise gear in ready-to-go sets—rather than tops/shorts separately.

The frequency? Once per day

Time the recipe takes? 15-30 seconds

It also made me feel prepared, future-focused, and on top of the next day, in advance.

After I pee for the first time in the morning (final step: washing my hands/hanging the hand towel up), I will get dressed in my exercise clothes/shoes and celebrate by doing a Serena Williams fist pump.

Why this works: This Tiny Habits recipe made me feel like someone who worked out—it started to shift my identity and how I saw and related to myself. Also, once I was in my clothes and shoes, I felt like I needed to do something before getting out of them.

The pairing: Wellbeing stuff in the bathroom

The frequency? Once per day

Time the recipe takes? Approx 15 seconds.

After I finish the last mouthful of my first coffee, I will walk to the letterbox (and celebrate by clapping my hands).

Why this works: I was in action. Tiny, simple, action—walking. 

The pairing: Coffee is a feel-good morning ritual, so I wanted to anchor exercise in here.

The frequency? Once per day

Time the recipe takes? Approx 15 seconds.

Want to earn extra credit? Keep walking! Just remember to practice your celebration first.

Focus on Celebration

Celebration is how we make our habits automatic. It creates a feeling of positive emotion right after we practice our Tiny Habit recipe—our new behaviour—or while we are doing it. It teaches us how to be our own BBF and to be kind to ourselves.

Focus on Creating Success Momentum

Rather than doing one big thing once, do small things lots of times. This gives us lots of small opportunities for success, which is actually more important than one single opportunity for larger success.

“It’s the frequency of success, not the size of success, that matters.” – Dr BJ Fogg

Real-Life Results

5-30 seconds a day using the Tiny Habits method have resulted in some massive changes.

I’ve reduced my body fat by 12%.

I’ve reduced my weight by 25lb and kept it off (approx 100-200g fat loss per week.)

Last December I could only lift a broomstick, and now I can Olympic lift.

I’ve used the Tiny Habits Method to stop taking all medication. I’ve now been medication-free for 12-months.

I’ve used Tiny Habit Recipes to assist with overwhelm, anxiety, and PTSD flashbacks. 

I couldn’t jump around at all when I began with Tiny Habits. I was so scared my spine would collapse. I started skipping in 2020, and now I dance every day.

I move my body 12,000 steps (10-15km) every day, even without going to the gym, by using Tiny Habits Recipes. I’ve consistently averaged 13,000 steps per day for two years now (I track this using Oura.)

Want to learn more

The Contributor

Kristy B

kristybertenshaw.com

igI write things & stuff on Medium

Living in Integrity through Tiny Habits

Name: Chandni Sawlani

One of the biggest sources of pain and anxiety in my life, and perhaps the lives of most of us, is witnessing and knowing all that I can be but not being able to close the gap. For years like most people, I’d go through cycles of being highly motivated. Inspired by experiences that moved me deeply, I’d set powerful new intentions, take massive action, and then have all of these new behaviors fizzle away.

I first came across Tiny Habits in the middle of the pandemic in 2020. I remember going through the 5-day program, and beginning to get a sense of how it worked. My first round wasn’t too successful, but something stuck, something clicked into place, and so I gave it another shot. And BOOM…I got it! The first layer of understanding of this simple and powerful method locked in.

  1. Showing up consistently as my best self

The first piece I started to work on was my morning routine. For years I’d had fleeting phases of success with my morning routine and had experienced how this impacted the version of me I’d show up as through the day.

I started with this Tiny Habit: ‘After I open my bedroom door, I will roll out my yoga mat’ (and celebrate!). And lo and behold, there I was, rolling out my yoga mat, day after day, feeling absolute delight go through me. Soon enough, rolling out my yoga mat turned into a 20-minute yoga practice. In time, this was complemented by a meditation routine and other pieces.

Now, about a year and a half later, I wake up to my dream morning routine without fail, almost every day, even when I am travelling, even after a late night. I wake up, sip some hot herbal tea with a book to read, roll out my yoga mat and stretch, meditate for 20 minutes, send my loved ones morning messages, eat a bowl of fruit, and have a hot shower. It is my default now, and I couldn’t imagine more than a day or two of not living this routine! What’s amazing is that this routine has evolved and gone through many iterations. It’s flexible and I tweak it whenever I feel inspired to. It feels so simple to add and delete pieces, to move things around.

The returns from locking this in are priceless. I start each day feeling deeply centered and in integrity with myself. I’m able to show up to the day with stillness and with a smile. And more consistently, I have productive and successful days!

