The Gift That Keeps Giving
I came across the most startling quote the other day. “What if you woke up today with only the things you were thankful for yesterday.”
That’ll have you thinking for a sec, right? It rarely occurs to me what a simple and truly reviving thing it is to just sit in grace and silence and to reflect. On life. On choices. On accomplishments. On just being here again in this place.
Gratitude is life changing. Studies have shown that it is not happy people who are thankful, but thankful people who are happy. And so, in this week of thanksgiving, as I surround myself with loved ones, I feel it best to gather my top ten practices and tools for maintaining thankfulness in this very busy season.
- Create space for a breathing practice. Some Hermozas set multiple alarms on their phones to remind themselves to breathe deeply. I haven’t gone quite this committed into my own practice, but I love the dedication. I’ve actually been out to lunch with a friend when her reminder chimed and she said, “excuse me”, then closed her eyes until another chime went off 60 seconds later and she resumed the conversation. It was brilliant. I loved the peaceful reset and the immediate consciousness she created for herself. I am going to start with setting one alarm each day to see how I do, then I can move it up to several more as needed. Breathing will help you maintain a beautiful presence where you can be thankful for time you’ve given yourself (guilt-free and without apologizing).
- Read (and learn). I constantly have two books going at once. Usually one where I learn a skill or read about something that could significantly improve my well-being, then a fictional work. Sometimes I will read a biography or an autobiography and a young adult novel for some range and scope. I find I look forward to carving out time for myself for both. The YA lit lets me decompress while the non-fiction enables me to feel senses of growth and accomplishment. Currently, I am reading The Molecule of More by Daniel Z. Lieberman and Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas. Not only does reading two books at once give me choice and balance, it helps create an alignment with my state of mind. I will do a quick self-eval to see what I am in the mood for reading and that quick check in is all I need to remain conscious of where I am at and how I need to (re)focus my energies. I am eternally grateful for reading. It takes me a minute to disconnect from commitments and obligations, so reading is always the conduit where I can step away for a moment from all that’s going on in my head. Investment in characters and their lives is simply where it’s at.
- Listen. REALLY listen. I mean the good kind where you maintain eye contact and ask questions when another person is speaking – where you are processing what they have to say without just waiting for your turn to speak. This is true gratitude and kindness. You are showing someone else that you are present in a space before them where what they are thinking and feeling matters so much to you that you are investing in them without attempting to fix anything. You can bring such a sense of peace to someone else just by showing them that you are just happy to see them and hear them and care for them for a while. Every Hermoza could use a friend like that, am I right?
- Serve others. I am always grateful for my gorgeous life. I mean, it is seriously hard work, but I am thankful for what I have accomplished and for the loving family and friends who surround me. I have a life built on faith, trust, love, and laughter and while all that sounds like something you see hanging above a bed in someone’s guest room, it is true. Life is so fulfilling when you can find gratitude in all that surrounds you, then find a way to share any and all of it. This time of year, shelters, dining rooms, hospitals, and retirement homes are flooded with do-gooders eager to share the holiday spirit with those in need. But what about the other months of the year? Schedule a standing appointment at least once a month to offer help where it’s needed most. Buy groceries for a family trying to make ends meet. Volunteer at a theater, thrift shop, or bookstore whose proceeds go to supporting a non-profit that benefits the community. Speak with families and individuals who depend on the services they receive. See how their lives are changed when you take the time to recognize them instead of overlooking them. It will help you put things in perspective.
- Phone a friend. Like, really call them. Not just a text or an email, a real conversation where you channel all your energies into showing up for someone else. Even better, schedule a brunch, lunch, coffee, or dinner date with that friend you have been missing. Taking the time to check in, especially with those strong Hermozas out there, gives someone else the realization that they matter to you and that they remain close to your heart. Ask them about their day. Ask them about their family and their work. Ask them about their current challenges and accomplishments. Just ask them anything (then, see #3). Even if things are hectic and I am feeling stretched thin, I can always pause to take a call or make a date with someone who matters to me. Feeling loved is such a gift. Share it freely to see what happens.
The common thread with all these practices is presence. We get so busy meeting deadlines, running errands, checking things off our to-do lists, that we rarely take any time at all to just BE in a space. Alone or together with friends or family, taking moments to not think of all we must do, but to really see and appreciate those we love and to love ourselves a little kinder is every bit of thankfulness our world needs right now.