  1. Responding and no longer reacting

The second most important piece that my Tiny Habits have helped me with is responding to challenging situations, especially ones that are emotionally triggering. 

For the last few years, I have been trying really hard to navigate a certain challenging relationship with integrity. What kept me stuck was my disappointment with who I had been in this relationship. My behavior was out of alignment with the person I know I am. Intentions failed me in moments of being deeply triggered, and I’d find myself reacting with frustration and helplessness. 

When I read Amy’s story of Pearl Habits in the Tiny Habits book, it moved me to tears. I finally felt there was hope in this situation, and I had a new approach I could try. I started with the Tiny Habit: ‘After I feel emotionally triggered in a conversation, I will stand up and get into a power pose’. 

This Tiny Habit was a game-changer. It allowed me to change my physiology in a moment of stress and create a moment of pause, the space to choose my response. Over time I found myself reacting less and responding more deeply to my authentic self.

This Tiny Habit then rippled to other Tiny Habits designed specifically to navigate the nuances of this challenging relationship. Now, about 10 months from when I first started this experiment, I have managed to close and complete this relationship. There is not as much mutual acceptance as I had hoped for, but I have a sense of inner peace that comes with being in integrity with myself.

  1. Growing and evolving consistently

The third piece that my Tiny Habits have really helped with is the confidence to pursue learning and growth consistently. 

The massive gap between information and action has been a serious cause of anxiety for me. Learning was stressful because the weight of not implementing things was painful and overwhelming. 

Through Tiny Habits and the overall mindset of keeping things tiny, simple, and sustainable, I have grown confident in my ability to integrate new learnings into my life, be it professionally or personally. For instance, now whenever I complete a session of absorbing any new content or information, I have a Tiny Habit recipe: ‘After I finish reading/watching/listening to something, I will ask myself ‘What is the one thing that is most relevant for me to remember/integrate from this right now?’ This has definitely brought ease into my life, and I find myself growing and evolving more rapidly than I ever thought possible!

Tiny Habits has been the single most important framework in my toolkit for living in integrity with who I am. With my current understanding of Tiny Habits, I am confident that I can bring any change that I desire into my life, and that gives me such a sense of freedom and joy! 

I sincerely hope that you find this freedom too 🙂 Here’s a link to sign up for the free 5-day program that got me started on this journey.
Through my business Moonlight Accelerators, I support young game-changers step deeply into integrity with themselves and do their greatest work in the world! Tiny Habits is an important part of our toolkit. You can learn more here.

What Helen Keller Can Teach Us About New Years Resolutions

When my children were younger, we spent a few years homeschooling. Class started promptly at 7:30 am, in our pajamas, after we had gathered and scrambled some eggs from our free-range backyard chickens. I knew that the arrangement was temporary, and that these few extra years with my children at home were a gift that I did not want to waste. While I had always been their teacher, the role took on new meaning as I worked to create a curriculum that would inspire passion, kindness and creativity while imparting the skills they’d need to assimilate into a traditional classroom one day.

I considered my priorities. As an English major, I wanted them to crave beautiful language and stories the way I always had. As a lover of science, I wanted them to wonder how everything works, from the creation of the universe to the infinite reaches of their own minds. As a mother, I wanted them to understand the power they have in this world, and to use it well. I knew that the habits and values we form in our youth are often the most lasting.

I began collecting quotes, scriptures and verses of poetry that inspire kindness and courage. Each morning as we nibbled our toast we worked to memorize one. We learned about Nelson Mandela, who said, “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.” We talked about Ghandhi, who taught, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” We read Aesop’s Fables and learned, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Every week we talked about someone new, someone who used this one life we’re all given to make a difference in this world, and as we went about our day we looked for opportunities to “be the change”. Soon we’d made a habit of picking up stray trash at the playground, thanking our cashiers, and smiling and making eye contact with those we meet. We learned to watch out for new members of our groups and to invite them into our circles. We looked for those who were struggling and learned to ask, “How can I help?”

In first grade my daughter returned to public school. One day her teacher told me that they’d read a book about Helen Keller in class, and that London had shared from memory Keller’s famous words, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.” I explained our homeschool devotional. “Well, it worked,” she said. “I’ve noticed that. She’s always watching. If someone is getting picked on or left out, she takes care of it.” All those words we’d learned were still there, in her mind as well as in her heart.

During this holiday season, we become more focused on serving others. Up to 88% of those who make charitable donations each year do so during the holidays. In addition to money, many individuals and families donate gifts and food to homeless shelters and needy neighbors. Others give of their time, serving in soup kitchens, caroling at nursing homes or collecting packages for soldiers stationed abroad. We recognize how blessed we are, and we search for ways to share those blessings with others.

On the heels of this season of giving we begin to contemplate the year to come. We imagine ourselves thinner, wealthier and more accomplished. We set goals and make resolutions and consider deeply the people we want to become. For many, giving is a cherished Christmas tradition, but imagine how powerful it would be if this tradition became a habit, a way of living that infused our lives every day of the year. How could you transform your own life, and the lives of those around you? As you write your resolutions for the new year, consider how in the accumulated small moments that are available to every one of us every day, it is in your hands to “be the change” and make a difference.

The Surprising Secret About Service

I’ve been on the board of directors for a group called Choice Humanitarian for thirteen years, and am now on their advisory board. Every year when my kids were growing up we would take trips to Guatemala, into the villages where there is no running water, no electricity and no doctors. We would spend weeks there providing medical care and helping them to build water systems and schools. It was tough work, but when I ask my children about their greatest memories so far in their lives, without fail, all of them reference their experiences serving the Guatemalans. In fact, when I asked my daughter what she wanted for a high school graduation gift, she asked if we could take another trip to Guatemala.

I think when you have a 17 year old girl who says that, it really says something about the power of service. Here we went into a place where they didn’t even speak Spanish, they speak a Mayan dialect, and what surprised me the very firs time that we took a group into the very deep forest there was that even though no one spoke their dialect, what it really came down to was the universal language of love. You don’t need to know each other’s spoken tongue, but that love and just the fact that we were there to serve them immediately bonded us.

We went into these very poverty stricken communities hoping to bring them a wealth of health, and we found that they were far more wealthy than we were in the most important things in life, like loving, serving each other and compassion. That sticks with me to this day. When you go and serve someone you always come away with more than you gave. You always come away richer from the experience.

People often think that self worth and self confidence comes from awards that people earn, prizes or accomplishments, but in actuality self confidence comes from serving others and knowing that you made a difference in someone’s life. Realizing that even though you’re a single individual, you can make a big impact on people and on a community. And the best thing about service is that you don’t have to travel to Guatemala to make a difference in someone’s life. You can make a difference in your own community every single day through small acts of kindness and service that leave both you and the people you serve richer and happier.

One of my favorite quotes is on my office wall, and it states: “To the world you may be only one person, but to one person you may be the world.” Oftentimes you might think, “I can’t make a difference, I’m only one person, there’s nothing I can do,” but in reality, there’s a lot that you can do. Something as simple as a kind word to a cashier or a smile to a stranger on the street, just acknowledging other people and their worth, is huge.

When I was in junior high we moved to a new area in the middle of the school year. I found myself in a big new school, not knowing anybody, but during those first few weeks there was one girl in particular who didn’t know me, but she would say “hi” and smile, and that was enough to make me feel like I was going to be ok. It cost her nothing, but it meant the world to me.

As you celebrate the holidays and begin to think about the person you want to be in the coming year, consider how acts of service large and small can make an impact on the people in your life. Even a simple habit like saying thank-you with a smile or letting one person each day know how much they mean to you can change a person’s day, and can increase your own feelings of self-worth and efficacy. If you are feeling powerless in your own life, there is no better way to realize the difference you can make.

Change Your Relationships in Two Minutes A Day

A gratitude habit can create a seismic shift in the way you view the world. If you’re already listing the things you are grateful for each day, allow that habit to change the lives of others as well by taking the next step and expressng your gratitude for the ones you love. William Arthur Ward stated it well, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

There are many ways to express our gratitude to others. You might choose to simply tell them. Your habit might be, “When my spouse comes home from work I’ll tell her one reason I am thankful for her.” or “When I call my father on Sunday I’ll tell him one reason I appreciate him.”

Writing is another wonderful way of expressing gratitude to others, and can be as simple or complex as you’d like. For a while my habit was that after I dried off after a shower, I would text a family member and express my gratitude for them. A text, email or Facebook message can be a quick and easy way to reach out to a loved one.

In time my habit expanded to writing an actual note. I wanted to write a physical note to one person a day. This habit isn’t so tiny – it’s more of a bush, so I had to be sure to find a time in my day where my tiny habit would have room to grow, a time where I would typically have five minutes available to write. So my tiny habit was, “When I sit down at my desk for the first time each morning I will take out my notecards.”

There were some days when I didn’t actually write the note, when I pulled out my notecards but I didn’t have time because I had more pressing issues, but it would still trigger me to think of somebody and to think of my appreciation and gratitude for that person, and I found that it helped my mindset for the entire day. I was more appreciative of all of my family members and in general more aware.

Consider the following when expressing your gratitude:

  • Be spontaneous. This might come as a surprise in a blog about forming habits, but what I mean is to express gratitude at unexpected moments as well as expected ones. I sent my aunt a card after she organized our family reunion, but I have also sent cards simply because I was thinking of someone and wanted them to know.
  • Be specific. Thank them for their actions, but also explain why those actions meant so much to you. For example, you might say, “I wanted to thank you for the beautiful musical number you shared in church. My grandmother was a violinist and your song brought back fond memories of her.”
  • Be prepared. One way I prepared for success with this habit was by planting it in the right soil, where it would have room to grow. I also kept everything I needed on hand – my notecards and a pen were there in my desk when I sat down. I also created a second habit that supported the first; each Sunday when I sat at my desk I pulled out my cards and wrote down the names of the people I wanted to thank that week on the envelopes, so I had already decided who I wanted to write to each week and could begin thinking about what I would say to each person.

One reason I think this tiny habit is really important is that unfortunately, there are tragedies that happen in our lives and we don’t know if the individual is going to be around when we do finally decide to show our love and appreciation for them. I’ve had a number of loved ones who have taken unexpected exits, and I look back and I think, I wish I could have been able to tell them one last time how much I love them and how much I appreciate them.

Expressing your gratitude can have such a transformative effect on your life, your relationships, and the lives of others. My aunt still comments on how much that note meant to her. When you express gratitude to somebody else it creates a ripple effect for you and the person you have thanked. You’ll be more aware of the good things others bring to your life, and in turn they’ll be more aware as well, and more likely to see the positive things in their own lives.

Taking a Moment for Gratitude

In the United States, November is the month for focusing on gratitude as we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday. Celebrating an abundant fall harvest is a common practice in many cultures, and with good reason. There are many documented benefits to approaching your life with gratitude. Those who do:

  • Experience fewer aches and pains.
  • Exercise more often and are more physically fit.
  • Sleep more soundly. 
  • Expand their life expectancy by up to 7 years. 
  • Are more physically and mentally resilient.
  • Have reduced rates of depression.
  • Have greater empathy for others. 
  • Have increased self-esteem. 
  • Are more appreciative of others’ accomplishments. 
  • Have stronger and more satisfying relationships. 

Taking a moment to reflect on the positive can have far-reaching effects on many facets of our lives. As Eckhart Tolle stated, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”

Cultivating Gratitude

When you’re working to cultivate a habit of gratitude, it’s important to formulate a recipe tiny enough that you will feel capable of completing it even when your motivation is low. The simplest version might be: 

“When my head hits the pillow, I will think of something that I’m grateful for.” 

Consider, also, the timing of the habit. Beginning your day with gratitude can be a powerful way of adjusting your mindset so you are more aware and appreciative of the good things that happen as you go through your day. Gratitude at night is good for reflecting on your day and the positive things you’ve experienced, and can set the stage for contentment and restful sleep. 

Expanding Your Habit

In our next blog post we’ll explore some ways to take your internal gratitude habit and make it external. For now, here are some suggestions on ways you can make an internal habit more powerful. 

  1. Say it aloud. Thinking of something you are grateful for is an excellent start, and for some people it may be enough, but speaking a thought aloud makes it more concrete and more emotionally resonant. When I sit down to a meal, I will say one thing I am grateful for.
  2. Write it down. Like speaking the thought aloud, writing it down requires you to make the thought more defined. In addition, adding the physical movement of writing activates more of the brain and makes the thought more “sticky”. Writing also provides the added benefit of creating a log that you can look back on over time and reflect on the richness of your life. However, it does require a bit more time and available materials than a thought or spoken gratitude. When I get into bed, I will open my gratitude journal. 
  3. Make it specific. Consider why you are grateful for each person or thing. Instead of simply listing that you are thankful for your spouse, expand the thought by including that you are thankful for your spouse because he made your favorite dinner or because she always puts her phone down when you’re talking. If you are grateful for the things in your life, consider what those things allow you to do, be, accomplish or experience. For example, you might be grateful for your car because it allows you to get to work or for your new tennis shoes because they enable you to run without pain. 

Taking a moment to acknowledge the positive things in your life can color your entire day. When you choose to view your life through a lens of gratitude, you create a mindset that enables you to see the opportunity in a challenge and the many small blessings that are present in every day.